An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Summary: Laia is a slave.
Elias is a soldier.
Neither is free.
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
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.
I don't usually do this, but.... This book is totally worth five stars, for me.
Every once in awhile that book comes along that's just perfect. It's not too cheesy, it doesn't have any slut-shaming issues, the world building is awesome, the plot is interesting, the characters are interesting. This is one of those books.
I'm actually so glad that I held off reading this last year when I thought that there wasn't going to be a sequel. Knowing that there was, I decided to take the plunge, and the book is immensely satisfying when you know that a sequel is coming.
I'm fascinated by the world that Sabaa Tahir has built, here, and the people she's placed in it. We have strong lead characters of both genders, antagonists or outright *evil* characters of both genders, and friendships that are beautifully developed throughout the course of the book. I actually quite enjoyed the fact that one of our 'darker' and 'evil' characters was a woman, here - I'm hoping that we learn more about her in the future to give some background to her actions, because I'm so curious about her.
We also have magic, action, friendship and loyalty put to the test, characters facing their deepest fears. We have people with nuance! The dual perspectives is amazing, too, because it avoids that horrible 'evil villains who exist to be evil' trope that so many books run into. In my experience most people have at least a seed of a reason for why they do the things they do, and overlooking that saps a book's complexity, imo. Thankfully that is not the case here!
The *one* area where I might have been tempted to dock a half star is the love quadrangle that's going on, but honestly, everything else in the book is so awesome that it kind of outweighs that.
So, yes. Awesome book, and I can wait for the sequel. I'm SO glad that I picked this book as part of my Diverse Books Reading challenge for 2016!
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