An Ember in the Ashes–Sabaa Tahir

23 July 2015

An Ember in the Ashes – Sabaa Tahir
Release Date: 4th June 2015
Genre: Fantasy, Dystopia, Young Adult
My Rating:
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.
I’ve just finished this book and I need to talk about it. You know those books that everyone raves about but then fail to meet up to the hype surrounding them? Yeah, that isn’t this book. Tahir’s first novel is well deserving of all the praise. It is fantastic! The world she creates is astounding, her characters are amazing and you really connect with them, and the action within, well, I won’t spoil it for you, but this story hooks you in and doesn’t let go.

I was wary going into this book, as I am with all books that receive a lot of praise and attention on the blogosphere, simply because hype does terrible things for books. This book, thankfully, lives up to the hype and exceeds it and for that I am so grateful. I bought this book on some stupid impulse whilst in Waterstones, I did a quick goodreads check and saw the average rating was high and a couple of my friends on goodreads rated it well, so I was walking to the till to buy it. Even the good reviews weren’t enough to convince me initially, though. I was still worried. I went to pick this book up a couple of times and couldn’t fully convince myself that the doubt I felt wasn’t there for a reason.

I had my doubts going in, but Tahir’s writing and the story itself swiftly crushed any doubts I may have had. She writes so well that I can hardly believe this is the first book she has written, she is certainly an author to watch after this book.

I didn’t think a book which is so heavily influenced by the Roman Empire and that period would be a book to interest me. I love a good fantasy novel as much as the next person, but the Roman Empire was known for it’s violence and for the sheer size of the empire itself, I didn’t think I would really connect with the characters of this world. I was so pleased to be proven wrong so completely. The characters are so easy to connect to because they question, they observe their world and their situations and question things looking for a way out. I loved that because I hate when characters accept their lot in life and don’t strive for more.

I was a bit wary of the dual POV because too often I get attached to the one character more than the other, and this did happen, I found it far easier to get behind Elias because he was strong and continually thinking about how to get out of whatever situation he was in, even though he was such a dumb male when it came to Helene. Laia was a lot whinier and a lot weaker than him, but she grew on me because she learnt and became stronger as the story progressed and I like nothing more than good character growth. Be the end I was cheering the pair of them on equally, the dual POV worked as the book progressed as I became attached to both characters to the switching in the stories meant I was continually motivated to keep reading as I wanted to know what was happening to both of them.

This is one of those books I am going to struggle to review because I just can’t find fault with it. I suppose I wish we saw more of the world which Laia and Elias inhabited, we were introduced to Scholar and Martial culture, but we did not fully explore it, this book is very much about the character but I do wish we got to learn more about their cultures, but I always think that with fantasy novels. I like to be fully immersed in a world, and I was immersed, but I did wish for more. Things were hinted at with tales told and the different people inhabiting this world, the Tribesman were explained but I know there were more groups and people under the Empires rule, I wish we’d gotten to see more of that, but there is a second book to be published.

My only other minor complaint is that I can tell there is a larger storyline going on which explains the actions of others but we don’t get any information about it! It’s hinted at and you see other characters are aware of things but you don;t get more and that was frustrating to say the least. Even that is only a minor complaint because I get you never want to give too much away too soon otherwise what keeps people reading? Basically I’m frustrated I’ve been so completely drawn in by this book and am stick waiting for more info.

As you can tell from my review, this book does not disappoint. The only disappointment I had was that I didn’t get more, and that’s not really a complaint at all, just impatience. It was a book in which I expected good things and was given great things which exceeded my expectations, always a pleasure to experience. This is a complex world, but you only get the barest hint of it in this first book, I cannot wait to experience more. It is quite light on the fantasy, leaning much more into the dystopian genre of books, and I think that’s why I enjoyed it. It’s a bit different but still very accessible to anyone. I would definitely recommend this to others, it’s a gripping and enjoyable story and I can’t wait until the next one is released.

And there you have it, do you ever find yourself intimidated books before reading? Do you ever go into a book expecting good things and then discovering something even better, but nothing like what you were expecting?
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