Page count: 457
Publication year: 2015
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 5 stars

Blurb from GoodReads:

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.

Lately, I had been seeing this book everywhere. I was hesitant to pick it up because I am generally weary of hyped books, but this was the group book for my Disney-A-Thon team (which I failed at oops) so I decided to give it a try. I’m so glad I did!

I feel like lately in fantasies I have been seeing a lot of characters who don’t actually do much in the story but are rather “the chosen ones,” so it was refreshing to not see that trope in here! Laia watches The Empire murder her entire family and arrest her brother for treason. From here, she vows to do whatever she can to save her only remaining family member, and teams up with The Resistance. Laia’s character development is so incredible as we watch her grow from a scared, broken teenage girl to a strong, defiant one. Furthermore, she makes things happen for herself. She doesn’t sit around wishing things were different, but rather goes out and tries to change the course of her and her brother’s life.

Okay, now of course I must gush over Elias. I loved Laia so much, but Elias was definitely just as compelling, if not more so. Elias is a soldier at The Empire’s greatest military academy and has just graduated. However, he is different from his peers in the sense that he isn’t sure if they are really fighting for the greater good. In the course of this book, we watch Elias on this emotional journey trying to decide who he wants to fight for. While his conscious is telling him The Empire is not as great as it seems, his peers and family are putting pressure on him to remember who he swore his loyalty to. The entire time, I couldn’t tell whether Elias was good or evil, and I loved it.

And of course, I can’t write a review without mentioning the action scenes! These kept me on my toes with all the amazing twists. I could never quite tell the direction the book was going. I especially loved reading the trials that Elias endured. They were so interesting and definitely furthered the character development. Through these, Elias’s greatest fears were revealed as well as how far he would go for power. The action made me fly through this book. Although it was over 450 pages, I read it in 3 days.

Overall, this is probably one of my favorite books of the year. I would highly recommend it and can’t wait to read the rest of the series soon!

4 thoughts on “Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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