Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Published: April 28th, 2015 by Penguin Razorbill
Genre: Fantasy, Rome-esque, YA
Source: Barnes & Noble copy
AN EMBER IN THE ASHES is a thought-provoking, heart-wrenching and pulse-pounding read. Set in a rich, high-fantasy world with echoes of ancient Rome, it tells the story of a slave fighting for her family and a young soldier fighting for his freedom.Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do now 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 to 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, it's 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.
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*prays to the book gods* Please, please don't make this book 10x more hyped up than it really deserves to be. If you haven't been living under a rock, AEITA has been getting all the eyes and ears lately. It's all the talk! Not only that but look at it's cover- like the most beautiful thing to hit the shelves since Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. I won't be the one that judges books by their cover and I'll just hop into the book while I'm not thrust too far in the hype.
We follow the book in this Roman-esque world filled with power struggles, training for the military, slaves, and of course, we have the 'Holy Roman Empire'. All loyalties are to the emperor and anyone discovered working against him, will be found and killed. Jeez, that seems kind of harsh. Our overall plot about Laia trying to save her brother didn't really intrigue me at first. But little did I know that there was so much more that came with saving her brother. She makes a deal with this Resistance that is against the emperor's rule, to become their spy if they can save her brother, and so she is thrust into the world as a slave for the Empire's most ruthless commander.
The story follows two narrators, Laia and Elias. Laia, being the undercover spy in the Commandant of Blackcliff Military Academy and Elias, being the finest soldier in the Academy. The only thing that brings these two narrators together is their goal of escaping and being free of the Empire. It was pretty cool to see their idea of loyalty and morals, between doing what was right and wrong. Also seeing the two narrators merge and meeting each other late in the book was freaking awesome! Laia and Elias do meet each other sometime in the book, just to clarify for any of you who were confused by these two separate narrators.
A fantasy book with no magic? That kind of caught me off guard because I have a crazy magic fetish when it comes to fantasy books. Well the hell with that! I think fantasy books with no magic should be the new trend. Yes, yes, yes.
BREAKING NEWS: This book is actually a fantasy stand-alone, which now that I know that, I'm kind of surprised. Sabaa Tahir kind of left us on a cliffhanger in this book that needs a sufficient novella or sequel, like helloo.... There is a possibility for a sequel, but the odds are slim.
Laia is a kick-butt survivor. And remember when I said no one could beat Celaena Sardothien? Well, I've been proven wrong! She's got all the admirable traits of Celaena and plus, she'd do anything to protect the one family she's got left- her brother. She's just such a reliable narrator. I felt like her story was less conflicted, compared to Elias'. But basically in order to save her brother, she becomes a spy under the Empire as a working slave girl for the Commandment and just like Emily from Devil Wears Prada says, "no one has survived this job before." So all the other girls who have had the job previously have either been seriously beat, killed, or hurt in any way. Now Laia knows of this but yet she dives in head first to take on the mission, possibly risking her life to save another!
I liked Elias. I really did. The way the book synopsis described him really made me hate him, but once you've read the book and actually gotten a taste of his narration, you'll like him a lot better. He starts to fall for Laia, as expected, but he somehow can't decide his feelings for his friend Helene. I hated that about him! It's like me saying: Choose a girl already, they're not going to be standing around free forever!!! Elias just never seemed to understand where his heart lay, and that pissed the hell out of me. Indecisive characters much?
Sabaa Tahir is actually able to describe her characters, other than just saying "hot guy with good hair" or "pretty girl with unique face." I was able to capture the most out of the character's appearances and personalities just by the authors descriptive language. There are some brutal and gruesome scenes in the book about punishments like the whippings and the branding and they are explained beautifully! Perfectly! She really brings the story to life with the horrifying descriptions of skin and bone... I mean literally skin and bone showing :/
Can we talk about that romance between Elias and Laia- the slave and the soldier. I loved the can't do this and this is forbidden! She forbid herself to fall in love with a Mask because they were the ones that killed her family and Elias wasn't allowed to have romantic relations with a slave, simply because she was a slave. That dynamic in itself is so interesting, I just wanted to learn of the ending.
The romance is cute, to say the least. Nothing I noticed the MOST in the story but it was something I'd read in a regular contemporary. The plot highly influenced the romance, which I think made it even more compelling for the readers. No one likes a flat romance.
An Ember in the Ashes is a must-read for any fantasy reader! If you're reluctant to because of the hype, let me just say that I was too... until I actually read the thing! You won't be sorry to get immersed in a Roman-esque world with a new kind of romance and an amicable protagonist.
Have you read An Ember in the Ashes?