Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes

Usually I wait a few days to write my review, allowing the book time to sink in and my thoughts to simmer. I couldn't wait for this one, though! I finished it last night and have spent so much time thinking about it today that I had to start writing about it!

An Ember in the Ashes

by Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Razorbill, 2015
Source: bought

I’ll be honest, what got me was the cover.  It’s just beautiful with the glowing letters set against the dark background, and the blowing sand, or possibly ash.  I had never heard of it until I saw it and I shrugged and said why the heck not?  I’m glad I did, because as soon as I bought An Ember in the Ashes I saw it popping up everywhere, persuading me to push it to the top of my TBR pile.  I finished it within a few days.

An Ember in the Ashes is a story told in dual perspectives, which seems to be the fashion these days.  It’s also something that has started to make me cringe a little because in many cases it can go very wrong--not so here.  Sabaa Tahir has done has excellent job of creating two very different voices for her two main characters that are believable, intriguing, and endearing (yes endearing--even for Elias).  Laia is a slave girl who knows she will never live up to her mother’s bravery, but finds herself in a situation that demands it.  Elias, on the other hand, was trained to be brave as a student at Blackcliff.  From the age of six he has been training to be a soldier, and now has been chosen to compete in the Trials for the right to become the next Emperor.  Both Laia and Elias want their freedom, but will either of them be able to stand up to the evil that is in front of them?

There is so much I want to say about this book, but I am so afraid to give too much away!  At times, I was so surprised by what happened that I had to put the book down and walk away while I calmed down.  Of course this made me more anxious, so before long I found myself plunging back into their world.  Part of the intrigue is the pure evil that exists within some of the characters.  I had my own vague ideas of what types of things would happen in the Trials, but I was taken aback by what they included because I never guessed some of these things.  I am definitely ready for another book about this world and have read that we’ll be getting another one in 2016.  I’ll definitely be revisiting An Ember in the Ashes before then!

One thing to know, is that An Ember in the Ashes is very violent.  Elias and Laia live in a world where torture, violence, rape, and death are overlooked by those in charge.  An early scene with Elias, is when the entire school is forced to watch a young deserter be beaten to death.  Laia’s grandparents are murdered in front of her by soldiers who were trained at Blackcliff, and she runs, leaving her brother to be taken to prison and tortured.  If you don’t like to read stories with violence in them, please be aware that this book might not be for you.  It’s essential that you realize that the way of life these characters know, that they are so used to and has been ingrained in them, is a way of life neither of them want and both are desperately trying to escape.

I definitely recommend this book.  It’s not often that I give a book 5 out of 5 stars, but it’s also not often that I get so worked up reading that I have to walk away.  


  1. i liked this book as well, though not enough for five stars. It had some really fantastic world building. And it is violent! I loved that about it though. She didn't pull any punches there. I didn't like the love...square though. I could have lived without that. Great review! :)

    Cayt @ Vicarious Caytastrophe

    1. I agree with the love square. I could have done without that, and at first the violence threw me off a little. I guess I wasn't expecting it to be so violent, but once I accepted that this was the world in which they lived, I got over it. I also read a lot of YA wondering if I'll be able to place it in my classroom library. I will not be putting this in my library because I teach 6th grade. Some of them could handle it, some couldn't. I'll let their parents decide on that one. :)