Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Pop open the champagne because AN EMBER IN THE ASHES is out today!!!

An Ember in the Ashes
Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Razorbill
Date of Publication: April 28, 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.

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My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Infinite thanks to Faye of The Social Potato for lending me her ARC!!! I CRY.

I don't even know how to start this review or what to say at all. I don't know how I'll attack this review that you'll end up buying An Ember in the Ashes WITH NO DOUBT because you were able to feel my all-around !!!!! feelings for this book. So I'm going to do something I haven't done for a review yet and that is... use a gif.

HAHA. Way to be anticlimactic. But, seriously. THIS. BOOK. That's how I am while reading and after reading the book. HELLO, I re-read it immediately after finishing it. YES. So to help my brain keep in track and for your benefit as well, it's time to whip out a list review!

Seven Reasons Why You Should Buy and Read AN EMBER IN THE ASHES and Help Me Get A Sequel (Or Else I Will Exile You to the Land of No Books)

Disclaimer: As of posting this review, AEITA is a standalone and THIS CANNOT HAPPEN. While it could stand on its own as a story, I DIGRESS. THE STORY DOES NOT END THERE. I NEED MORE MORE MORE NOW NOW NOW. So you see, if you buy the book, sales will go up and Penguin will realize their mistake of not making it a series immediately, and I'll get my sequel and I'll be happy. You'll be happy too because you'd read an amazing book. WIN-WIN.

1. Fantastic world. Ancient Rome-esque setting? A civilization so focused on science and knowledge and the academe that they were colonized by a powerful, merciless, military-focused one, building an empire where these former Scholars are now slaves under the iron fist rule of the Martials? Which definitely reminded me of Rome conquering Greece (although I didn't imagine the Scholars to be Greek-looking). Then there are fantasy elements too, of the fey kind, and while I'm not really a big fantasy reader (yet), this made me jump with glee because the cognitive dissonance that will result from someone seeing a fey IN THE FLESH, oh, fun times.

Plus, the masks!!! So in this world, the Martial Empire trains kids into soldiers in a military academy called Blackcliff. If anything else, I love reading about training and military schools and everything, maybe due to my love for reading anything boarding school. The students, after passing certain years of training, gets their own mask, that they have to wear all the time. Which meshes with their face. COME ON. Just the thought makes me want to re-read the book again.

2. Very engrossing. I couldn't put this one down, guys. And hello, like I said, I re-read it right after. I mean, if that wasn't enough to clue you in of the awesome bursting out of the pages of this book, I don't even know what to tell you. Do I have to get you at gunpoint???? Because I will. (Not really, but you get what I mean.)

3. Characters. COME ON NOW. These characters, guys. Laia, a Scholar girl, started as weak. Well, she thinks she's weak, but I honestly think she's very strong. She's not strong in the Katniss badass type but her love for her brother and her willingness to do anything to save him make her strong. When she puts her mind into it, she does it, with no questions. If it will save her brother, she'll do it. She kept on feeling like she's weak but it was obvious right from the start that she wasn't. She reminded me so much of Sol in Elizabeth Fama's Plus One, whose love for her family is unparalleled.

We have Elias, the finest student yet the one who wants to escape it all. Elias has a fantastic background story and peeling all of his layers and his history made for such good reading. Elias has a lot of personal conflicts and I just mightily enjoyed his story arcs. He doesn't want to be bad but how do you escape it when you'll die if you don't kill? How will he save his soul when the price of it is death? Elias and his principles, hold me.

But really, what sealed the deal for these characters to me is their growth. And as for the other characters, I love how Sabaa Tahir has written characters that are not entirely bad or good. Everyone is a shade of gray and I personally lived for the moments when the bad guys glowed with their humanity and those supposed to be on the side of good were despicable in their atrocity. WOW.

4. Fate. A common theme in AEITA is fate, where our characters are told of their future or what people expect for them in the future. And while at first they succumbed to it, I love how they became proactive in changing their supposed fates and acting on their own and for themselves.

5. Romance. I am suffering from the Chronic Underdog Syndrome but in here, I DON'T KNOW WHO TO SHIP. Which is the most glorious thing a love square can ever do. Laia likes Keenan, her handler, but Elias is the one who's around. Elias sees Helene, his best friend, as a girl, but he doesn't love her. Which is a problem because Helene is in love with Elias. IT'S SO HARD BECAUSE I LIKE KEENAN BUT I LIKE ELIAS TOO, OKAY? And Elias x Laia? SO HOT. But then, Keenan x Laia is hot too. WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?

6. Action. Or more like violence and killing and battle and missions and CONSPIRACIES and EVERYTHING THRILLING. YES YES YES.

7. All the possibilities! That ending makes it possible for anything to happen and I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. Obviously I cannot spoil you but all the questions I need answers to!!!!

An Ember in the Ashes is an addicting, riveting, and unputdownable heck of a read. Once you start, you would not be able to stop reading Elias and Laia's story as they take you under the catacombs, inside the high walls of the Blackcliff Academy, and the unforgiving desert, towards freedom for Laia's brother Darin and for Elias himself. I cannot recommend this enough!

About Sabaa Tahir

Sabaa Tahir grew up in California’s Mojave Desert at her family’s 18-room motel. There, she spent her time devouring fantasy novels, raiding her brother’s comic book stash and playing guitar badly. She began writing An Ember in the Ashes while working nights as a newspaper editor. She likes thunderous indie rock, garish socks and all things nerd. Sabaa currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family.


  1. GIRL. You had me at Plus One and Sol but you lost me with the love square thing lol. Anyway, I can really tell you tremendously adored this book (which is probably an understatement). But I trust your excited outbursts towards a book plus this review has a gif which can only mean it was one heck of a read!

    1. Haha! Just that there are four people entangled in this romantic web and it's honestly gleeful for me because each pairing can work out and I wouldn't even mind (so far). Seriously, when you say things like you trust me and my outbursts, MY HEART GOES EEK EEK EEK. Thanks for dropping by, Miguel! I hope I'll get around to convince you even more to read this one because GUNPOINT, REMEMBER? Haha! (Totally kidding.)

  2. I've been dancing around adding this to my TBR, but so many of my most trusted reviewers love it, I think you've all made the decision for me. And as for helping the sales of this was in my departure airport AND my arrival airport yesterday--the only YA, displayed with just a handful of adult titles each time. So someone in Penguin's marketing department is doing their job!

    1. I hope you do enjoy it if/when you get around to it! Some of my trusted bloggers didn't like it though so I'm really crossing my fingers for you! YAY! I'm so glad to hear that An Ember in the Ashes is ubiquitous. Hahaha! Beth, I miss you! <3

    2. I miss you, too! But we'll be "together" soon...OVERBOARD is almost done! (I should probably email you about that.)

  3. Great review! I just ordered this and I am waiting for it to get here! I am even more excited after your review! I have read a couple of other "love squares" that I thought worked well so I am curious about this one!

    1. I hope you can read it soon, Becca! And thank you for ordering it because YAY!!!!!

  4. Okay. You totally sold me this one. And your plan WORKED. You got your sequel! Cheers!

    1. Yes, please, read this one, Miel. And huhuhu 2016 is gonna be awesome because An Ember in the Ashes sequel + The Raven King. I NEED THESE BOOKS

  5. Hi :)
    If you have finished reading the book and you are interested in contributing to the official wiki here is the link can you please join us to expand the wiki. It looks like the wiki needs some improvement and active members. Your contribution to the wiki is highly appreciated. Thanks! 


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