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I Belong

Early Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the AshesTitle: An Ember in the Ashes

Author: Sabaa Tahir

Genre: YA High Fantasy

Series: N/A

Publication Date: April 28, 2015

Format: Hardcover, 464 Pages

ISBN-10: 1595148035 (Penguin Teen)

ISBN-13: 978-1595148032 (Penguin Teen)

Reviewed by: Bridget


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.

Quick & Dirty: Epic high fantasy that will leave you breathless. I will admit I struggled a little getting into the story at first, but once things picked up I couldn’t put this down!

Opening Sentence: My big brother reaches home in the dark hours before dawn, when even ghosts take their rest.

Excerpt: No

The Review:

Laia is a seventeen year old girl living in an Empire with brutal rulers. Her people are known as the Scholars and they were defeated by the Empire many years ago.  Now they live among their enemies but as peasants and are treated very poorly. The Empire can do whatever they like without cause to anyone they feel deserves to be punished, and they are always looking for traitors to the crown. There is a resistance that has risen against the Empire but anyone that is known to be a part of it or help in any way is branded a traitor. One night Laia’s only brother is taken by the Empire and the only way she will be able to free him is by asking the rebels for help. The only way that the rebels will help Laia is if she becomes a slave at Blackcliff, the most dangerous military academy, and spies on the woman that runs the school. It is a brutal mission that many have failed before, but Laia will do anything to save the only family she has left.

Elias is the best at everything inside the walls of Blackcliff. He is at the top of his graduating class and has proven time and time again that he is everything a solder should be, but secretly he hates everything about his life. He never wanted to be a solider but once you are chosen there is no backing out unless you want to pay the price, which is death. Elias has wanted to desert for years but he has been smart and bidding his time until the most opportune moment. But on the eve before he is planning to run away he is chosen to participate in a ruthless competition to become the next emperor. With his plans destroyed his only option is to fight in the competition or die trying!

Laia is a very interesting character that grew so much throughout the story. When you first meet her she is a timid girl that has never done anything to bring attention to herself, but once her brother is taken she becomes determined to get him back. She will do whatever it takes, even if it means becoming a slave for one of the cruelest masters alive. I really respected Laia and how much she was willing to give up to rescue her brother. I didn’t develop an instant connection with her, but as the story progressed, I grew to really love her character. She is a smart and resourceful girl and she grows to be a very courageous person that I really admired. I can’t wait to continue her story and see who she becomes.

Elias was not at all what I was expecting. Ever since he was six years old he has trained to be a special solider for the Empire. His kind is known as Masks and they are the elite of the elite when it comes to fighting. Their training was brutal and they are taught to show no mercy of any kind. Elias has always hated the person he was trained to be, but there is no leaving the Masks alive. It is a lifetime commitment and most see it as an amazing honor to be given the privilege to become a Mask, but not Elias. As you get to know him you see how torn he is between who he wants to be and what he is suppose to be. At first I didn’t know if I was going to like him, but he grew on me. As his story unfolds you realize how much he has been through and you can’t help but feel sorry for him. Eventually, I grew to respect him and in the end I really loved him.

An Ember in the Ashes is a gorgeous high fantasy set in a brutal world with non-stop action, interesting characters, and a fascinating plot. I did have a hard time getting into the story at first, which I think was due to trying to get to know all the characters and the world that Tahir created. This is a very complex story that was full of surprises and at first it was difficult to get a grasp on everything that was going on. But once I finally started to understand everything better, I honestly couldn’t put the book down. It was such a unique story that captivates you until the very last page. I think my favorite thing about the story was all the gray area that was present with all the different characters. You are never quite sure who is good and who is bad, which I really loved. There is very little romance in the story, but I think that there is potential for much more in books to come. The ending was pretty crazy and left me dying to know what happens next. I would highly recommend this to all fantasy lovers, this book is definitely one you should pick up.

Notable Scene:

The slaver nods a greeting to the guards stationed at the gates and pulls my chain as if I’m a dog. I shuffle after him. Rape…disfigurement…branding. I can’t do it. Darin. I can’t.

A visceral urge to flee sweeps through me, so powerful that I slow, stop, pull away from the slaver. My stomach roils, and I think I’ll be sick. But the slaver yanks the chain hard, and I stumble forward.

There’s nowhere to run. I realize as we pass beneath Blackcliff’s iron-spiked portcullis and into the fabled grounds. There’s nowhere to go. There’s no other way to save Darin.

I’m in now. And there is no going back.


FTC Advisory:  Razorbill/Penguin Teen provided me with a copy of An Ember in the Ashes.  No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.


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Early Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating
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