an ember in the ashes by sabaa tahir (an ember in the ashes, book 1) (tw: rape mention)
overall rating: 4.4/5 ⭐️
genre: YA, fantasy, romance
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.
first of all, WHOA. an ember in the ashes is honestly insanely good, and i can’t believe i didn’t read it until now. this definitely met my expectations, and i NEED to get my hands on the second book!
the characters are absolutely amazing. i don’t think i’ve found any characters that i liked so much in a while. laia and elias really come to life through the story, and their personalities are so realistic. although they can be frustrating at times, their actions are believable, and the characters definitely feel like real people. i definitely felt attached to laia and elias while reading the story, and i don’t think i’ll be able to handle it if something happens to them later on in the series. sabaa tahir does an amazing job building an emotional connection between the characters and the reader.
there are a few things i didn’t like about the relationships. i really wish there was more about laia and her brother, maybe in the form of flashbacks and memories, since she clearly cares so much about him, so i would’ve liked to see more of their relationship. i also wasn’t a huge fan of the love triangle, which i thought was unnecessary, but i think it’ll come into play later on, so i’m excited to see how things turn out. despite the love triangle, i did enjoy the romantic scenes. finally, i LOVED the friendship between elias and helene, his best friend, as well as the friendships that laia forms at blackcliff. the friendships are so much more complex than other relationships in the book, and i really liked the characters’ struggles as they were forced to question and reconsider their loyalties.
the world-building is good, especially when it comes to blackcliff, but i wish there was more about the society they live in, the different tribes and the history, and the supernatural beings. i feel like there aren’t as many fantasy elements as there should be, so it does feel more like dystopia at some points.
the plot, although not the most original, becomes something entirely new with the setting and the characters. sabaa tahir takes an otherwise predictable plot and brings it to life through laia and elias, who seem to lead the story rather than following the plot. the plot itself is so engaging, and i constantly found myself wanting to continue when i wasn’t reading. the writing style is also so beautiful and flows really well. it doesn’t bog down the story with unnecessary details and reads easily. i also love that laia and elias both have their own voices, and the narration really fits the characters.
overall, the characters in an ember in the ashes bring the story to life through beautiful writing and an engaging storyline.
have you read this? what did you think?