So I am so behind on getting on the Sabaa Tahir train but I am SO ON IT NOW. Tahir is probably one of my favorite pop authors now up there with Sarah J. Maas. So the book of the day today is An Ember in the Ashes and it was definitely a surprise. I had held off so long on it because it just seemed to be one of those pop books that everyone reads to get on the bandwagon but sometimes I forget that some things are on the bandwagon in the first place for a good reason! Twilight was a great series that got way too famous too fast and it got a little aggravating. Tahir is NOT aggravating and this book had me burning the candle all night long (finished this book in one solid 24 hours).
So, just a little about An Ember..
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.
So immediately after reading this synopsis I grouped An Ember with Sarah J. Maas’s work, The Hunger Games trilogy and figured it was nothing new. I was wrong. This book stands strong on it’s own.
Again, I, Meagan, was wrong (my boyfriend will get a kick out of that phrase leaving my mouth).
This book jumps right to it, no games. Right from the beginning we are thrown into a world of dictatorship and fear. We are introduced to Laia who has just had her brother taken from her by a scary group called the Masks. These are trained assassins that wear silver masks that actually meld to their faces after their training is complete. Laia runs and goes to the infamous Resistance for help saving her brother.
This book then switches point of view (POV) to Elias who is a Mask in training but doesn’t want to be. I am a huge fan of POV trading. Especially if the writer knows what they are doing which Tahir most certainly does. This builds suspense and keeps you reading to see what happens next in the other POV person’s story. Anyways, Elias is about to graduate and become a full fledged assassin and not only that, but he is the best in his class. Not that he wants to be. Elias hates the Empire and wants to escape all of the killing, even if it means leaving his best friend Helene behind.
As you can guess, these characters eventually tie together. Laia is told by the Resistance that if she works to help them, they will help her rescue her brother, Darin. She gets assigned to spy on the Commandant of Blackcliff which is where the Masks are trained. The Commandant is ALSO Elias’s non-loving mother. She is ruthless and heartless and we get a huge wake up call to it with Laia’s treatment. Tahir walks the line of YA novel rules with this one. We have abuse, I mean REAL abuse to the point of torture, slaughter and the ever hovering fear of rape in this book. It makes this book very real and very cold. Elias takes a protective stance over this new slave girl under his mother and ends up saving her quite a few times in this book but don’t get me wrong. This book is not one to read if you’re hoping for an underlying romance theme through the whole thing. You never truly get a sense of who likes who in this book and it’s not about the romance.
Tahir keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole book. Things you would never think she would make her characters do, she does. And you love her and hate her for it. Elias and Laia do some serious growing in this book. And the supporting characters? Wow. Helene is Elias’s best friend but seemingly has the true mindset of the Masks, do for the Empire, obey the Empire, truly believes the life of an assassin makes her free. Which totally does not coincide with Elias’s very different views of right and wrong and freedom.
This book is not for the faint hearted.
You know that moment when Prim dies in the Hunger Games? Yeah, this whole book keeps that feeling and theme through the. whole. entire. book. You will love it and hate it. But one thing is for sure. You definitely want to read it. I started this book yesterday and am currently starting the sequel A Torch Against the Night. This book was a solid 5 stars for me and I would recommend it to anyone.
If you have read this book already and loved it, here are some of my recommendations for other books you may enjoy!
Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series
Kristen Cashore’s Graceling series
Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha series
Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen series
Thanks again for taking the time to read and hope you enjoy An Ember in the Ashes as much as I did!