An Ember in the Ashes
Author Sabaa Tahir
Publisher Razorbill | 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. (from Goodreads)
This review is spoiler-freeeee! 🙂
“Let your guilt be your fuel. Let it remind you of who you want to be. Draw a line in your mind. Never cross it again. You have a soul. It’s damaged, but it’s there. Don’t let them take it from you, Elias.”
MY FIRST FIVE STAR BOOK OF 2020!!! Woohooooooo! I was feeling pretty hopeless there for awhile because all the books I’ve been reading have mostly been 3 stars. BUT WE BACK! This has been on my TBR for quite a while now and I’ve heard amazing things about it, but for some reason I wasn’t in a hurry to read it. WHAT A MISTAKE. I ended up looooooving it and I already have the sequel downloaded so I can continue the series immediately!
“So my choices are to stay and be evil or to run and be evil. Wonderful.”
DUAL POV YES PLEASE. I think dual POV might be my favorite book format because then I’m not stuck with one perspective and I’m also not suffering through too many perspectives! Plus it’s great to be able to get both sides of the relationship. I LOVED ELIAS AND I LOVED LAIA. Both of their stories were so interesting and I loved how they finally intertwined. They were separated for a majority of this book, which I usually don’t enjoy, but each of their own lives were so engaging that I didn’t mind it as much.
I’ll be the first to admit that romance is a big factor in whether I enjoy a book or not. If a book doesn’t have romance in it, I probably won’t like it as much. I like to suss out who the main romance is (and with a dual POV it’s usually not hard to guess) so that I won’t get too attached to any side romances BUT THIS ONE WAS FRICKIN’ CONFUSING. There’s two other romances that take up a lot of page time and I was constantly conflicted about who I should be putting my emotions towards! It’s still not fully clear by the end of book 1, but I have my hopes about who I want to end up together and I don’t think my mind will change because I am INVESTED.
“She’ll punish me. Maybe kill me. I know. But she might do that anyway if I forget to dust her room or if I look at her in the eye. Living with the Commandant is like living with the Reaper.”
I really enjoyed the worldbuilding, though at times it is a lot to take in. I still don’t fully understand the whole Nightbringer-jinn-ghul situation, but it didn’t take away from my reading experience too much. This book was actually a lot darker than I anticipated. There’s some seriously disturbing subject matter and some of the characters are downright awful garbage human beings. I HATE the Commandant and she can ROT. Every scene with her is truly terrifying and I’m constantly afraid for everyone around her.
There were some bright spots though! I LOVE Izzi to pieces and I also really enjoy Spiro and Cook. The Augurs were interesting but I’m still a bit confused about their overall role. But I can’t wait to find out! The plot was paced really well and I was STRESSED for a majority of this book because I had no idea what was going to happen. I already know that I’m going to fly through these next two books and then be in utter agony while I wait for the fourth book to be released. AGH!
Trigger warnings: abuse, murder, attempted rape, mentions of rape, slavery, sexual assault