Review: An Ember In The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember In The Ashes (An Ember In The Ashes #1)
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: April 28, 2015
Pages: 446
Format: Paperback/Own

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.

Review: I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I went into this knowing how loved this book is but that didn't effect my opinion of it one bit. This book really pulls you in right from the start. I mean both Laia and Elias's stories really start with a bang. Laia's story starts with a martial raid on her house and Elias's story starts with him using the cover of tracking a deserter to stash supplies for his own desertion attempt. When you have two intriguing stories like that that make you wanna learn more about why these things are happening, how can you not be pulled in? I also loved that for a fantasy novel this was still quick and easy reading. I didn't sit there dragging myself through chapters. In fact I finished the first 160 pages in around an hour. And then I had to force myself to put the book down to get some sleep. 

I loved the twists and turns this book kept taking. Laia going from a free woman (as free as you can be for a conquered people) to being a slave and spying for the resistance. Finding out all the secrets about her parents and their deaths, the commandants evil secret plans, the secrets and lies within the resistance itself, the truth behind what her brother was doing before he got captured. And that was just with Laia. We also got all the twists and turns regarding Elias wanting to desert, to him being picked for the trials, to him learning how his mother was helping other aspirants in the trials, to his best friends secret abilities. There were just so many twists in this book and it really kept my attention and kept things interesting. 

So something I really loved is that both Laia and Elias were in everything for more than just themselves. Laia gets into this whole mess because she wants to save her brother. But while she's stuck at Blackcliff, she also befriends another slave that she feels like she absolutely has to help after finding out how cruely she's been treated since she was 5. Elias went from only caring about how to enact his escape to trying to his hardest to help Laia and protect her from his mother while she had to play slave. He even sacrificed his chance at being Emperor for her. And then how Laia goes back to Blackcliff after she's technically escaped just to save Elias. There was so much caring about others than just themselves. I loved seeing how these two cared more about others than saving their own asses by the end. I also loved how they both grew individually. Laia was scared and weak and afraid for a while but by the end of the book, she comes out stronger and determined to do what she needs to, even if that means being in harms way. She also learned a lot about trust and to start questioning things when they didn't exactly seem right. Elias grew to figure out his boundaries. What lines he was and wasn't willing to cross. He was being tested to pretty much to anything, show no weakness ever. But instead of becoming a ruthless killer like he was being groomed for, he let his humanity in. He saw how things were wrong and continued to let his conscious guide him, telling himself what was worth the risk and what wasn't. He found strength from within I don't think he had in the beginning. 

I also loved the maps in the book! It really helped me visualize the layouts of the academy and the areas of the Empire much better. It gave me a better sense of where the characters were going. To go along with that, I also liked the details. I feel like the descriptions of Blackcliff, the Scholar lands, the great wastes, the catacombs. They all had great descriptive detail that really helped me visualize the entire story in my head instead of just giving me a vague idea of everything. Being able to visualize a story in great detail really helps me enjoy a story so much more! I really have nothing bad to say about this book. I just thoroughly enjoyed it. 


  1. I look at this book every time I go to the bookstore, but I’ve never picked it up. I always get distracted by other books. Maybe I should finally read it. Great review!

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. Thanks! You should definitely pick it up! I can definitely say its one of those books that actually lives up to the hype. Its really good! I'm so glad I finally picked it up and gave it a chance! :)


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