January 17, 2016

Review | An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes, #1)An Ember in the Ashes
By Sabaa Tahir
An Ember in the Ashes #1
Published April 28, 2015
446 pages
Fantasy, Young Adult

Freedom is in short supply in the Empire.

Laia watched her family be mercilessly murdered as her defiant brother was dragged to prison. No one escapes Martial prisons, but Laia is willing to do anything for the only family she has left. Apparently, everything includes accepting the dangerous, and doomed-to-fail, mission from the elusive Resistance. The only way to get her in is to sell her as a slave to the most brutal woman in the Empire in the most dangerous place in The Empire.

Elias is a good soldier. But that does not make him a good person. He lived his years at Blackcliff in a constant cycle of training, obeying, and killing. He is a slave to the expectations of the Empire. Graduation is coming up, along with a chance to break that soul-crushing cycle. While Elias wants to escape with his soul intact, it seems like destiny will do everything to rip the life from him. 

These two desperate slaves to the Empire meet when the world is in the midst of chaos, which quickly includes them in its madness.


There seems to be a trend of mixed reviews with this book, and I am afraid that I am not going to be able to break the streak. There were definitely aspects of the book that I absolutely adored, but there were also things that rubbed me the wrong way. 

First of all, my ship majorly sunk. I am talking a bigger shipwreck than the Titanic. Yes, I am bitter about it. Even after some 450 pages I still do not exactly understand why the romance happened the way it did. I feel as if it was more of a temporary, spur-of-the-moment thing, than a relationship that I can actually put my heart behind. I do not think that the couple pairings at the end of the novel were the best choices. (I did ship Katniss and Gale, so I am used to the heart-shattering disappointment.) I just hope that the romance in the next installment of the series is more convincing and realistic.

I also felt as if Laia was playing a constant game of "he loves me, he loves me not" with a flower that has infinite petals. There was some complicated love geometry in the story. In the midst of the intensity, action, and suspense I had to listen to her pining after two guys. Honestly, I did not even want her to end up with either of them. 

I actually enjoyed the world-building, even though I wish that I was given a little but more information about the history of the world and the "things that crawl in the dark" as I am dubbing them. Some things and facts just seemed to randomly pop up in the story, which threw me off guard. I would like to know simple things like where did the Augurs come from, does anyone else have powers, and what exactly are the magical creatures in the Empire. More of the magical aspects of the story would have been appreciated too. I was just left with too many unanswered questions.

On the other hand, I loved the atmosphere of the novel. The intensity and rigidness of the military academy was beautifully constructed, as was the conflicting atmosphere of the open and free Scholar marketplace. The information about the world was a little bit lacking, but I enjoyed the setting that the world-building created. 

There was a brilliantly vibrant, and diverse, cast of characters that I loved. The made me happy, sad, and angry at all of the right times. Everyone had a carefully constructed background story, and I loved hearing how each of the characters got to be how they are. I found myself sympathizing with every character. (I even felt the tiniest bit sorry for the Commandant toward the end, which testifies to the quality of the characters considering how awful she was.) 
My favorite character has to be Helene. I feel as if she was a little bit brushed over when she could have offered a lot more to the story. I hope she has a bigger role in the next book.

Another thing that I loved about the character and the story in general was its examination of guilt and morality. It is full of morally gray areas and hard decisions between right and wrong, honor and disgrace, and good and evil. The heroes had their faults, while the villains had their stories of glory once upon a time.

I also really loved the title of the novel. It fitted extraordinarily well with the story and it seems so poetic. I love it when it is obvious that authors put a lot of thought into their titles. I feel as if truly beautiful titles are in short demand nowadays, so something as meaningful and deep as "An Ember in the Ashes" is nice to see.


I would recommend An Ember in the Ashes for anyone who likes a mix of fantasy and dystopian. If there are any fans of love triangles out there, this book has all of the love geometry that you could ask for. I would also recommend this novel to anyone who is looking for a diverse cast of characters who all have their own unique stories and backgrounds.

I would not recommend An Ember in the Ashes for anyone who is looking for a high-fantasy read. Unfortunately, the magic is more background music than the main display in this novel. I would also avoid this novel if love geometry frustrates you (or if you are like me and frequently root for the wrong ship...).

What do you think of "love geometry"? Has your ship ever sunk to the bottom of the ocean to rot? Have you read An Ember in the Ashes? Do you share in the trend of mixed reviews?

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