An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publication Date: June 4th 2015
Publisher: Harper Voyager
~A copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review~
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
If you've already read An Ember in the Ashes you'll know three things. If you haven't read An Ember in the Ashes, you should know these three things.
It really is brutal.
It's without a doubt cruel and immoral.
If you're looking for another copy of The Hunger Games, you won't be looking here. An Ember in the Ashes is wholly unique and original in its execution. Set in a brutal Rome like world, the world building in An Ember in the Ashes is fascinating, it's vivid and horrible and just that, brutal. you gradually learn the ways of a scholar, how the Martial Empire conquered, and the ways and tribulations of Blackcliff Military Academy the soldiers and the slaves alike. But, there's beauty in places too, which is shown through the night of the Moon Festival, up to a certain point, anyway.
An Ember in the Ashes is fast paced but also slow paced, Laia's side of the story seemed to slow down, but it's matched well with Elias's side, which is extremely fast paced, especially once the Trials start.
What I loved about An Ember in the Ashes is it's brutality, not in the way it sounds, but how thought-provoking and how provocating it is. It messed with my emotions like a freaking bouncy castle. They were up and down throughout the whole thing.
And, you know with 'rebel' type books, where one infiltrates the enemies space to gain information to help their cause? It's pretty standard, right? An Ember in the Ashes has it, but what it has that most of the ones I've read doesn't have?
With others, even though they're in enemy territory, they're surrounded by enemies and could get caught at any time, I never felt that intensity or danger. It just seemed easy. Laia's wasn't. She's constantly tested, constantly on the brink of being watched, being discovered, being raped, being beaten, being tortured. You can feel that, and she actual is beaten, and tortured without even being discovered. All of that, just because she is a slave. It was realistic to the world of An Ember in the Ashes, and it's not without malice.
We have three types of characters in An Ember in the Ashes, sociopathic, evil and subdued and all are complex and stretch the boundaries in their own way that they are not simply sociopathic or evil or subdued. Laia was submissive, but then she was determined yet scared and brave whilst playing submissive. Elias, on the surface, is just as submissive in a different way, in the Blackcliff Academy way, but he's angry and terrified, and he wants to do what's right. There's the Commander, who simply is a sociopath, well and truly, and then there are most of the soldiers that are sociopaths in training, who can rape the slaves, beat the crap out of them and don't get punished for it because they're just slaves. I say most, because there are grey areas, and there are grey area characters, who I'm not going to say who because spoilers, but An Ember in the Ashes is a world of distrust and dishonesty and it is so well developed.
Just like the characters, there are three sets of romance that is equally complex, because there is two sets of triangles featuring our leads, but it's weird because it didn't feel like a love triangle, and it isn't really in your face type of romance on either sides, on Elias's, it's deep rooted friendship that's turned confusing, and on Laia's, trust.
With complex characters that you'll root for, and a setting that on the surface seems black and white but isn't just black and white, An Ember in the Ashes is brutal but empowering.