An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir – Ember in the Ashes #1

This is a novel that I have been eagerly anticipating from the moment I had heard of it. It had such an interesting premise, and I’ve been looking for a good YA fiction series to get into. So let me not babble on, here is my review:

The Martial Empire rules supreme, and all those who oppose the Emperor meet with death. In a world like this, being a Scholar is equated to being a slave. And that is exactly what Laia is. She lives with her grandparents and her older brother, somehow trying to make ends meet, without risking the ire of the Empire. But when Laia’s brother is taken in for treason, Laia is determined to save him, and she reaches out to the Resistance, the only group of people she believes are in any position to help her. In exchange for her brother’s rescue, she must risk her life and spy for them at the Empire’s greatest military academy. And this is where Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier – and its most unwilling. Elias hates being under the control of the Empire and does not believe in their philosophy or their tyranny. All he wants to do is escape and live a life free of violence. Neither one of them could ever imagine how their destinies would be linked – and how their choices will change the future of the Empire.

What a gripping novel! I had a really great time reading this story and found myself enthralled by the setting, the characters, and the overall plot of the novel.

This story is told from two perspectives: Laia’s and Elias’s. If I had to choose which one I preferred, hands-down it would be Elias. His story was by far the most interesting, and his character was strong and easy to feel sympathy for. He was so unlike Laia, and I found that so refreshing, especially since I didn’t really like Laia that much. She was so gullible, so cowardly, so dependent on others to make her task easier. I would find myself getting through her chapters as quick as possible so that I could read what was happening to Elias. That was one of the major complaints I had with this story. I’m not saying that Laia should have been exactly like Elias, but she shouldn’t have been completely useless. If she had been even slightly intelligent or a little bit more brave, then that would have made the story a lot better.

Another thing that bothered me about this novel was how mythical creatures were introduced almost at random but had no real backstory and weren’t really connected well with the events. I was very intrigued with the mythical aspects and I hope that this gets integrated into the story better in the sequel!

I loved the way the Empire was described. Just like in A Wizard’s Forge by A.M. Justice, the Empire is a gritty evil place. It has terrible people who are trained to torture and kill and hurt innocent people. It also shows that just because you may be an innocent now does not mean you have not done harm to others in the past. The society that is depicted in this story is very well-constructed and extremely believable. I really have to commend the author on her ability to portray this depraved society and make it unique from all other novels that fit into this genre.

So there was the classic love triangle. But unlike other times, I actually have no complaints about it. I liked the way the author made it work between the main characters. Perhaps it was because the interactions happened in a very natural way, and the moments where it showed the growing attraction were fleeting amidst the chaos – which makes complete sense! The author made it work in all aspects, which is a rare occurrence.

Overall, this novel was exciting, with action-packed scenes, gruesome torture acts, and a plot that keeps getting more thrilling with every second. I’m excited to see what happens in the sequel, so stay tuned for my review on it!

Happy reading ~

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