Set in a terrifyingly brutal Rome-like world, An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy debut about an orphan fighting for her family and a soldier fighting for his freedom. It’s a story that’s literally burning to be told.
LAIA is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.
ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier— and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.
When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.
I generally don’t love books that have dual POV’s, but An Ember in the Ashes was amazing. Two characters, Elias and Laia, tell the story with completely different thoughts, actions, and expectations. Both characters paint a story that is unlike any other. The fact that they were both so different, yet their stories melded together so perfectly, truly speaks to the talent of Sabaa Tahir. I am truly in awe that she was able to make both POV’s so detailed and interesting.
Laia was a Scholar, a jam maker who was at the very bottom of the totem pole. She lived with her brother and grandparents, because her parents both died when she was young. One day, a Martial raid took place at her house, killing her grandparents and capturing her brother. Laia was able to escape, and decided to find the Resistance, her only hope of saving her brother.
Elias was a Martial, and was almost ready to become a full fledged Mask- a person who would be feared and revered by almost everyone. He was raised at Blackcliffe, and was in training ever since he was six years old. He was always near the top of his class, especially when it came to fighting. He was able to go into a battle rage mode, where nothing mattered other than seeing red and killing.
He never gave a second thought to any of the lowly Scholars, not until he met Laia, who was sent undercover for the Resistance as a spy for the Commander of Blackcliffe. The interesting part about the Commander, was that she was Elias’s mother, and she had no heart or pity for anyone. She was cruel, ruthless, and savage. Honestly, she was one of the most frightening villains I have ever met. But that’s not the important part. When Laia and Elias meet, both saw something different in the other, something they hadn’t seen before. And little did they know it, but fate was about to expose secrets to them that would change their lives forever.
Now, you can probably tell from my description above that both characters were complete and utter opposites. And while opposite POV’s can be a huge hit or miss, I am pleased to say that An Ember in the Ashes was a hit. I really enjoyed hearing from both characters, especially Laia. I loved her loyalty to her brother, plus her intelligence while sneaking around. I can’t even imagine going through the horrors that she had to face. Living through the experience by reading her narration made chills go down my spine, many, many times. And even after going through so many traumatic experiences, Laia was able to continue reaching for her goal of saving her brother, instead of solely trying to survive on her own. I was also impressed because Laia picked up on some shady figures who I hadn’t paid any attention to, making for a unique twist!
Something else that intrigued me was how Sabaa ended the novel. Yes, I will say that there was a little cliffhanger, but in the same sense, it wasn’t a cliffhanger. The loose ends were tied up, yet I still have so many questions. To be honest, I’m not quite sure how to classify the cliffhanger, but all I know is that I can’t wait to see what happens next. I really hope that she is able to write a sequel. Oh! And one other quick point. I was really, really happy, because if you read carefully, you can spot the title a couple of times hidden inside the book. I love it when that happens, so while that was a minor detail, it did bring a smile to my face.
I loved this book and give it 5/5stars.