Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: High Fantasy
Series: An Ember in the Ashes, book one
Star Rating: 5 Out of 5 Stars
I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.
I've heard of An Ember in the Ashes--before it even had a cover, in fact, and have been dying to get my hands on it ever since. A world based on brutal, ancient Rome, reminiscent of Gladiator? Yes. Yes, please. And it gets better! A forbidden romance, fights for freedom, blood and gore, terrifying villains?
In case you guys couldn't already tell? I was sold. Hella sold. This book completely stole my soul. And I honest to God cannot wait for the sequel. (And so help me God, there had better be a sequel! I'll die otherwise!)
I loved this book. It completely seduced me, from the first paragraph. I was plunged into Laia and Elias's terrifying world, in which people are sold for profit, and boys turn into men in the most blood-soaked ways. The world-building of this novel was excellent--it was rich and well-explained, plausible and worth reading. And then there are the characters that live inside this world, all with varying degrees of power, status, and secrets. Laia, the orphaned Scholar girl, and Elias, the reluctant soldier bound to oaths made to the tyrannical and bloodthirsty Empire he serves.
As if the heart-pounding pacing was not enough already, I loved the way the political intrigue helped fuel the narrative of the story, it really helped it along, and, surprisingly, wasn't even that hard to follow. But what really sold this book for me wasn't even the characters, or the worldbuilding, though that certainly helped.
I loved this beautiful novel for its message: That even in the direst of circumstances, there is always hope for freedom, and for change, even when it's hard to see. Tahir knows about the resilience of the human soul, the longing for even the most downtrodden outcast to be brave, be strong, to fight for their way of life and for their people. It touched the very fabric of my soul, and for that, I will treasure this book forever.
Not to say though, that, at times, it was extremely hard to get through, what with the threats of rape and worse towards the slaves that have the misfortune of making a living at the Blackcliff school, under the terrifying Commandant, who Laia describes as, 'a woman that is a connoisseur of pain, the way others are connoisseur of wine'. I was cringing on multiple occasions, especially when it came to the terrifying Farrar twins.. (Two villains that will probably haunt my nightmares for a week or two now, Marcus especially..)
A beacon of hope, power, and strength, An Ember in the Ashes is one of the most powerful and terrifying, and yet hopeful, works in young adult literature to date, and a tale that I will treasure forever. Run to your nearest bookstore and pick this one up, because once you start, you won't be able to live without it. (I just finished it and am itching to get a copy myself..) The bottom line: A testament to the strength of the meek and downtrodden outcasts of this world, An Ember in the Ashes is just that--a light in a dark world, full of power, hope, and love. Next on deck: Grim by Christine Johnson!