Review: An Ember In The Ashes

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Author: Sabaa Tahir

“Fear is only your enemy if you allow it to be.” 

In a world inspired by Ancient Rome, breaking the rules is equivalent to death. When Laia’s brother was accused of treason, the Empire killed their grandparents and arrested Darin, Laia’s brother, for interrogation and torture. To help him, Laia sought help from a group of rebels that defy the Empire that call themselves Resistance. In exchange of saving her brother, Laia was to spy the Empire’s most ruthless person, the Commandant, inside the Blackcliff Military Academy. Inside she met Elias, the Academy’s finest but also the most unwilling student.

Set in a broken world, Laia and Elias fought for equality and justice. Though they are the exact opposites of each other, they we’re destined to meet so they can change the future.

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An Ember In The Ashes has been sitting on my virtual shelf for quite some time  now. At first I hesitate to read this because I am starting to get tired of books about oppression and resistance. But as I read it, I was instantly consumed by its rich, well written plot line and diverse characters. This book shows how its author, Sabaa Tahir, is pure talent. It is her debut novel and honestly, it is rare for a debut novel to be this good. In fact, this is one of my favorite books this 2015.

Tahir’s compelling writing skills really took my breath away. She made delicate issues like rape, torture and murder a way of living for her characters. She write it with confidence and sophistication. She’s straight forward but not careless. For me, her characteristics as a writer is what made this book so compelling and successful. An Ember In The Ashes is one of those books that made me invest my emotions into it, it drove me on the edge of me emotional capacity and I like it. Normally, I don’t like when a book does that to me but it’s different with An Ember In The Ashes. When reading it, the story will demand your full attention and the involvement of your feelings.

The world that Sabaa Tahir created is ruthless and brutal. She didn’t even took a break pedal in describing the harsh reality that is happening at Serra. It also added a point in my book that the world made by Tahir is not magical yet there are supernatural creatures that lurks in it. I like the universe that the book posses but not enough for me to want to live in it.

I also admire the idea of two characters with opposite natures, Laia lives in poverty and fear while Elias has power and privileged. Their mixed point of views also added spice to the story. The author created exceptionally diverse main characters with a villain done so well.

What I like about Laia is that I saw her grow. In the beginning she’s just your typical female that can exist in any books with any setting. She’s always frightened and doubting about her abilities but as the story line goes on, she learn to fight and to protect those she loves. Laia eventually found big girl panties and wear it. She decided that it’s the right time to stand up and to fight for what’s right no matter what the consequences are.

“You are full, Laia. Full of life and dark and strength and spirit. You are in our dreams. You will burn, for you are an ember in the ashes.” 

Elias, on the other hand, is strong but is also trying to find himself. He wanted to escape his responsibilities so he can be free. From the beginning up to the end, Elias fought for what is right though he is expected to kill without any hesitation. This attitude of him is maybe because of the different raising he had from his adopted parents. He has different outlook in life that made him righteous.

“You are an ember in the ashes, Elias Veturius. You will spark and burn, ravage and destroy. You cannot change it. You cannot stop it.” 

As for Helene and Keenan, I felt deprived of them. They were both cunning and and strong so I am hoping to see more of them on the upcoming books for this series.

The fact that the villain of the story is Elias’ mother is genius. She made the story more interesting and exciting. Her brutal and ruthless nature made her one of the most unexpected but effective villain.

The romance that took place between the two main characters is perfect for my taste. It is not feel obliged, only necessary. They both had their personal issues and they try to resolve it individually, the romance just slips in the right timing. Normally I hated love triangles (love quadrangle for this book), but Keenan and Helene we’re both deserving for Elias and Laia so this is an exception for the cliché that is brought by those love polygons. Romance is not the focus of the story and the author made sure that it will be not.

An Ember In The Ashes is undoubtedly, a very well written book. It is marketed as a stand alone but the ending conveys that it is not. The ending is not really an ending, it also not a cliff hanger but Tahir left so many unresolved issues like: Is Darin still alive? Who is Elias father and why does the Commandant hates him so much? What happened to Keenan? It is also unclear whether Elias and Laia is in love or just physically attracted to each other. I will be irritated if that kind of ending exist in other book but the author made the story very promising so I guess I will just wait patiently for the next book.

Rating: 5/5

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