Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Dystopian, Fiction
Book Jacket Synopsis: “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 destines are intertwined – and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.”
Review: I have been meaning to get to An Ember in the Ashes ever since learning that Renee Ahdieh (author of The Wrath and the Dawn) is close friends with Sabaa Tahir and that both advocate for character diversity in YA fiction. After reading An Ember in the Ashes, I can safely say that I am looking forward to the sequel, A Torch in the Night (due to be released this August). However, I only ended up rating An Ember in the Ashes three out of five stars because I found that while I really loved half of the novel (namely, all of the scenes narrated from Elias’s perspective), I was decidedly less in love with the half told by Laia. It wasn’t so much that I found Elias to be a stronger character, although in my opinion he is the more interesting of the pair. In actuality, I simply preferred Elias’s plotline and supporting characters over Laia’s. Laia’s almost blind trust of Resistance leader Mazen is frustrating, especially given that the reader learns early on that someone within the Resistance betrayed Laia’s parents. I much preferred reading about the different trials that Elias had to participate in and the complex character dynamics at Blackcliff Military Academy. Another aspect of An Ember in the Ashes that stopped me from giving the book a higher rating was the presence of not one, but TWO love triangles. I can barely handle one love triangle on a good day, and the fact that both Elias and Laia were involved in love triangles was particularly frustrating. On a similar note, I thought it was pretty stupid that while Helene was awarded an impenetrable shirt for winning the first challenge, Elias was awarded one night with Laia for winning the third one. Like really, one night with a slave girl that (as far as everyone else at Blackcliff can tell) Elias doesn’t care about is equivalent to an awesome, life-saving gift like impenetrable armor? Stupid. All of that being said, Sabaa Tahir did an excellent job of world-building and I am interested in seeing where this story goes next.