February 11, 2016
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.
An Ember in the Ashes is another novel that I’ve picked up that was hyped on Tumblr by the YA community as being awesome. Naturally, I had to find out what all the fuss was about and— oh my god, you don’t even know. An Ember in the Ashes was a novel that held me by my throat and never relented, not even for a second. It’s the kind of novel that you read and put down and don’t know what to do with yourself afterward. It was amazing. Hands-down a novel that I would recommend to anybody (so if you’re reading this review, you should probably go and pick it up).
Set within the Empire, An Ember in the Ashes tells the stories of Leia and Elias. Leia was born into a people who are treated by the Empire as slaves. Elias is one of the Empire’s most promising soldiers, descended from a bloodline of ruthless Empire-loyalists. Still, neither Leia nor Elias is free in this world. Elias despises the Empire and wishes to be free from them and, after losing her family at the hands of the Empire’s soldiers, Leia yearns for much of the same.
When Leia joins a band of rebels, they promise to save her brother’s life in exchange for her becoming their spy within the infamous Blackcliff Academy. Meanwhile, Elias is presented with the opportunity to control his destiny, and though he isn’t sure he can trust anybody, the opportunity is one he can’t resist. Brought together by fate, Leia and Elias’s paths intertwine in a world filled with shifting loyalties, danger, and forces beyond them.
I freaking loved this book. The world that Tahir has created is one that is unique and beautiful and dark. Inspired by ancient Rome, the Empire is terrifying in its realism and Tahir isn’t afraid to take the novel from 0 to 100 if it means accurately showing the reader just how horrifying the Empire truly is. I’m a sucker for novels that have stellar world-building and An Ember in the Ashes can easily take the cake. A land filled with sword-wielding soldiers and meek girls who develop into strong, empowered characters? Sounds like my kind of read.
The characters in An Ember in the Ashes are unforgettable. Elias was my personal favorite character. He’s struggled since birth and is trapped at Blackcliff Academy, caught with an inner turmoil between his morality and his duty. Elias was a character who was physically strong but who had to develop his emotional strength, I feel, and was an interesting protagonist to watch develop. He’s the kind of guy who is inherently good and I adore him.
The one problem that I think some readers may have with An Ember in the Ashes is the romance aspect of the novel. There are some weird love-triangle-squares going on that took me a bit to get into. I know some readers are adamant about avoiding love triangles and the fact that both protagonists have love interests outside each other might be something that annoys some readers. Personally, I understood it and I thought that Tahir managed to make it work, but this is something that some readers might want to have in mind before going into the novel.
I would recommend An Ember in the Ashes to readers who are looking for an epic read that will keep them on the edge of their seat. Readers who want a novel that is filled with action and adventure should also give it a try. Readers who want a novel that is one-part romance and one-part awesome should also pick it up and give it a read.