An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
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.
Shoutout to Amanda @ MetalPhantasmReads, Rhea @ Bookenchanted, Sophie @ Beware The Reader, Kyera @ Kyera’s Library, Moira @ For the Lover of Books, Clara @ The Book Goddess, and Rendz @ Reading with Rendz (sorry, about the things I’m about to say about your book husband) for helping me pick out this book! They are alllllllllll fantastic bloggers, and when I needed a fantasy book rec, they came to the rescue! Please go check them out if you need any new amazing bloggers to follow!
Okay, am I disappointed in myself that I didn’t love this one? Yes. I am. When I asked on a prior blog post, what is the best fantasy book to cure myself of an impending book slump, almost everyone responded with Ember as their first pick. Besides, some of my best blogger friends have loved this dearly, so I had to go with this one. Perhaps it was the exceedingly high expectations from all of these things that made me not love it as much? SUMMARY: OH DEAR GOSH.
lol I don’t even know where to start because I’m such a mess about this book. SUMMARY: THIS IS ABOUT TO BE A MESS AND PROBABLY REALLY LONG – BUT THIS IS BOOK PRINCESS REVIEWS SO WHAT ELSE IS NEW?
There is no denying Sabaa Tahir is an excellent writer. Her prose is easy to read, she tells a story in a concise manner, and she never puts in details that we don’t have to read. I’m dead serious when I say that I never had to skim anything or flip through a few pages because we had to read some stupid thing that we never needed to know about. She puts in what you want to know and what we care about. She made this story feel fresh and new, and she did a good job with her plot development. Her writing didn’t connect with me on some parts. Like, it never evoked a lot of feeling in me, though, and I think it was a reason why I disconnected with the story at parts? SUMMARY: MANDY IS INSANE BECAUSE WHY AM I DISCONNECTED FROM A FANTASTIC WRITER THEN???
I also had an issue with the world building. The world building that Tahir did was done quite well, and this world did feel like something I hadn’t seen before and was interested in. However, I was confused for a lot of the story and I didn’t quite understand it. I didn’t get the background into how the Masks were created and why they needed to be put in place. When the magical creatures started appearing, I felt that I didn’t have the basis for them to even exist, so I was kind of convinced that Laia really was on an acid trip. I got confused on other things, too, and I just didn’t understand the world at times. The parts that I did understand were quite good, though, and I thought Tahir did a stellar job with them and creating something so different than I had seen before in fantasy. SUMMARY: CAN THERE BE A FANTASY BRIDGE BUILT SO I CAN GET OVER IT BECAUSE AGNAKGNEJKWGA I FAILED AGAIN?
The characters were interesting as well. In the beginning, I was much more drawn to Elias, but by the end, I really enjoyed Laia. She was easily the one I preferred by the end, because I loved her character development and her realness. I mean, if some creepy Mask is coming into my home, no offense to my brother, I ain’t staying around to help a dude out. I’m going to be running too. I thought her realisticness in certain situations was great, and I connected with her a lot more by the end. Yes, sometimes she did feel like the special girl in a fantasy series, but I thought her character was very well done. SUMMARY: YAY SOMETHING MANDY LOVED.
Elias I had a much more complex relationship with. I thought he was a little hard to pinpoint sometimes. I thought he was…well the special boy in the fantasy series. All of a sudden he feels something for a slave and starts disobeying things left and right for her? Yes, I know he urges to flee, but it felt all too coincidental. I also wasn’t the biggest fan on how he treated Helene and then catered so much to Laia. I could never really get a full grasp on him, and it left me with a major disconnect sometimes with his parts. SUMMARY: RENDZ IS GOING TO KILL ME FOR DISSING HER BOOK HUSBAND.
I’m also kind of not in it for any of the romance ships? SUMMARY: NO SHIPS TO BE HAD.
The plot got really super interesting in the second half. It took me almost 200 pages to really get into a groove for the story, but the second half – dear gosh, I was speeding through it. I am quite intrigued to see where they will take it from here, so I’m not giving up on the series. Tahir created characters, a setting, and a plot line that are brutal, compelling, and full of twists. It kind of borders the line between adult and YA fantasy, so I don’t think adult readers would get bored at all with this. SUMMARY: WOO???
Overall, I did have quite a few struggles with it – the biggest being my disconnect from the read. I know I shouldn’t have expected warm and fuzzy feelings to come with the story (this book is not warm and fuzzy at all), but I guess I wanted to feel with it a lot more. Tahir defintiely does have a talent, and I can see why a lot of people love this. However, I just wasn’t a big fan of it. It does have intrigue, though. Now, I’m going to go in a corner somewhere and have a little book pity party because I kind of suck for always being Captain Unpopular Opinion?? 3 crowns and a Belle rating! SUMMARY: OOPS. LOTS OF OOPS.