Saturday, March 7, 2015

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir ARC Review

5/5 Stars
Details of the book:
paperback ARC, 443 pages
Published by Razorbill, 
an imprint of Penguin Random House.
Publication Date: April 28, 2015

Synopsis: 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.


This book shook me to my very core. I expected this book to be great and it exceeded my expectations. From the first page, I couldn't put the book down. The story grabbed me instantly and had me shaking with adrenaline all the way through and after I finished it. When I was done I just sat in silence while clutching it to my chest. This book felt like it was a part of me. It was such a rush. An Ember in the Ashes spooked, charmed, and enveloped me. It definitely lives up to all its hype. Needless to say, I loved this book. It's killing me that I have no idea if/when there be a sequel.

Strength/Likes:

1) The writing style was fantastic. The diction is a bit more sophisticated than I'm used to with Young Adult novels but not in an uninviting way. In fact, I felt that it made me feel more engaged while reading because the words I didn't recognize just pulled me fully into the story. It's written in two points of view (the two main characters) and although these two characters spent most of the time apart, their story is continually intertwined together. In addition, all of the descriptions of the events, the people, and the setting is beautifully executed and creates a clear picture for the reader to imagine.

2) I can't say that I have a favorite character at this point but the character development in this book is insane. Each character has their own backstory and they each change as the plot goes on. No character was left just to be one dimensional. None of it felt forced or overdramatic. It was just wonderful. I felt that I really knew and understood all of the characters.

3) The plot was really intricate and detailed. I won't say it's unique but it definitely stands out from all the books currently out there. The details--the significant and not--make you want to read this book slowly. Which was difficult for me because this book gave me such an adrenaline rush that I just wanted to rip through the pages but I forced myself to slow down and allow myself the time to really appreciate every detail.

4) There is no instalove in this novel. In fact, all of the characters struggle with their feelings towards each other and spend long periods of time just sorting them out. No one throws out those three little words. Each feeling is complicated, mind-boggling, and reflected on numerous times. In my opinion, it seems that there isn't a clear-cut main couple either.

Weaknesses/Dislikes:

1) The overuse of the title in the story. To be fair, it was used only twice but this is just a pet peeve of mine.

2) I found some of the plot elements a little predictable. If I'm honest with myself, I'm just nitpicking.

Favorite Quotes/Moments:

1) "Maybe she knew him before she became a slave. Maybe he's the reason she snuck out. I scowl and look away. He's not bad-looking, I suppose, but he seems too grim to be any fun.

Also, he's shorter than me. Considerably shorter. Half a foot, at least."

2) "You don't sound like a Tribesman." There. That's neutral enough. "You've hardly got an accent." Though his eyes are Scholar-dark, his is all edges and hard lines. "You don't really look like one either."

"I can say something in Sadhese, if you like." He drops his lips to my ear, and the spice of his breath sends a pleasant shiver through me. "Menaya es poolan dila dekanala." 

I sigh. No wonder Tribesman can sell anything. His voice is warm and deep, like summer honey dripping off the comb.

"What--" My voice is hoarse, and I clear my throat. "What does it mean?"

He gives me that smile again. "I'd really have to show you."

3) The Commandant looks me over, as if for signs of what she thinks just happened. She jerks my chin up. I pinch myself on the leg hard enough to draw blood, and my eyes fill with tears.

"Would it have been better if I'd cut your face like Cook's?" she murmurs. "Beauty's a curse when one lives among men. You might have thanked me for it."

4) "For three days after the Moon Festival, Helene avoids me. She ignores knocks on her door, leaves the mess hall when I appear, and begs off when I approach her head on. When we're paired together in training, she attacks me as if I'm Marcus. When I speak to her, she goes suddenly deaf.

I let it go at first, but by the third day, I'm sick of it. On my way to combat training, I'm concocting a plan to confront her--something involving a chair and rope and maybe a gag so she has no choice but to listen to me."

5) "So what you're saying is that you cheated and you still barely managed to win." I applaud slowly, my chains clanking. "Well done."

6) "I'm not going to kill you," I say, nestling the blade into his neck. "Just wanted you to know I could."

7) Then, in a flash of silver, Helene's holding one knife to Marcus's neck and the other to his groin.

"Let go of my hair," she says. "Or I'll relieve you of your manhood."

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