An Ember in the Ashes is the much-hyped book by Sabaa Tahir. This is the first book I’ve read from this author and I was impressed but not completely sold.
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.
This book lacked one important element that I’ve come to expect in Young Adult fantasy as my personal preference for this genre — a romantic relationship. The romance in this story was seriously lacking. It wasn’t insta-love or a slow burn or a friends-to-lovers romance, it was practically non-existent. I was getting friend zone vibes where the characters were indifferent to the idea of the opposite sex and never made an attempt to get within five feet of the other. It was frustrating because the synopsis declares their “destinies are intertwined” but it’s more like they both hitchhike on the same bus as indifferent passengers. It made the plot less effective because I didn’t believe in the “strong connection” between the two main characters, Laia and Elias. I didn’t believe in Elias’s attraction and Laia’s crush.
However, what really worked for this book was character development. Both Elias and Laia grew exponentially throughout the story (but apart mind you) and it was amazing to see the transformation. They didn’t grow as a couple or because of each other. It was, again, like two indifferent passengers on the same journey. I like Elias more than Laia. I felt he was easier to connect with and his motives were clearer. With Laia, she took too long to realize her own strengths and I didn’t sympathize with her as much as was expected.
Nevertheless, the writing was phenomenal, specifically the action sequences. I was enthralled in the obstacles each character had to face and the stakes were high. This book actually stressed me out because Tahir tortures her characters so fervently. My heart couldn’t take it and I’d have to set the book down to ease the mounting pain in my chest. With that said, you’ll see that evoking an emotional response from the reader is easy for Tahir, but I wish she’d translate that same emotion-grabbing talent in the relationship between Elias and Laia. I’m hoping for more of a realistic connection in the next book, A Torch Against The Night, which will be released in April 2016.
I liked this one but I wish I felt more between the two main characters.
STARS: 4 out of 5