Title: An Ember in The Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Genre: young adult, fantasy
Published: April 2015
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.
I liked both protagonists, Laia and Elias. Laia isn't the typical heroine. She doesn't see herself as brave or selfless but rather the opposite. She knows what she want's though, and she's prepared to do anything to save her brother's life. She and Elias both have amazing character growth in this book. In the beginning they are both quite unsure of what they want but towards the end they each made a decision that would change their lives forever. At first I wasn't sure if Laia and Elias would even meet or if their stories would only run alongside each other.
It's a complicated story with many 'problems' that the characters have to deal with. I wondered the entire time how the hell they would solve all of the mysteries in this one book?! Originally, An Ember in the Ashes was to be a stand alone book. Then the author announced that there would be a sequel. Of course! I don't know what they were thinking but this book ended with a big ass cliffhanger and could NEVER NOT have been a stand alone book.
An Ember in the Ashes is a dark book. People are cruel, they die or get hurt and it's not 'fluffed up' as in most YA fantasy books. It's something you don't find often in the YA section because I feel like the violence and everything is on Game of Thrones level. I didn't mind it though, as it kept the book interesting and unpredictable. You think you know what's going to happen but then BOOM PLOT TWIST.
I enjoyed this book very much and I'll sure read the sequel. I definitely recommend it to people who like YA fantasy. I can't really compare it to other books I've read though. Just trust me, the writing is wonderful, the story is really good, the characters very interesting and lots of shit goes down, which is always good. Basically: pick it up if you haven't already.