What if you were the spark that could ignite a revolution?
For years Laia has lived in fear. Fear of the Empire, fear of the Martials, fear of truly living at all. Born as a Scholar, she’s never had much of a choice.
For Elias it’s the opposite. He has seen too much on his path to becoming a Mask, one of the Empire’s elite soldiers. With the Masks’ help the Empire has conquered a continent and enslaved thousands, all in the name of power.
When Laia’s brother is taken she must force herself to help the Resistance, the only people who have a chance of saving him. She must spy on the Commandant, ruthless overseer of Blackcliff Academy. Blackcliff is the training ground for Masks and the very place that Elias is planning to escape. If he succeeds, he will be named deserter. If found, the punishment will be death.
But once Laia and Elias meet, they will find that their destinies are intertwined and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.
In the ashes of a broken world one person can make a difference. One voice in the dark can be heard. The price of freedom is always high and this time that price might demand everything, even life itself.
An Ember in the Ashes is told in dual perspectives alternating from Laia and Elia’s point of views which meant we were able to have several plot points interweaving throughout the book and we were also given two different perspective since Laia is a Scholar/ Slave and Elia’s a soldier.
An Ember in the Ashes is set in a world under the Martial Empire where Scholars are slaves and brutally treated. This is one thing that left me shocked, I never expected the descriptions of the punishments that were given to the Slaves from branding to cutting an eye out to rape. [TRIGGER WARNING] However this all really hit home how dark and dangerous this Empire was.
One of my favourite aspects of the plot was the Boarding School aspect, which is brutal in itself and only has one female a year. If you are welcomed into the academy, there is no guarantee you will be alive to graduate. Another thing which I enjoyed in the plot was the action packed scenes of the trials, this where the book truly picked up its pace as Elia’s strength was tested, both physically and mentally.
And for the romance fans like me you will be happy to know, it is present! Sabaa Tahir did a brilliant job of creating a super slow burning romance which was present in the book but it was second to the main plot and it didn’t overpower the story. In my experience, I felt like I was left always wanting more which motivated me to read on faster.
An Ember in the Ashes has such a dark, gritty, brutal world. The author truly paints a picture of the stark reality our main characters face and how neither, despite their heritage are safe from punishment, brutality or even death. However the setting is also the reason why I needed to cut my 5 star rating to 4.5 stars as sometimes the setting was rather confusing, I felt like I needed to go back to remind myself of things when the fantastical elements began to arise as there was so much history, depth and fantasy elements to consider. It didn’t take away from the story however.
The world building as a whole felt very Dystopian to me and many other reviewers have also mentioned a similarity to the Roman Empire.
There are so many strong characters to fall in love with and admire in this book but I have to say that Laia is my favourite character without a doubt. She starts this story so weak and she truly goes on a strong character development as the story unfolds. Laia goes through so much pain and she withstands everything that is thrown her way despite doubting her own strength.
Elias also goes on his own character development and his character was very intriguing from the beginning of the story as he is one of the finest soldiers in the Academy, yet his biggest wish is for freedom as he truly hates the world he belongs to.
Overall, an Ember in the Ashes was a 4.5 star read for me. I truly adored my reading experience and I found myself so motivated to finish the story to find out who what would happen to our two protagonists. The slight confusion with the rich imagery and strong world development meant I had to knock off 1/2 a star but I think now we understand the background behind this world, book 2 will be easier to understand.
I can’t wait to see how Laia and Elias fare in Book 2 and how the romance element develops!
“You are an ember in the ashes. You will spark and burn, ravage and destroy. You cannot change it. You cannot stop it.”An Ember in the Ashes page 67