Monday, June 8, 2015

An Ember in the Ashes

Title:An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Series: An Ember in the Ashes, Book 1
Number of Pages: 446
Date Read: 6/8/15
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Action

Synopsis (Found on

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 intertwinedand that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself. 

My Review:

I really liked this book. It was hard for me to get into because last month (may 2015) I read a ton of books for a challenge here on goodreads and I was wiped out the beginning of this month. That's why it was hard for me to get into-it had nothing to do with the book. 

I liked the world of this book and how the main characters navigate through it. The empire in this book is divided into 2 main people (with others among them): Scholars who once ruled the land and Martials who came, conquered the Scholars. In the world now the Scholars are below the Martials and can be jailed, tortured, enslaved and executed for anything. The Martials are a military type of people with special forces called Masks. They train in the Blackwell Military School and they are the most deadly of the soldiers and the most respected. This world is hard and full of violence and death for all the people in it. There is always a threat of death, fights, violent and rape. The Masks train from when they were six and their training is like torture. The Masks are called masks because of a silver mask they wear on their face that over time melds to their skin and becomes one with their face. Once a mask melds with its owner the owner can't take the mask off anymore. Weird stuff. 

The basic premise of the story is that Laia's brother Darin was taken in a raid as a suspect of being part of the scholar rebellion. Laia escapes the raid and goes to the rebels that she thinks Darin is working for, to ask for help getting him out of prison. They reluctantly agree and in exchange Laia has to spy for them. She has to spy on the most ruthless woman in the empire: The commandant of Blackwell military school. She goes undercover as the commandants personal slave. There she meets Elias, the number one soldier in Blackwell. 

First I'll talk a bit about the main characters, Laia and Elias. The book is in both of their POV's, switching off between chapters. I really liked Laia. She is a scholar girl who could read and was learning how to become a healer from her grandfather. The night of the raid, she runs away and for the rest of the book she feels guilty about not staying to help Darin when he was taken. From then on it is her sole mission in life to do whatever she can to get Darin out of prison and that leads her to the resistance and becoming the commandant's slave. We as readers can see Laia grow from being a scared girl who wants people to fix things for her into a girl who takes matters into her own hands and fights for what she wants and believes in. She gets to that point because of her time in Blackwell and her undeterred desire to free her brother. Along the way, Laia makes friends with Izzi and Elias as well as toughens up through the commandants continuous torture and punishments. 

I loved Elias. He is so different from the other ruthless Masks. Unlike mostly every other mask, Elias hates Blackwell and the violence of the empire. He is a day from graduating in the start of the book and he has plans to desert the empire and get out. He hates everything about being a mask. He hates violence and the things they make the Masks do. He hates how the other masks love killing and how most of them are unfeeling and unmerciful to both scholars and martials alike. Situations come up and he has to stay at the school for a time and that's when he meets Laia. Elias always tries to do the right thing and he has to constantly watch his back that no one thinks he's weak because of his thoughts/feelings and use that against him. He had to pretend he's as cold and unfeeling as the other masks when he he really feels upset, desperate, anger- you know normal human emotions. He really is just a good guy who wants out of a bad life. 

There are so many supporting characters and I'll try to talk a bit about them. Helene is Elias' best friend and the only woman mask at the school. I didn't really like her much. She is very by the book, always obeying orders and thinks lowly of the scholar people. Izzi is another slave in the school that Laia befriends. She is very shy at first but then is willing to help Laia anyway she can. She's a good friend. Keenan is a red-headed resistance rebel who at first is very standoffish to Laia and seems to dislike her. He is also very by the book when it comes to the resistance and is fiercely loyal to them. Marcus is a vile, evil son of a b***h, who loves to kill, hurt and rape people. He is extremely ruthless and dangerous. He disgusts me and I hated him. The same can be said of the Commandant. She is a class A b***h and is evil also. She is so cold and has no emotion. She enjoys violence and hurting people especially her slaves. 

There is a lot of action in this book, a lot of fighting, blood and violence. There is also a fantasy element to it because there are magical creatures in it and talk of the fey in it. We see some of it but I guess there will be more in the second book. 

Now for the reason I gave 4 stars. There are two, not one but two, love triangles in this book. And if you have been reading my reviews on other books you know I hate love triangles and insta-love (unless it's in a fairy tale). The triangles are Elias, Laia, Helene and Laia, Elias and Keenan. I just can't. Elias has been having feelings for Helene that he doesn't want or understand. Helene loves Elias. Elias and Laia are very attracted to each other. Laia likes Keenan but doesn't trust him to put her before the rebellion and still thinks of Elias. Keenan wants Laia. Helene and Laia don't really like each other. AND to top it off there are only two kisses in the book and that's it. Its all messed up. Since I don't really like Helene I don't really care what happens to her. I love Elias and Laia together BUT I also really like Keenan and how he changes toward Laia during the book, caring about her and getting protective of her. But I still choose Laia and Elias. Really there is no need for these love triangles. It would of been enough to have Laia and Elias fall for each other and for them to have to deal with the hardships of them being together, since she's a scholar and he's a martial Mask. There would of been enough problems with that scenario instead of all these messy love triangles. People are going to get hurt unnecessarily and worst of all there is a chance my power couple (Elias and Laia) won't be together and that is unthinkable :D 

All in all a great action packed book (except for the love triangles :(


1 comment:

  1. Great review! I have to agree with you on this one - I hate love triangles too! I haven't read this one yet, but plan to soon (how can one ignore all that hype?!) and I have no doubt that all of these love-triangles will annoy me! The concept seems very cool though :)