An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

an ember in the ashes

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.  (Goodreads)

I have had this on my TBR for a while, but somehow I never actually got around to getting a copy and reading it. I was attracted to this book after reading the premise, but I was disappointed.

This book was a pretty slow read but there was something about it that made me carry on reading – although I am not entirely sure what that thing was. Let’s start with Laia – I found her irritating from the get go. She is a very naive character and the reader just feels like slapping her nearly constantly. However, she is a character to be respected. Her unflinching loyalty toward her brother and saving him help her to become a stronger and wiser character. She shows the reader that people can change and they can grow from what they were and become great people – with the help of others.

I liked Elias. Aside from the fact that he shares my sons name (:-D) he is a character who tries to be a good person despite his training and his upbringing. He doesn’t want to be the person that the empire want from him. I also like the fact that Laia helped him – she made sure that he didn’t lose himself in the face of the Trials and the burdens he was bearing on his shoulders. She made sure that his soul remained his own – and he listened to her! 🙂

So what was the problem with this book? Well, I feel like the book needed more meat to the story. I know it set the scenes and it probably laid the stage for what is to come, but I feel like it was missing action. There was action in it, without a doubt, but there wasn’t enough. I wanted more from the evil commander and I wanted to know more of her plans. I wanted more from the resistance – which we saw very little of. More over, I wanted more Elias and Laia. It felt lacking in a way that can only be fixed when the author includes more in her story to make the readers turn the pages.

What I am still wondering, even after I finished this a while ago, is who Cook is? Why does she stammer every single time she talks about the resistance? Was she betrayed – did she betray her own? What happened? I think this is a story that every reader of this book needs to find out at some point in order to stay sane. It is a mystery that haunts me every single time I think about this book. Clearly I need to go and grab the second copy…

I was expecting more from this book and was vaguely disappointed that it didn’t turn out (for me) to be all it was cracked up to be. I gave this book 3/5 stars.

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