'Tahir spins a captivating, heart-pounding fantasy' Us Weekly Read the explosive New York Times bestselling debut that's captivated readers worldwide. Set to be a major motion picture, An Ember in the Ashes is the book everyone is talking about. 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.
An Ember in the Ashes (an Ember in the Ashes, Book 1) 3
- Publication Date:
- HarperCollins Publishers
- Country of origin:
- United Kingdom
- Dimensions (mm):
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Brutal, but well-written
There has been a lot of hype surrounding the release of this book, so I was very excited to read it. Sorry, everyone - I didn’t enjoy it as much everyone else seems to, even though the writing itself was excellent.
I’m not usually one to be shocked by the contents of books, but I found myself horrified at the way children are treated in Martial society, especially in the Blackcliff Academy. Very early on in the book, a young deserter, only ten years old, is whipped to death as punishment while the rest of the school looks on, cheering. Slaves are treated badly, punished for no reason, maimed and disfigured and raped by the older students, although thankfully none of those things are graphically depicted in the story. Elias’ revulsion and wish to change things is admirable, but it was hard to read about such an awful place.
The premise itself is interesting – a series of punishing trials held between the elite of the Academy to decide on the next Emperor. I was less interested in the Resistance movement and their plans, and really didn’t like how Keenan was suddenly set up as an extra love interest. There are overlapping love triangles in this story, and while I enjoyed the Helene/Elias/Laia parts, but I felt that Keenan was completely unnecessary. On top of that, the Resistance sends Laia, someone who has had no prior intelligence-gathering training, into the Academy to spy on the Commandant as a slave – when the previous slave was so traumatised that she ended up jumping off a cliff. Way to go, liberators.
So what did I like about this book? Well, the action scenes are really well executed (no pun intended). I was on the edge of my seat through the trials, and loved the relationship development between Elias and Helene. The masks that grow and attach to the skin are very creepy, but cool – I wish we heard more about them. Sabaa Tahir’s writing style is really very beautiful – first person present tense can be hard to pull off with multiple points of view but it’s really well done between Laia and Elias.
The end of An Ember in the Ashes is well set up for a sequel and despite my dislikes in this book, I will be happy to continue to see what happens next.
Ended too soon
"Life is not always what we think it will be. You are an ember in the ashes, Elias Veturius. You will spark and burn, ravage and destroy. You cannot change it. You cannot stop it."
An Ember in the Ashes has an amazing energy and a rapid momentum that grips you until the very end. Sabaa Tahir has created a story that will be enjoyed by teens and adults alike with powerful writing and strong themes. The novel explores slavery, violence and the importance of friendship and being true to yourself. This book is all about making difficult choices and living with them. It brings into light that no choice is right or wrong, it is only a distinction of perspective.
Born a Scholar, Laia has lived her life in fear of the Martial Empire and its oppressive regime. When her family is murdered before her and her brother captured, Laia swears she will free him from the Empire's clutches. When she turns to the Resistance for help, they ask of her an impossible task: to give up her freedom and risk her life to spy on the Commandant in Blackcliff Academy, the heart of the enemy's military power.
"The field of battle is my temple. The sword point is my priest. The dance of death is my prayer. The killing blow is my release." On the outside the Commandant's son, Elias Veturius, is everything a Mask should be : a loyal solider for the Empire - ruthless, cunning, deadly. Secretly, Elias hates the Empire and all it stands for and impatiently plans his escape. However, a prophecy given by the mysterious, mind reading Augurs forces him question his destiny.
The world setting just seems to fall into place without the huge dump of description that often accompanies fantasy novels. The characters are deep and each face their own demons. I liked the growth of Laia's character throughout the novel; she doesn't start out as a strong heroine, but acts out of fear. The contrast between Laia and Elias' situations in life may be staggering but they are both struggling for freedom. The supporting characters found a little place in my heart for their bravery and surprisingly, I even found myself sympathizing with the "evil" Commandant.
An Ember in the Ashes was full of action, sweet romance and was pleasantly unpredictable. I cherished it from beginning to end and will be eagerly awaiting the continuation of Laia and Elias's adventure in the coming sequel.
"Fear is only your enemy if you allow it to be."
Good, but not great
This a well-written, fast-paced book - entertaining enough, but has some flaws. The unnecessary love rhombus between the four characters is annoying; the Laia sections are dull to begin with; and there is a lot of violence (but heaven forbid that the characters share more than some intense looks and brief kisses). That said, the alternating viewpoints are well done and keep the book moving along. I'd read the next book in the series.