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Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (An Ember in the Ashes #1)

“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.”

What I thought:

Now this was a book I loved deeply end entirely! <3

An Ember in the Ashes follows two POVs: Laia, a slave, and Elias, a soldier. Laia is a scholar girl. Her people was enslaved by Elias’ people, the martials. Completely different in their upbringings and the things they’ve been taught, they were very similar in their desire to be free. I kept wondering how they’d meet, and when they finally did it was just as effortless as the rest of the book. It was so easy to root for both, and Tahir does a fabulous job developing her characters. I loved watching Laia and Elias as they figured out what they really wanted from life, how to get it, and find the courage to do what they believed in. So much love, friends <3

At the back of my mind, Darin’s voice grows fainter: Find something, Laia. Something that will save me. Hurry.

No, another, louder part of me says. Lay low. Don’t risk spying until you’re certain you won’t get caught.

Which voice do I listen to? The spy or the slave? The fighter or the coward? I thought the answers to such questions would be easy. That was before I learned what real fear was.

They weren’t the only great characters, either. Zak, Spiro Teluman, and Cain made for intriguing side characters, and the Commandant was a villain I loved to hate. I’m looking forward to seeing more of them (or the ones who live to see another book, anyway *wink wink*) in the sequel.

This was easy to love. Usually it takes me a few pages to get into a book, but this one I adored from the dedication page! I was constantly worried about what might happen next, which characters would make it to the end, and there were several points where I wasn’t sure how Laia and Elias would survive Book 1.

The background info was given naturally without being over-whelming, and as someone who loves lore and history in fiction I really enjoyed learning about the world.

“This life is not always what we think it will be,” Cain says. “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.”

I was worried there’d be a love triangle, but so far so very good! Laia is a young woman so naturally she felt attraction towards other people here and there, but generally she was too busy not dying to think about relationships, which was refreshing.

I’m dying to read the sequel, but I’m trying to be good and stick to my no-more-books-until-you’ve-read-everything-on-your-shelf rule. I might have to treat myself when I finished editing my book, though. It would make a fantastic reward.


Have you read An Ember in the Ashes, or do you need more convincing? Get some cookies, drop me a comment and let’s get this book club going!

I don’t review books professionally. These reviews are mainly a small summary and my opinion on books I’ve loved, they are not intended to be anything more. All ‘reviews’ include a picture, title and name of author linking to the book’s Goodreads listing, the blurb from the back of the book and my non-professional verdict.

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