An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Published by Listening Library, Razorbill
Published on April 28th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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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.
**Please note: both a print and audio review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I split my reading time between both mediums, so my overall rating/review covers both.**
“Life is made of so many moments that mean nothing. Then one day, a single moment comes along to define every second that comes after.”
When I first read the blurb for An Ember in the Ashes, I was eager to get my hands on it. The synopsis promised a story that would be action-packed, and empowering. And I can tell you, this book most certainly delivered on that promise. However, I did have some issues early on, which is the reason for my 3.5-star rating. My main issue: the pacing. The pacing in the beginning (15-20%) of the book was slow, which combined with the world-building, made it read less like a novel, and more like a text book. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that it was entirely slow/boring, because it wasn’t. There’s a lot happening as the story is being set up, and by the end, I was able to see how it all fit into the structure of plot.
Now let me tell you two things I LOVED about this book: the characters, and the imagery.
There were characters who intrigued the darker parts of my soul (the sociopathic Commandant, for example) and characters who I found I couldn’t get enough of (the ever tenacious Helene, my new favorite badass). I loved how even though the heart story was about the soldier (Elias), and the slave (Laia), each character in this book has a purpose. This story was driven by every single character within it.
Even though this story is a fantasy, it felt real at times. Was the sun shining? I felt that. Was a character death devastating? You can guarantee that I FELT THAT (*glares at author*)
I was able to picture it all and feel it all because of the vivid descriptions of the scenery and the people within the story. (Also, the performance by the narrators in the audiobook were spot on at times, too.)
I love when the flow of imagery completely transports you into a book.
Final Thoughts: I would recommend this book for a reader who is looking for something a little different within the fantasy genre. Even though it started off with a slower pace, it definitely didn’t end that way.
If there are any sequels to this story (which *fingers crossed* I hope there will be), I will gladly pick it up in a heartbeat, as these characters have stuck with me beyond the last page.
Life is made of so many moments that mean nothing. Then one day, a single moment comes along to define every second that comes after.
“You are an ember in the ashes, Elias Veturius. You will spark and burn, ravage and destroy. You cannot change it. You cannot stop it.”
All the beauty of the stars means nothing when life here on earth is so ugly.
But there are two kinds of guilt, girl: the kind that drowns you until you’re useless, and the kind that fires your soul to purpose.
“Fear can be good, Laia. It can keep you alive. But don’t let it control you. Don’t let it sow doubts within you. When the fear takes over, use the only thing more powerful, more indestructible, to fight it: your spirit. Your heart.”
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