Book Review: An Ember In The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir


An Ember In The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, Published April 28th, 2015 by Razorbill. Intended reading age is 12+.

TRIGGER WARNING: This book has repeated mentions of rape.


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.


I realized after I finished this book, I knew nothing about it or what to expect while reading it. I have heard so many good things about this series, but I guess I never actually heard about things that happen in the series, which I can’t decide if I like or not. On one hand, it means that I literally have no idea what happens next in a book that came out like 3 or 4 years ago, which is a pleasant surprise. On the other hand, I do like to know about the general direction of a series before I get into it. I don’t know, I guess we’ll see how this goes.

I did enjoy the plot overall. It felt like there were some high stakes involved, and that kept me on the edge of my seat most of the time. I liked Laia and how loyal she was to her family and friends, but I have this feeling that after all she has gone through for Darin, he is going to stab her in the back or do something else to betray her. I just have a bad gut feeling about him.

As for Elias, he had a pretty good plot as well. In the grand scheme of things, I think it’s kinda cliche to have the main character be the lone soldier who doesn’t agree with the regime, and wants to escape but what can you do. I think Helen is a great character, but I don’t like how she got turned into the girl who has been in love with him the whole time, and now she has to fight him and hunt him down. I feel like they could have just been best friends who were forced to be on separate sides of the battle field, without the awkwardness of an almost love triangle.

I think the plot line of the trials was interesting, but I wish they had been more of a focal point to the book. I really liked reading those chapters. In all, my favorite chapters were Elias’s chapter when he is doing the first trial, Laia’s chapter when she is dancing with Elias at the festival, and the chapter where they are sitting in his room after the third trial. They just struck a chord with me.

I really didn’t like the twins (#BetterStoriesForTwinsInYA) but I guess that was the point. I think I could have liked Zak if he had been allowed to progress and grow, but alas. His brother sucks. That’s all I have to say about them.

I love Izzi and Cook. I understood where Cook was coming from and that’s why she was so hard on the girls and closed off to them, and I really want to learn more about her and Izzi. I hope Izzi gets her own POV in the next books.

I am very interested in learning more about the Commandment and her life, and how it connects to Laia’s parents. Especially the moment where she realizes who Laia’s parents are. I think that is going to be an awesome scene. Speaking of Laia’s parents, I am not sure what I think of the Resistance. I feel like making Keenan the love interest was awkward, especially after reading his introduction chapter because when I first read it I was under the impression that he was a middle aged man, not in his late teens/early twenties. In all honesty, I wish YA books would stop making teens the most trusted people in leadership groups. There is no reason for it other than to give the character in question more power throughout the book. It feels ridiculous to read about a kid so young leading the group of rebels or a kingdom or an army, and all the people they are in charge of are middle aged or older. Adults do not listen to kids that readily, especially in times of need. Okay, rant over.

I am excited to read the next book, but I have to wait a bit for it to come in at the library. It’s annoying, because there is a 5 week wait for the second one, but no one has checked out the 3rd one so I could borrow it if I wanted to, but I still need the second book. I’m so close, yet so far. *Sigh*

Overall rating: 3.5/5 stars

NOTE: Okay, so I’ve decided that I like this style of reviewing much more than my other strict guideline I made myself follow for previous reviews. Ironic, given that I’m just rambling when that’s the whole point of my blog name. One day I’ll listen to my subconscious. From now on, my reviews will just be me rambling like this.


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