Tuesday 19 May 2015

Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes
AN EMBER IN THE ASHES is a thought-provoking, heart-wrenching and pulse-pounding read. Set in a rich, high-fantasy world with echoes of ancient Rome, it tells the story of a slave fighting for her family and a young soldier fighting for his freedom.

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.

Shona's review 5 of 5 stars

I honestly don't remember the last time I read a tale this gripping, filled with so much action, death, love, courage and determination. A book that I thought I had predicted the outcome of only to be proven wrong with a gut wrenching twist that I just didn't see coming. 

From the very beginning I just knew, this book was going to be so much more than I thought it would be. The world that Tahir has created is rather complex but at the same time incredibly simple to navigate. And it drew me in from the very first paragraph. I found myself so completely under its siren spell that I had devoured 2 thirds of this book in one sitting. In the end I had no choice but to put the book down to go to bed last night but my brain refused to switch off. Instead of sleeping I lay awake wondering what was going to happen and when I did finally fall asleep my dreams where filled with images of the Empire, Augurs and the Resistance.

One of the things that struck me about this book is that it is Tahir's debut novel. The quality of writing and word building is astounding. That she didn't fall in to standard storytelling techniques where the antagonists are most decidedly good guys, that they have flaws and make the wrong choices, that she filled this book with people so twisted and wrong you'd gladly step into the book and run them through with a scim is just part of what makes this book great. the other part is that ending... technically it could be left as a standalone, but there is more of this story to be told and I really do hope we see more.

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