Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Release Date: 9th February 2016
Publisher: Razorbill
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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*Thank you so much to Penguin Random House for providing a paperback copy of the book. This has in no way affected my opinions and review of the book. 

I must say, this book got me out of my fantasy-book-slump. It lagged at some parts but the story was quite satisfying. Before, most of the books I read are mostly contemporary romance and the like. I felt like I needed a breath of fresh of air and some magic, and a little out of this world. This book just gave it to me. 

Elias is a soldier. Laia is a slave. And both of them are under the The Martial empire. Both aren't granted freedom. A mask kills the remaining family Laia has. Her brother was taken away from her and  taken into prison. Soon, Laia enters the Commandant house as a slave to spy for the Resistance. There she met Elias, the finest soldier the empire has and the most unwilling. Then and there, they formed a friendship. And together, they fight the empire. 

While I loved how I find the story engaging and compelling, I kind of feel like there's a need to improve chemistry between the two (Elias and Laia). This was the first thing I felt that lacked after I finished reading.  I wasn't satisfied with just the "need to kiss her" and those stuffs. I know it was friendship that I sensed but I still need to feel something human. This is one area I'll look forward to A Torch Against The Night. I'm not digging Keenan for this part. *grins*

I also liked how Laia was portrayed. She's a weakling at the beginning but I saw how she emerged as a strong empowered woman at the last pages. One of the best character improvement I've read in a while. 

One thing I noticed in this story is the overpowering of men over women. The book mentioned the word "rape" a lot and that's kind of very disturbing considering this is a YA book, and how there's only one girl, Helene, in a bunch of guys being trained as a Mask. This actually portrays present power of men over women that strictly never changes although we have rights like the gender equality. I never thought this would go so deep. 

The whole bunch was quite a roller coaster ride of reading. It's engaging and puts you on edge. I loved it but there are areas of improvement. Oh and yes, the movie rights! I can't wait for it.

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