Ember in the Ashes, An

Sabaa Tahir
Set in a terrifyingly brutal Rome-like world, An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy debut about an orphan fighting for her family and a soldier fighting for his freedom. It’s a story that’s literally burning to be told. LAIA is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.   ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.   When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.


Reviewed: 2017-12-07
Placed on hold 5/5/15: WELL. This book has a lot of hype -- there's no doubt about that -- and I'm SO CONFUSED on what to do here. I've been listening to the audiobook for a week now and have only made it 25%. I don't feel like listening anymore. I am actively bored.
The beginning started off with a bang but then I feel like by 25%, things still haven't panned out. The characters feel very one-dimensional. The world feels unoriginal -- sort of like a mash-up of several different dystopian worlds and plots all thrown into a Roman-type feel. The narration isn't reeling me in at all. And what's sad is that I'm listening to two of my favorite narrators who I was convinced I could listen to if they were just reading the phone book but apparently that's not true since I have no motivation to listen to them read this story.
Aside from the feeling like this has all been done before, it also feels so forced. Oh yay, a convenient prophecy that happens to be there. With very specific yet cryptic clues. It just doesn't feel like it's working for me.
But do I DNF? So many people have LOVED it... But some friends have also put it down or rated it 3 or even 2 stars. Maybe I'll join the black sheep club (or will it pan out to be a more even distribution once more reviews come in?) but for now, it's on hold until I decide if I want to continue or not. I do have my ARC that I got from ALAMW so I was wondering if I'd like it better in print but I just don't feel like picking it up. I have no interest in seeing where the story goes at the moment (usually a DNF sign) so we'll see if I have the urge to come back to it in a little bit.
Reviewed: 2017-01-31

Very fun, action packed YA series. Don't be fooled by the cheesy cover. Fun read. 

Reviewed: 2017-01-29
Intricate and compelling characters, plenty of action, beautiful writing. This cannot and should not be the end.

Docking off a star because the constant threat of sexual violence against women was grating, and I don't remember there being an explanation for why only one woman can join the military academy. What is the logic behind this rule? To make that threat of rape a sure reality?
Reviewed: 2017-01-02
This is so obviously a setup to a series. I was eager to read this book because of the fantasy setting, that it was supposedly a standalone novel and after being hooked for sure after reading a sample that Barnes & Noble had on display. And while I got through it pretty quickly (less than a day), and it kept me going through work and doctor's appointment, the ending left me so frustrated that I just wanted to throw the book across the room.
Laia is a young woman living in an oppressive Empire. Her brother has just been kidnapped and her grandparents murdered by the Empire. Darrin is all she has left and she will do anything to get him back. So ends up being dragged into a power struggle both within the Empire and the rebellion it sparked.
Meanwhile, Elias is an elite assassin of the Empire who can't WAIT to escape. He's almost a graduate, which means he'll be free to flee anywhere. But lo and behold, the fates do not have such an easy escape before him. Instead, he'll have to fight to compete for a place as Emperor, testing his strength, his loyalty, his endurance, his emotions. The stories of Elias and Laia are told in alternating views (which I typically hate but understood why it had to be used here) as we watch the struggle and warring factions using violence, deceit, intrigue, and more.
It kept me going. What would happen next, the cliffhangers at the end of each alternating chapter (which was not too hokey), whether each character would get what they achieved. But as I read the final words of the book I realized it really wasn't as good as I thought it was.
Despite the violence described in the book (which honestly bored me), rape is never actually depicted. I didn't want to actually read about any of characters being raped, but I found it odd that the author constantly skittered along that line several times within the book but didn't actually cross it. For a world that is filled with such physical violence towards anyone and everyone, male and female, adult and child, I felt the author seemed to not want to go there, which was strange.
I'm not entirely sure I understand how the Empire works. There's an emperor, his family has ruled for like forever but there's trouble. But beyond the school Elias is from, the Resistance, etc. I'm not sure what are the structures or chains of command or how the society functions. Although we the reader can heavily draw upon real world similarities, it would have been nice if we had a little more world-building.
The characters are somewhat empty. At first I was somewhat impressed that the love web tangled wasn't THE driving force of the book, but the problem is that we don't know WHY several of the characters do what they do. There's a big love reveal towards the end of the book that seemed to undo the character development and still never answered the "why". The Big Baddie (maybe?) has a discussion with her offspring about why she abandoned him, but the reasoning fell flat to me.
I think the major problem is that this is clearly not a standalone novel. That there are some unanswered questions is acceptable (such as the parentage issue from above). That the MAIN PLOT is really not resolved is not. I feel like that the sequels are meant to get progressively darker and we'll see more of the world of Laia and Elias painted in more detail.
But it's hard for me to shake the feeling that I got somewhat hoodwinked. I'm fine (and prefer) waiting for the entire series of books to be released so I can binge-read, but being led to think it's a standalone isn't cool. I prefer to go into a book without reading too many reviews or author interviews so I don't bring in biases or expectations, which is probably partially why I'm so unhappy. A quick Google search shows there are people clamoring for sequels and agreeing this isn't a one-off sort of title.
It was good as I was reading it, but upon reflection I'm not sure it's worth the the hype and I'm not sure it's good enough to make me eager to want to wait year(s) for a sequel.
Reviewed: 2016-12-29

This was my second time reading this book. I reread it to get me ready for the second book in the series"A Torch Against The Night". I really loved reading "An Ember In The Ashes" by Sabaa Tahir this is her debut novel.

Amazing! Breath taking. Heart breaking! The character growth was solid, along with the story. There was never a point when I was bored. I was angry, I was happy, I cried, I thought and I felt while reading this book. Again... Amazing.

Reviewed: 2016-05-31
An Ember in the Ashes turned out to be a fascinating YA fantasy. I liked both Elias and Laia and enjoyed their dual narrative. The world they lived in was brutal and merciless, and I was on tender-hooks most of the time for Laia, hoping the Commandant wouldn't discover she was a spy and punish her. Of the two voices, I enjoyed Elias' more - he was such a sweetie. Not only was he the academy's highest soldier, he was also the most reluctant as he struggled with his conscience to carry out the cruel orders placed upon him. My only complaint was the ending. It finished leaving me feeling unsatisfied and, after some research, I discovered that there isn't a sequel in the pipeline. Very frustrating, I want to know what happens to Laia and Elias.
Reviewed: 2016-05-08
I telly enjoyed this book except for 1thing. A few of the characters were really annoying at times or they tended to get in the way. EXAMPLE: Helene Aquilla.
Reviewed: 2016-03-06
This book was like a masterclass of the best writing skills I've read in awhile—pacing, characterization, stakes, worldbuilding, everything. I'm surprised it's not bigger than it is, because it deserves to be.
Reviewed: 2015-02-24

This one took me a bit by surprise. I'd been hearing good buzz about it from my friends, so I expected to enjoy this one. What surprised me was how much I couldn't put it down, since the first few chapters weren't terribly interesting, despite the action packing its pages.

First of all, HELENE. It's almost a pity the series is told from Laia's POV as the female narrator, because Helene is everything. Smart, loyal, badass, she is the greatest character in this book.

Secondly, Elias's parts are far more interesting than Laia's, despite Laia's having more plot relevance. She's a spy, she's part of an oppressed class, yet I found myself skimming her chapters because I was far more interested in Elias's creepy, unsettling life. I also like that the romance (insofar as there is one) is not part of the plot; in fact, the two protagonists, while attracted to each other, don't really cross paths until halfway into the book, and even then, they have other love interests. 

Can't wait for the next one, if only for more Helene.

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