Thursday, 8 June 2017

Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa TahirAn Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (Proof) - Set in a terrifyingly brutal Rome-like world, An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy debut about an orphan fighting for her family and a soldier fighting for his freedom. It’s a story that’s literally burning to be told.

What if you were the spark that could ignite a revolution?

For years Laia has lived in fear. Fear of the Empire, fear of the Martials, fear of truly living at all. Born as a Scholar, she’s never had much of a choice.

For Elias it’s the opposite. He has seen too much on his path to becoming a Mask, one of the Empire’s elite soldiers. With the Masks’ help the Empire has conquered a continent and enslaved thousands, all in the name of power.

When Laia’s brother is taken she must force herself to help the Resistance, the only people who have a chance of saving him. She must spy on the Commandant, ruthless overseer of Blackcliff Academy. Blackcliff is the training ground for Masks and the very place that Elias is planning to escape. If he succeeds, he will be named deserter. If found, the punishment will be death.

But once Laia and Elias meet, they will find that their destinies are intertwined and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.


In the ashes of a broken world one person can make a difference. One voice in the dark can be heard. The price of freedom is always high and this time that price might demand everything, even life itself. From Goodreads.

Trigger Warning: Rape is talked about (as a common occurrence for slaves), threatened, and attempted in this novel.

I've been on a bit of a high fantasy kick lately, so I eagerly picked up An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. Oh my god, I wish I had picked it up so much sooner, it was awesome!

An Ember in the Ashes is one of the more darker fantasies I've read - not in regards to magical power, but in regards to the evil of those in control. The scholars - whose land was invaded and conquered around 500 years ago - are under the control of the Martials. They rule with an iron fist, whose soldier elite, the Masks, who oversee the law. The slightest transgression can land you in prison, after which follows death or being sold into slavery. The Scholars were once a people of knowledge, but after the Martials invaded, their libraries were destroyed, and the new generations of Scholars were forbidden from being taught to read. The Scholars are nothing, the slaves are worse than nothing. The slaves are subjected to the cruelest and harshest treatment.

This is the world Laia lives in. When a Mask takes her older brother Darin and kills her grandparents, Laia has nothing left, but is determined to do all she can to rescue him. She seeks help form the Resistance, but their help comes with a price. She must spy on the Commandant, who runs Blackcliff Academy, the school where the Masks are trained. To do so, she must become the Commandant's new slave.

Elias is a Mask who is about to graduate from Blackcliff, but he finds the Empire's rule, and what a Mask is required to do to uphold the law, abhorrent. He sees the way his fellow Masks treat the Scholars and slaves - the beatings, the rape, having complete power over fellow humans - and is repulsed. He cannot bring himself to be apart of something so reprehensible, and so he plans to desert - knowing that if he is caught, he will be killed. The day before he graduates, however, he is approached by an Augur - one of 14, who are the Martials' holy people, who's word is never questioned - who, through his telepathic abilities, know of his plans. The Augur tells Elias if he deserts, he will become everything he hates, but if he stays, he will find freedom of body and soul. For the Augurs have foretold the death of the Emperor without an heir, and Elias will be one of four Masks who will compete in four trials to become the new Emperor.

I loved Elias. I loved seeing something who was trained to be a "villain", but had a conscience, and couldn't abide what he was being made into, what he was being trained to do. His struggle was just wonderful, even more so when talking to his best friend, Helene, who completely believed in the Empire, the Martials, and their rule over the Scholars. And for the most part, I liked Helene. She's not a bad person... until you hear her saying these words, and genuinely believes in the oppression of the Scholars, and how slaves are treated. It was just unbelievable to read. But Elias was wonderful, trying so hard to do what he felt was right, but trying to avoid the inevitable death that would come if anyone saw him showing kindness to those, it's believed, don't deserve it.

Laia was someone I found to be really relatable. She's not perfect, she's already wracked with guilt for running when her brother was taken, but she's trying not to right that wrong. She is absolutely terrified, but she agrees without question to spy on the Commandant for the Resistance. They are the only people who can free her brother, and she has to do what she can to get their help. It's through her experience as spying as a slave that we see how terrible slaves are treated. The Commandant is almost devoid of all humanity. The lashings Laia receives for being a minute late. The way the Commandant talks to her, treats her. There is no compassion, no mercy. When Laia is attacked by a Mask, the Commandant doesn't raise an eyebrow. It's sickening. Absolutely abhorrent. And Laia could walk away at any moment, the Resistance could get her out - but if she walks away, her brother cannot be rescued. So she stays, and she tries - so hard - to get the Resistance the information they need, never knowing if it's enough, while enduring such atrocious treatment.

I don't know what else I can say about this book. I don't want to spoil the story at all. But there's so much action, it's incredibly fast-paced, and completely gripping. I absolutely loved it, it was just brilliant, and I am so, so excited to read the sequel, A Torch in the Night!

The Ramadan Readathon

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir has been reviewed as part of the Ramadan Readathon.

Thank you to HarperVoyager for the proof.

Add to Goodreads

Published: 4th June 2015
Publisher: HarperVoyager
Sabaa Tahir's Website

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2 comments:

  1. I loved this one too! I picked it up on a whim and was so glad I did. I've read the next book too and it's just as good.

    Tanya Patrice
    Girlxoxo.com

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  2. I'm glad you loved this one so much, Jo! I want to re-read it via audio because I've heard it's fantastic...and hopefully a re-read will capture me more haha. I kind of wasn't in love with it, but I do like dark fantasy so it was winning in that category. Elias is PrECIOUS.

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