An Ember in the Ashes Book # 1
UK Publisher: Harper Voyager
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 Empires 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 the 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 realise that their destinies are intertwined - and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.
Words cannot do justice to how much I enjoyed this book! After reading several reviews claiming it’s brilliance, my interest was peaked, and I can honestly say I think every five star review claims true. The sequel cannot come soon enough! Am Ember in the Ashes was utterly fantastical!
Told from the dual Povs of Laia and Elias, the story follows these two teenagers on their criss-crossing path to survive their roles within a regimented empire.
Laia is one of the last scholars, the original people of the land before the Martials invaded five hundred years ago. Now her people are suppressed and scorned for their knowledge. But when her home is raided in the night, her grandparents killed and her beloved brother thrown in prison, she will do anything to get her brother back. Even become a slave in the house of the Martial’s head commander, a viscous and cold-blooded woman known for disfiguring her slaves for the smallest of slights.
Son of the commander, Elias is number one in his class of masked soldiers. Handsome and deadly, he keeps his kind heart hidden behind a cold indifference. All his life, he has been subjected to beatings, whippings and the harsh “survival of the fittest” ideal upheld by the marital soldiers. But as the days to his graduation draw nearer, so does the beginnings of a prophecy that will change the fates of both him and Laia, forever…
I devoured this book in one day, staying up well into the early hours of the morning as I just couldn't stop turning the pages. Admittedly, It did take a couple of chapters to get into the story, but by fifty pages, I was truly caught up in the lives of the characters.
Laia is the one who I think changes the most throughout the story. Turning from a cowardly, timid girl to a strong, confident rebel. Elias on the other hand was always strong but he changes both mentally and spiritually throughout the book, and in some ways he is probably the character who suffers the most too.
Together, Elias and Laia make an interesting pairing, but I really liked how there was no instant love between them. In fact, they both had other potential love interests yet despite their very different upbringings and positions, their shared ideals drew them together.
However Elias’ best friend, Helen, was also a remarkable character. She adds complications to the plot, while Elias’ mother, the commander, is the most dislikable character going! Yet she does add something extra to the story. But personally I thought all the characters were very well written and many have agendas which are still yet to be uncovered. Can’t wait to see how things will turn out for them all in book 2!
Otherwise the plot moves at a fast pace and I liked the realism of emotions within the story. Combined with the fantastical elements, which brings to life myths and monsters, and the trials forced upon each character, the story was absolutely captivating.
I would recommend this book to fans of Sarah J Maas, Tamora Pierce and Garth Nix. For a debut novel, Sabaa Tahir has produced a spellbinding read that will stick with you for a long time to come. A must read for every fan of fantasy! 5 stars!