Laia is a slave.
Elias is a soldier.
Neither is free.
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.
Sabaa Tahir brings us a remarkable debut that is sure to shine for years to come! An Ember in the Ashes is an extraordinary story filled with incredible characters, a fantastical setting, and the ever dire circumstances the characters find themselves in.
It’s hard to say what genre this is. Initially I thought it was fantasy, then I thought I recalled hearing it actually might be dystopian. Some futuristic books do tend take on past like settings and customs. And based on some of the vocabulary in this one, I was leaning more towards dystopian myself. But it still reads almost like a fantasy in some ways as well.
Laia’s brother is taken prisoner by the Masks, which is basically like a police system. But in this world, there’s really no justice. Just tyranny it seems. Laia seeks the aid of the Resistance, which is our rebel group trying to fight against the country’s leader. Her parents were once apart of the Resistance before they were killed, so Laia desperately seeks their help in rescuing her brother. They agree, only if she agrees to spy on the Commandment, who is basically a stone cold bitch but has a position in power just below the Emperor.
There are lots of complexities when it comes to trying to describe the government system, but oddly enough, it’s easy to grasp when you’re reading. I just struggled to accurately and simply describe it! Lol.
Then there’s Elias, who is a Mask but hates what he does. In fact, after graduation, he plans to run away from the school he’s lived in since he was young. But his plans are waylaid when he learns he is the running for the next Emperor. They apparently have a competition between four of the best students and the one with the highest score becomes Emperor, the second place because the “right hand” of the Emperor, and the other two get to die. Nice, huh?
Basically, I feel like trying to describe the plot is a bit of a challenge. It’s complex, but at the same time, reads very easily. Everything just flows together, but there’s so much going on for both Elias and Lila that it takes awhile for their stories to become one. You can see how they do though. I was quite surprised by how long it took for the two to actually meet for the first time. With Laia being the Commandment’s slave and Elias being the Commandment’s son and student of Blackcliff school, their paths were bound to cross eventually.
And if you like love triangles or not, oh boy are you in for the mother load of love triangles here! Not only do we see sparks between Elias and Lila, but there’s also Keenan who might be a possible victor for Lila’s heart and then Elias and his best friend Helene have some possible love connections going on! It was all very messy in a sense, yet Sabaa executes it well. Though I do find myself rooting for Keenan a bit more; he starts off as an ass, but then his true colors start to shine later on and yeah, I got a little soft for him! Helene on the other hand…I can’t make up my mind about this girl. For awhile I was like okay, she’s cool. But then she makes some decisions that I was just not fond of and then thinking of her and Elias together didn’t make me too happy with the feels.
For a book that’s only 446 pages, so much happens in what feels like a short time! The pacing is incredible! There’s plenty of suspicion and secrets abound with all these characters. So much deception and suspense!! It’s incredible! Every moment is filled with a tension of some kind. Every moment is emotional in some sense, even if was laugh happy moments! There were just sooo many feels to this book!
I am definitely glad a sequel has already been announced! I was surprised it hadn’t been announced sooner. The way this one ends with so many loose ends, it would be unthinkable to say that’s THE END! But thankfully, the sequel has been announced and comes out next year!
If you haven’t read An Ember in the Ashes, I highly recommend it! It has some darkness in it as well, just to warn you; attempted rape, scores of violence, and yeah, some killing too! It’s a powerful, gut-punching read. I pretty much loved every minute of it!