ARC Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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

Published April 28th 2015

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.”

Stephanie’s review:

An Ember In The Ashes is about a boy named Elias and a girl named Laia. Elias is the best student in the academy where they train to be soldiers, and Laia is a scholar girl who’s world is turned upside down then a raid of her grandparent’s home ends up with her as a slave to the Commandant of the academy, her brother taken to the prisons, and her only other living relatives dead.  But Laia isn’t just a slave, she’s also a spy for the resistance group who’s promised her brother’s escape based on information she feeds them.

Elias on the other hand is a soldier in the academy, but one who plans on deserting the Martial’s upon graduating, but his plans get pushed back when a prophecy tells of the Emporor’s demise and a new Emperor must be crowned, and Elias gets chosen as a contender in the trials to weed out who will be the next emperor.

Clearly his and Laia’s paths cross they find themselves pulled into one another’s lives.

So, this book I thought was good but not as great as everyone thought it to be. I found myself fighting the first 150 pages to keep going. Mainly because I found Laia to be extremely annoying and thought the book would be 1000 times stronger from Elias’ perspective.  I loved Elias, I thought his character was more interesting than Laia but I did enjoy the insight she gave into who the commandant was when the Masks didn’t really get a full view of that and it was a niceaddition to the book.

I like Tahir’s writing, it was nice and a good paced book from about half way to the end. I found myself loving the book more towards the end rather than anywhere else. I finished wanting more which is always nice but it was kind of a let down that I didn’t always want more from the very beginning.  I enjoyed a lot of the lore Cook gave towards the end about the jinn and the efrit’s and the Augurs. I LOVED when Elias gave his back story but it all ended up being spilled out in the end, and I wish it was more sporadic throughout the book just to keep me engaged.

I wished that Tahir wrote Laia as a stronger woman, I think that if she wasn’t so whiney and upset from the beginning it’d be more enjoyable from her perspective because the whole time I read her perspective I only read faster to get it over with. All the time it was all about how she had to be strong to save Darin and how this was all for him and how she needed to be as strong as her mother once was, and it was overly repetitive to the point where I thought I was just getting hit in the head with a two by four with her same thoughts written on that two by four.

I feel like maybe the hype of the book got the best of me. Which is why I’m slightly disappointed in it. I thought it was going to be a great Roman Empire-esque world where the struggle of a strong female spy, trying to keep herself undercover and the inner fight of a soldier to do the right thing and fighting with where his morals and loyalties lie would’ve been wonderful, I think Laia just needed to be a better developed character in my eyes. Also, the kind of weird dual love interest with both characters where they’re interested in multiple people kind of threw me off the wrong way. But all in all, this book wasn’t so bad, but it also wasn’t what I was really expecting.

I know many people who loved this book though, so I guess I just have to put mine in there for a little bit of a mix review on An Ember In The Ashes.

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Taylor’s review:

When I first seen the cover of this book, I fell in love. I just adore everything about it! And when the hype around An Ember in the Ashes started to build, I really got excited. I was also a little worried that all the hype and the beautiful cover would get my hopes too high and I’d be let down. However, this book surpassed all my expectations.

An Ember in the Ashes is about an orphan girl trying to saveher brother and a soldier fighting for his freedom. Both live under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire.

Right away, I was amazed by the beautiful writing style. Sabaa Tahir has such a unique way for writing. She using words that I’ve never seen used in a book and even a few words I didn’t even know the definition of. I hardly ever (maybe one or two times before) come across words that I’ve never heard of so seeing brand new words really surprised me. And because of that, this wasn’t really a fast read. I had to really focus on reading and not skipping anything. It’s not a bad thing but it was different.

The story is told in the perspectives of the main characters, Laia and Elias. I normally dread dual perspectives but I loved that this book had both characters perspectives. I can’t think of any other book where multiple perspectives was a good thing for me. But Tahir did such an amazing job writing each characters chapters and I loved it.

I thought the character development of the characters were awesome. Laia especially came a long way from the beginning of the book to the end. And one of my favorite things about this book is how diverse the characters are. I don’t think there’s any other characters in YA like them.

Even though this book is around 460 pages, I read it in just three sittings. I couldn’t put it down and had to know what was going to happen next. Towards the middle, I did feel like I was getting no where fast though. I would read for hours but when I looked at the page numbers, I was surprised by how little I had actually read.

I really loved how original and interesting the plot was. It so new and fresh, and really brought a lot of  new elements to the YA genre. And the world building was amazing! My mind is blown by how fantastic the world building was. There was so much detail and creativity.

Overall,  An Ember in the Ashes is one of my favorite books that I’ve read so far this year. I loved this book and even though it’s been a few days since I finished it, I’m still hung up on  the amazing world that Sabba Tahir created. If you’re a fan of high fantasy or just looking for an awesome book, I highly recommend An Ember in the Ashes.

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