Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
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.
“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 love Elias. If you try to lay claim on my darling, I will feed you to the chimera. Seriously, I'm a sweet person.

I loved Elias's story arc. I love how he's strong and flawed and so damn realistic. He's built to be a ruthless killer but he wants to escape the foreboding future. Elias's story and his emotions are heart-wrenching and I personally loved his POV of things more than Laia's. At first it felt weird that of all the students in the School, Elias was the 'different' one but after we're told of his past, that totally makes sense. Elias makes a decision somewhere at the beginning of the book and spends the rest of the story wondering if it was the right decision. I found his way of thinking interesting and particularly enjoyed his talks with Cain.

“You are full, Laia. Full of life and dark and strength and spirit. You are in our dreams. You will burn, for you are an ember in the ashes.”

I LOVED Laia. She is one of the most realistic and three dimensional characters I've read so far. She is afraid and meek but she is brave too. Despite her fear of the Martials and Blackcliff, she still agrees to spy for the Resistance in order to save her brother. Despite being scared of the Commandment, she sneaks out to spy and report. She isn't the typical badass heroine but she is determined and goes to great lengths for the people she loves.

The Commandment is probably my most loathed antagonist of all times. She is so well written that every time she's mentioned I literally wanted to strangle her.

Helene was quite the interesting character. I really enjoyed her story arc too despite being pissed at her at many points. Also the characters of Cook and Izzi deserve honorable mention. The characters in this book literally pulled at my heartstrings and even broke some of them.

“There are two kinds of guilt. The kind that's a burden and the kind that gives you purpose. Let your guilt be your fuel. Let it remind you of who you want to be. Draw a line in your mind. Never cross it again. You have a soul. It's damaged but it's there. Don't let them take it from you.”

It was PERFECTION. The two plots; one involving Laia and the other involving Elias come together with utter perfection. The plot begins at page one. Literally. The pace is freaking brutal and the twists are endless.

Also, the setting deserves special mention. It's the setting that contributes the most to the story; the imposing Blackcliff Academy, the tunnels and labyrinths and the places where the trials take place. The setting makes the world so much more ominous and darker. And I loved the map of the Academy at the very beginning.

There are actually two love triangles in the book BUT I don't have any complaints against them. The romance in now way sidelines the plot nor does it seem annoying. I quite enjoyed the chemistry between the characters.

The writing is so powerful., lyrical and eloquent. The descriptions are vivid and this book is oh-so quotable. Many of the quotes sent a chill up my spine. It's the kind of writing that makes sure you absolutely CANNOT put down the book until you've read the last word.

- Everything

- Nothing

I would recommend this book to every person I meet provided they're okay with reading about a brutal and savage world. This book in my opinion is utter perfection.

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