Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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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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I’ve honestly been putting off this series for more than two years now (actually since I started blogging probably) because despite hearing great things about it, I’ve also heard it’s intense and all the fans always say it involves a lot of tears. And I just wasn’t ready to invest my time in another tear jerking intense world. But I finally decided to dive in and maybe I regret not reading it earlier, but I also think it found me at the perfect time.

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If I have to choose a few words to describe the plot of this book, they would be fast paced, engaging and unputdownable. I just picked up the book on a whim and before I even realized, I was halfway done and then I went on to finish in a couple more hours. The story is very intense, the world is brutal, and I spent every chapter quite scared about what was gonna happen next. The author manages to create this very bleak atmosphere where there’s very less hope, but I just clung to some glimmers of it, wishing it paid off. And wow it was totally worth it.

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Laia is such a naive and sheltered character and it broke my heart to see how scared and confused she was a lot of the time, unsure of whom to trust and not knowing if she will survive but still not losing her focus on saving her brother. I admired her for keeping her wits about her even in such dire circumstances, but  it was definitely towards the end that I realized there’s so much more potential for her to be an awesome character.

Elias is a tortured soul and it was interesting to see him feel conflicted every step of the way. I still don’t think he tried enough to do the right thing, but hopefully he’ll get more opportunities to do that in the later books. And whatever problems I may have had with his character in usual (non-pandemic) times, I flew through the book so fast that I frankly didn’t notice. I just found him quite sympathetic. I’m also not yet all in for the romance between both of them but I can see there is a bond and I’m definitely excited to see more conversations between them.

Helene is definitely the most fascinating character in this book but I’m not in her fan club yet. She is extremely capable and probably has had to be the best to achieve her position, and she is completely loyal to the causes (and persons) she believes in – which are highly admirable qualities – but she also has a ruthless streak and I’m much more interested to see where the author decides to take her character. But one thing I have to say, no one really treats her well and she totally deserves to punish them all for their atrocious behaviors.

There is also quite an ensemble of smaller characters and I have to commend the author because I remember most of them long after I finished the book, and that happens very less these days. What made it more interesting is that I could never guess the exact motivations of many of these side characters and while we do get some surprising reveals, I’m sure we’ll get more. But my favorite of the lot has to be Izzi because she is so sweet and just wants a friend, and she may have suffered horribly since childhood but she has a heart of steel. I hope we’ll see her again.

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To conclude, I’m so glad my Stars and Sorcery book club chose this book as our May BOTM forcing me to finally pick it up, because now I know what I was missing out. This is such a popular series that I don’t think I need to say more to recommend it, but if you are someone who hasn’t read it yet but loves intense and brutal fast paced fantasies, go check this out. I have made up my mind and I’m now gearing up for a binge read of the next two !!!

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19 thoughts on “Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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  1. Great review!! I read this a long time ago and never continued in with the series for some reason. It’s been so long since I read it that I will have to reread it before I read book 2 which I do really want to do.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Haha getting side tracked is so common when there are so many shiny new releases 🤩🤩🤩
          I actually did end up binging all the three and they are great 😍😍

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve put off reading this too but you’ve convinced me to bump it up my TBR pile. It’s a bonus I won’t have long to wait for the final book at least!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the finale being released this year definitely motivated me to finally pick it up… And now I’m awed by everyone who actually waited between the releases because it’s so damn tough 😬😬😬

      Liked by 1 person

  3. i finally read this book earlier this year as well, also kinda regretting not reading it earlier! But also now we don’t have to wait for sequels! Since the fouth one is coming this year already!
    Great review!

    (www.evelynreads.com)

    Liked by 1 person

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