An Ember in the Ashes by 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.
Publishes in US: April 28th 2015 by Razorbill
Genre: ya fantasy
Source: Penguin via Goodreads First Reads
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I wanted to read An Ember in the Ashes because I like the sound of Laia. She sounds so smart and brave. I also figured that I would like Laia and Elias' chemistry and how they'd work together. The theme of family shines through in the premise, and that is something that I like.
I connected to Laia pretty quickly. I saw her going through doubting what's up with her brother, and seeing her family killed. I admired her decisions to step up and try to fight for her brother. She thought that she wasn't as brave as her brother, more of a background person.
You could tell that Elias was well trained and also keeping secrets. He has a best friend who is fiercely loyal and that hurts him that he is thinking of deserting.
The themes in this book deal with the characters struggling internally. Elias wants to desert, because he can't stand the violence and mistreatment of the kids coming through the academy as well as the class discrimination. He is drawn to Laia, and he feels horrible for ignoring the first time he saw her in need and didn't step in. Laia is intrigued by him but understandably wary because he is the Commandant's son. The commandant is notorious for disfiguring, abusing and killing her slaves so Laia is in a predicament trying to spy on her and not trusting that Elias is somehow trying to break her.
Laia forms some deep friendships regardless of warnings that the commandant will use the ones you care about to invoke loyalty and obedience. She gets close to one of the resistance who is getting the info she gathers in exchange for him and his leader breaking her brother out of jail. The is some form of a love triangle between Laia and Keenan, Laia and Elias, Elias and his best friend Helene. It was understandable with Helene and Elias because of their long and deep bond. But I loved the chemistry between Laia and Elias the most maybe because they are the two main characters, or maybe because of the forbidden love between the man who is competing to become Emperor in hopes of making big changes, the same man who was training to be a Mask, and the one who is the son of the commandant.
The world building was nice, but it was a bit slow at times because it is leaning more towards the high fantasy in my classification because there is a lot of politics going on, and people making so many plays, secrets kept, I didn't know who was double crossing, and second guessed almost everyone.
But Laia's fierce determination and motivation of wanting to help her brother, and Elias wanting things to change kept my attention. As did the friendships, family aspects, and the build up of how things were going to turn out.
This is a series and I will be continuing because I want to know what will happen next. This one did end in a good spot, even though of course, all of the objectives aren't completely wrapped up.
Bottom Line: Nice fantasy series starter with main characters that are likable.
My question to you, my lovely readers:
Could you work against the authorities to try to save a sibling even if there is high probability of death?