An Ember in the Ashes (Sabaa Tahir)

>>  Nº 4 on My 2015 Reading Challenge –A book published this year <<

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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.

I adored this book! I found the world building exceptional and a bit terrifying, but it was complex and well-constructed, and the setting is amazing.

It took me a little time to get really into the book – not the book’s fault though – it just coincided with me being at a new place, less time to read in my commute to work, the raging heat and the fact that I own the hardcover and it is heavy as hell. Still, the pacing is great, especially when Laia and Elias’s lives become entangled.

Speaking of Laia and Elias, they are both strong characters and I really liked the dual perspective of the book, given that their time together is not that much, it is important to have both sides of the story. But if I had to pick one over the other, it would have been Elias, I LOVE Elias, and his chapters had so much feeling to it. Laia kind of annoyed me at first, with her feeling guilty and wanting to save her brother at all costs – honey, your brother told you to run, if you had stayed he wouldn’t be happy about it.

Jealous Elias is the best!

Jealous Elias is the best!

But once she meets Elias and begins to open her eyes to everything around her, she grows so much, she has an incredible amount of character development and I can’t wait to read more about her.

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The writing is amazing, and Sabaa Tahir knows how to play with our emotions… OMG, that third trial broke me! I was sobbing in the subway… SOBBING! Worst! I cried for MARCUS!!! Can you believe it? I cried when he was telling Elias what he had done during that trial, and I could have killed the Augurs for it.

I love how the Augurs manipulated all the situations so Elias and Laia could run, because they are both embers in the ashes… well played!

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Some random stuff – there might be SPOILERS:

  • Those masks… they go exactly to where? Because I thought that they covered the whole face, but then when Elias returned from the first trial, he explicitly said that his beard was visible… so how? Does it grow through the mask? Does the mask not cover the whole face? Do you have an answer for me? I’m dying to know.
  • I really liked Elias family dynamic, I loved that even though his grandfather was a ruthless mask, he did love his family and defended Elias with all he had.
  • The Commander though, right? I mean, is she for real? I kind of love hating her.
  • This world is cruel as hell, but incredible in a world where rape is talked almost nonchalantly, woman have important roles and can ascent to any position.
  • I really liked Helene, though not for Elias, and I’m seriously afraid of what will happen to her now, that she swore herself to Marcus and will not break her promise.
  • Keenan though, I wasn’t such a fan. Sure, he had a few moments, but he didn’t understand Laia at all and I can’t help but feel that, given his feelings for her, he could have done more to warn her of Mazen’s intentions.
  • I need to know more about Cook, and about what Laia’s mother did. And I need to know who Elias father was.
  • Oh, and I need them to hook up for real in the next book, that kiss was more than all right, but come one, they can do better.
  • That third trail though, I still have bad thoughts about it. It was so damn cruel, Elias and Helene having to kill their friends and have their friends kill each other, and ultimately having to kill each other… nasty.

Rating: 4.5 Stars

4-5