An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Summary: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.
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.
There are two kinds of guilt. The kind that’s a burden and the kind that gives you purpose. Let your guilt be your fuel. Let it remind you of who you want to be.
An Ember in the Ashes may be flawed; but there’s no denying that it is an utterly entertaining and captivating read from start to finish. While I didn’t love it quite as much as the hype would have led me to believe, I have no doubt that teens will find themselves engrossed in this sometimes gruesome action-packed tale.
In the Roman-like Martial Empire, ruled by the iron hand of a tyrannical emperor, defiance is met with death. When Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, she knows there’s only one way to get him back: to seek out a group of rebels. The rebels agree to rescue Laia’s brother, but they have one condition: she must become an undercover spy at one of the empire’s most prestigious military schools.
Life is made of so many moments that mean nothing. Then one day, a single moment comes along to define every second that comes after. Such moments are tests of courage, of strength.
Laia is a protagonist who I immediately connected to. She is not your typical kickass dystopian or fantasy protagonist – rather, she’s someone who is brave simply because that’s the only option she has left. She’s certainly flawed, but that makes her all the more likeable, and I admired her determination and her loyalty.
If there was one thing I would change about this thrilling novel, it would be the way Sabaa Tahir approached the romance. Basically, this sums it up:
As if that’s not enough, Laia also feels sparks with one of the rebels, a redhead (don’t ask) named Keenan.
I felt that this was a romance that didn’t really do anything for the plot or the characters, and that it was just thrown in simply to appeal more to a young adult audience. The story would have definitely been stronger without such romantic entanglements. At the very least, the Kellan romance could have been removed.
All in all, a decent debut despite its flaws that is sure to please fans of Red Queen, Red Rising and The Hunger Games. I admit I’m curious to see where Sabaa Tahir takes this series.