An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (Where Mandy defies Popular Opinion…again #oops)

an-ember-in-the-ashesAn Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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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.

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.

Belle would totally be in the Scholar section. I think she’s already there now?

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.


What do you think? Did you love Ember in the Ashes? Am I out of my book mind? What books did you not fall into the hype with? Let’s discuss in the comments below!

39 thoughts on “An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (Where Mandy defies Popular Opinion…again #oops)

  1. I think I enjoyed this book a bit more than you, but I will agree that I don’t think I enjoyed it as a lot of other people have! I did slog through it a bit at times. But I especially the ships- I really don’t ship any of the characters or care if they end up together?? I’ve read the second book as well and still feel this way. I did enjoy the second book more than Ember in the Ashes though!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yessssssssssssss. I agree about those ships. Like, I was fine with everyone just chilling with themselves. XD But oh no! Good to know I’m still not going to feel excited about it. But I am super glad you enjoyed the second one more! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Bwahaha Mandy you made me laugh! Come out of your little corner no one will kill you. At least not me.
    So let’s get things sortered:
    1) THANKS FOR THE SHOUTOUT! It’s so sweet really ❤
    2) Laia on an acid trip? Bwahaha But I get what you mean. I had the same reaction with Truthwitch by Susan Dennard. I ended loving the book but it begins dang in the middle of action and I did not get many info about the kinds of magic, the world they were living in etc. I had to absorb it ounce by ounce while reading the story and it complicated my read in the beginning.
    3) Elias. Well "insta love" or "insta friendship" or… does not bother me so I did not have the same problems but know that you point it out poor Helene indeed.

    Don't forget that we need black sheeps, there is no shame in not loving some very popular books (I'm about to write an unpopular opinion on NA book today so maube we could hold each other's hand?). And you mad me buy Black Bird of the Gallows something I consider one of my bests YA 2017. So there is hope for you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahahahahah thank you, Sophie. 😉

      1) Of course!! I wanted to give credit to you for pointing it out to read. 😀
      2) Yessssssssssss. But okay, good to know when I get to Truthwitch, too. I’m so used to just being given all the info at the start that I’m just taken aback now when you get it ounce by ounce.
      3) Poor Helene for sure. 😉

      Ahahaha yes! Definitely still hope. 😉 But so very true! We’ll definitely have to be each other’s hand holder now with our unpopular opinions.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great review! Clara recommended this book to me, too, and I looked it up and was like, “I’ll wait…” Was it really as violent as it seems?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahahahaha might be an idea, Angelica. 😉 It did get pretty violent at parts. There were a few things that did make me cringe. A lot of wasn’t super gory descriptions or went into a lot of details about the wounds and such, but there was a decent amount of bloodshed (in death and abuse).

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I am definitely one of the people who loved this book and count Elias as one of my many fictional husbands, BUT I can totally get where you’re coming from! And you’re so right about the second half of the book–it gets so CRAZY!! Like we’re just going along and then BAM ALL THE ACTION WHAT IS HAPPENING?!?! 😂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I can’t speak for Rendz, but I won’t kill you for disliking Elias…
    Glad you gave it a chance, and I will tell you that the world-building is better in book 2. Thanks for the shout-out!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Awwie that sucks! I’d really hoped you’d like this book, I’d enjoyed it a lot!! I do see what you mean about some of the points though, and yeah, definitely see what you mean about Elias. I like him, but he’s not my favourite. But PLZZZ read Legend!! It’s an AMAZING trilogy, and I enjoyed it a lot more than An Ember in the Ashes . Great review!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. *Rendz walks onto the scene*
    *She already knows the rating but whats to see the reasons*
    *Has a spasm at the phrase in parentheses after my shout-out*
    *Sharp in take of breath*
    *clutches heart*
    *exhales calmly (though looks slightly insane)*
    Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay.
    So I am not going to kill anyone for having mixed feelings for my boo (because that just makes him all the more mine #greedy)
    Secondly, I am not upset that you didn’t find the same epicness in this book like I did but that’s a-ok, your reasons are totally valid. Just to clear up some confusion, Sabaa said this world is kind of like Ancient Rome meets South Asia (something like that), so if you’re looking for a visual it would be a mix of those two.
    Third, (just some more clarification) the Masks are kind of like the “guards” of the Martial Empire who came into power after conquering/enslaving the Scholars. And Blackcliff is their training school. The magical creatures are a whole other story, more clarification on that in book 2!
    Fourth, YAYAYAY! I love that you loved Laia! She is such a real character and I related to her on so many levels. Being scared is human and I’m glad Sabaa emphasized that it’s okay to be afraid. She’s my boo!
    Now onto my real boo. Elias.
    I get your mixed feelings, like his reactions towards Helene had me going “no, that’s not nice” and I suffered a lot of second hand embarrassment for them both…But give him a chance in book 2. Things go rough for him. T-T
    This is definitely not a series of warms and fuzzies but I really hope you give book 2 a chance. And that if you do and end up shipping a ship it better me my ship *coughs* I’m not kidding *coughs* you gotta ship my ship *coughs*
    Alright this is getting too long! Lovely review Mandy!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. AHAHAHAHA. Omigosh, Rendz, that is amazing. XD Your explanations are actually SO helpful. I was super confused on those aspects, and this makes so much more sense now. Okay, now, I’m super eager to get back to back to book 2 because I feel a lot more confident with it. And oh dear. o.o Erm, can I have a hint about which ship to ship??? XD I’m sure I will because I’m usually with the same ship as you (um, Cresswelllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll). Okay, I’m really excited now. I GOT THIS RENDZ. I WILL MAKE YOU PROUD.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No problemo, dear friend! And my ship is Elaia (aka Elias x Laia) They get such cute moments *currently fangirling* ughhhhhhh so cute (I’m sure you would have come to ship them had I not told you…but better safe than sorry right? XD) I hope you enjoy book 2! Luckily you won’t have to wait as long for book 3! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I completely see where you’re coming with about the creatures. It can recall being a little thrown off by their inclusion, but also being so enamored by Sabaa Tahir’s writing that I didn’t really care? It’s probably because I’m so used to reading fantasy that it seems normal, but once you brought it up I realized I probably just accepted it without explanation. I’m also with you about the ships. I didn’t have strong feelings either. I might have to do a re-read so that I can refresh my memory about everything.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahahahaha, okay, thank gosh. This was my first fantasy read in a while, and I’m like, wait, WHAT. XD But But that’s good to know about the ships, too. Did you prefer the first book or the second one, Kyera? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hmm, probably the first one. There were some things in the second that “jumped the shark”. (Apparently that’s an old reference but I can’t think of a modern version of it. I always feel weird saying it.) They sort of seemed out of place, it’s tough to explain.


  9. Elias did grow up with that caravan that didn’t approve of slavery, so he’s always sided with not liking slavery. I think meeting Laia finally gave him that little push he needed to finally escape faster. I do encourage you to read the second one; a few ship moments happen and you get much more interesting stuff. I’m sad you didn’t love it, but that will always happen 🙂 plus I love that Belle was the princess for this one

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ohhhhhhh, okay, I did miss that part. That makes a lot more sense. But okay, I’m super excited for the second book now then. 😀 I figured from the setup, there was going to be some good stuff coming in book 2. But yes! I thought that was perfect. XD

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Kekeke totally agree! I was so invested in some of the things about this book, but other aspects just kind of let me down (like for one, the girl on girl hate between Laila and Elias’ friend. Bah.) Lovely review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! I totally agree. I thought perhaps they would promote each other’s strength a bit more and then they totally had such a hate for each other over Elias. Very odd. But thanks so much! Did you try the second book out?


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