Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes - Sabaa TahirPublisher: Razorbill (April 28th 2015)
Hardcover: 446 pages
Add on: Goodreads
Rating: of 5 stars

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.


So I think I’m the one of the few that didn’t fall heads over heel for An Ember in the Ashes, and I’m actually pretty sad about that because it sounded amazing. I do like it. Just not love it.

It’s kind of a mixed dystopian/high fantasy Roman empire, where the Martial Empire rules over the Scholars. The story is told from two perspective, Laia, a scholar girl who’s family has ties to the Revolution, and Elias, one of the top Mask of the Blackcliff Military Academy. In order to save her brother, she agrees to be a spy in the Academy to the Commandment, a very very cruel woman, it was definitely interesting to see Laia grow some resemlence of a spine and become a little less naive. Elias on the other hand despite  coming from a family of power despise the brutal and sadist ways of the Martial.

The Good:

The story is both fast-paced and slow moving. A lot happens; among the grand prophesies, Elias is force to be a part of a huge life and death competition, while Laia is battle the clock to find information before her brother is executed. It’s all pretty epic. Tons of battles and high tension and suspenseful moments are scattered throughout the story. But at the same time, I felt like it didn’t really push or develop the plot any more than if none of that happened. In short, it got boring. That being said, the writing was intense, compelling and vivid.

“Life is made of so many moments that mean nothing. Then one day, a single moment comes along to define every second that comes after. Such moments are tests of courage, of strength.”

The Bad:

I think my biggest issue with this book (and why it’s not rated higher) is the amount of violence and deaths in the books. I don’t usually have a problem with stuff like that, but the cruelness and deaths seem more used as shock factor than actual plot development. Oh and the romance. It’s really all over the place. There’s like a Love Square and it just goes around and around and gets nowhere. I also didn’t really connect with Laia, I actually liked Helene over Laia, who was a much more complex and interesting character. Though I did Elias for the most part.

Overall, it was an epic story with a grand production that fell a bit short of it’s dazzling words. It’s definitely worth checking out, but maybe lower that expectation a bit. The ending leaves us hanging a bit, and I’ll be checking out the next book, if only to see how the empire turns out.

“All the beauty of the stars means nothing when life here on earth is so ugly.”


Find Sabaa Tahir:

Website | Goodreads | Twitter

Purchase the book:
Amazon | B&N | Book Depository |  Chapters Indigo

Author: Cyn

noun. a bum OT, procrastinator. reader. eater. sleeper. music listen-er. movie go-er. Loves food too much.

0 Replies to “Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir”

  1. I really liked this one Cyn, but I listened and sometimes a good narration can add another element to the story.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it (: Agree, good narration definitely can add to the story!

  2. Ahhh, but at least you liked it, (I loved it.) It did charm me, haha. I don’t know why, but I do like darker ones, and it was definitely dark, and most of the characters are sociopathic, which was pretty fascinating and disgusting at the same time. Yeah ,the romance was defiitely more of a square, and didn’t really go anywhere, but I liked that it wasn’t really focused on the romance, but more that the romance was needed for the characters to grow (especially Elias.) I so can’t wait for the sequel! 🙂

    1. I’m glad you loved it! Yeah, I think I’m a bit of an odd ball for this one, but yes, I did like it still! I usually don’t mind the darker stories, but I think just couldn’t quite connect with it.
      The love square is so weird, haha. I really did like Elias, too! I’m excited for the sequel, too, very curious to see how it all plays out!

Leave a Reply