Ember in the Ashes, An

Sabaa Tahir
INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTELLERAMAZON'S BEST YOUNG ADULT BOOK OF 2015BUSTLE'S BEST YOUNG ADULT BOOK OF 2015 “This novel is a harrowing, haunting reminder of what it means to be human — and how hope might be kindled in the midst of oppression and fear.” — The Washington Post “An Ember in the Ashes could launch Sabaa Tahir into JK Rowling territory…It has the addictive quality of The Hunger Games combined with the fantasy of Harry Potter and the brutality of Game of Thrones.”—Public Radio International "An Ember in the Ashes glows, burns, and smolders—as beautiful and radiant as it is searing."—Huffington Post    “A worthy novel – and one as brave as its characters.” —The New York Times Book Review   A “deft, polished debut”  (Publishers Weekly, starred review), Sabaa Tahir‘s 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.From the Hardcover edition.


Reviewed: 2018-09-13


I feel like the characters were really well developed and the story was pretty good. I’m really excited to read the next book for sure!
Reviewed: 2016-09-20

An Ember in the Ashes

By Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes, a novel by Sabaa Tahir, is a thrilling tale about the delicate balance between family, friends, and faith. Picture The Hunger Games but set in a fantastic, magical world molded by the values of the Roman Empire. We live and breathe this world with two characters. Laia, a slave girl, a self-proclaimed coward whose family was all but wiped out by the Martial Empire, struggles to find the courage to save her only remaining brother. Elias, the Empire’s most prominent and disillusioned assassins-to-be, struggles to find the courage to defy not only the Empire itself but also his most beloved friend. When the two bump into each other (literally), it ignites a violent, thrilling, and ultimately touching chain of events that will redefine them and their world through fire and blood.


Told in the first person, An Ember in the Ashes puts the reader directly inside the heads and hearts of Laia and Elias. Stylistically this is great, but the dual narrative lacked voice uniqueness, making the name-titled chapters a saving grace for figuring out who is who. The novel is also a bit heavy-handed, really swinging the hammer down hard on Laia’s cowardice or Elias’ guilt, particularly during the first part.



Overall, however, An Ember in the Ashes is a spirited and energetic story, one that has a full body, a sound head, and a charisma that demands emotional investment from the first sentences. It never nags. Its obvious teen-geared motifs are rarely overwrought. It portrays the truths and tribulations of family, friends, loyalty, faith, love through the gripping ups and downs of a story taken straight from the pages of Fennimore Cooper’s iconic romantic style.  An Ember in the Ashes is a refreshing breath in a genre saturated with melodrama and big-budget storytelling.



Teen, Action, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Adventure

Major themes:

Loyalty/faith, Family, Friendship, Love, Loss, Trust

Curricular Connections:

Character vs Character, Character vs Self, Character vs State

Link to Writing:

Author's craft, Dual narrative, Characters’ development, Romanticism

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