Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Page Count: 446
Genre: Young Adult- Fantasy
Why: Have you seen the cover? And the hype of course.
1)“There are two kinds of guilt. The kind that’s a burden and the kind that gives you purpose. Let your guilt be your fuel. Let it remind you of who you want to be. Draw a line in your mind. Never cross it again. You have a soul. It’s damaged but it’s there. Don’t let them take it from you.”
2) The best pick up line ever: “Nan and I make jam. Mostly for the tribes.”
“Mmm. You strike me as a jam-maker.”
“He grins down at me. Up close, his eyes look almost black, especially shadowed as they are by long eyelashes. Right now, they shine with barely restrained mirth. “Because you’re so sweet,” he says in a mock-saccharine voice.”
New words: poleaxed, esurient
Friend(s) who would enjoy this book: Jessica
Song(s) in the soundtrack of this book:
1. Flowers in Your Hair, The Lumineers
2. Mess is Mine, Vance Joy
3. Gone, JR JR (love this one!!)
This book has all of the ingredients that make a lovely YA novel. Do you want a cup action and adventure? Do you want a touch of brave and epic female characters? Do you want a sprinkling of romance? (okay way more than a sprinkling). Do you want a legendary storyline with an explosive plot that makes you want to cheer aloud and fist pump for the main characters?
Sorry for sounding like an infomercial. Then you’ve come to the right book.
An Ember in the Ashes begins with Laia, one of our main characters whose house is raided by Martials and Masks due to a sketchbook her brother owns. As we delve deeper into the story we find out that Laia (and her family) were Scholars whose empire was taken over by the ruthless Martials. A resistance formed to overthrow the Martials, which Laia suspects her brother (who is now imprisoned) might have been a part of. Flash to next chapter, when we are confronted with a Mask (fighter Martial) named Elias, who is disillusioned with his life at Blackliff (Martial training camp). Laia will go to any length to free her brother, even if it means embarking on a life-threatening mission to Blackliff. And when Laia meets Elias there’s no telling what will happen.
I actually really enjoyed this read. It was a perfect mix of dystopian/fantasy that reminded me a lot of Graceling by Kristen Cashore, and at times of Divergent (Veronica Roth). The POV’s switch between Elias and Laia, and Tahir does a wonderful job of weaving their stories together, and filling in the plot from different sides. Our main characters complement each other beautifully; what insight one POV lacks is found in the other. And the POV switches really heighten the suspense and anticipation- every chapter is a cliffhanger.
It is easy to fall in love with some of the main characters, and feel an appreciation for the villains (especially the Commandant). I loved Laia’s character- she really developed throughout the story and her bravery and courage to do anything for those she loved was incredibly inspiring. However, I feel somewhat indifferent towards Elias, he was somewhat stagnant throughout the story, and at times just boring. He was definitely no match for the fiery, loyal, and courageous Laia, who made the story so much more compelling.
Tahir’s writing is fantastic; it captivates and really pulls the reader throughout the story. I appreciate how she created distinct voices for our main characters and remained consistent throughout the book. The plot is very well developed, and it is easy to see this book being made into a movie. I was so shocked when I read that she intended this to be a stand alone novel- the ending is crying for a sequel (thankfully there will be one).
My biggest problem with this book happened to be the romance. There were not one- but two (!!!) love triangles, which got a little bit too dramatic for me. The romance between the main characters happened too quickly, and was a bit implausible. It was “love at first sight” literally, which irritated me since our main character was so strong and intelligent that she deserved to be noticed for those traits instead of simply her beauty. Tahir emphasizes how Laia’s body yearns for Elias, but her heart for Keenan, and why she didn’t follow her heart, the world will never know.
On the whole, I would recommend this to anyone who is looking for a quick YA read. Don’t be put off by the page count- the print is quite large and the story goes by very quickly. I am really excited to read the sequel and am looking forward to reading Tahir’s other novels!