Book Review

An Ember in the Ashes – Sabaa Tahir

Book Title: An Ember in the Ashes

Series: An Ember in the Ashes #1

Author: Sabaa Tahir

Goodreads Link: Click here


Star Rating: gold stargold stargold stargold stargold star – Excellent book. I recommend it to everyone!

I’m late to the party as usual.  I have been hearing so much about the sequel to this book. It’s everywhere on the book blog-o-sphere and people are raving about the series.  I do hate being left out of something big like this (I totally missed the Harry Potter boat!). So I decided to pick up this book since it’s first in the series.  I’m so glad I did. Here is the description from Goodreads…

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 … 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.

This book lies firmly in the world of YA fantasy but it is not just a book for the young.  It is a rich, beautiful book with important themes and ideas.  The author was inspired partly by her time working for the Washington Post, as well as by the ancient Roman civilization.  It is easy to see that no matter how much things change, they stay the same.  Imperialism, colonialism and the subjugation of the weak was a terrible thing in Roman times, and we still see people suffering it’s effects today. In Ms. Tahir’s, book we see the suffering of the lower class group called the Scholars through the eyes of Laia. She is a lovely, intelligent young woman but as a member of that group she is a slave. She is made to be used, abused and then thrown away. At least, that’s in the eyes of the ruling class. I’m glad to say they underestimate her.

Interestingly, the  Scholars are not the only victims in this brutal societal system. The elite soldier class is also brutalized and victimized on a daily basis. Everyone, even the people at the top, truly are victims of this regime. The situation seems hopeless.  But Ms. Tahir, suffuses her book with hope, kindness, true nobility and integrity. No matter how bad things get, and believe me they get really, really bad there are still people who want to do the right thing. It’s both wonderful and heartbreaking. It reminds me a little of Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. There was a real sense of danger in that book.  Not just the usual false suspense, where you think sure this character “could” die but you really know they won’t. Where is the danger? In contrast, you get the feeling from this book, that it is quite possible that there won’t be happy endings for everyone. It’s certain, no one will come away from this whole.  I like that uncertainty.

I also want to praise the language of the book.  The author uses words and phrases, I’ve honestly never heard before! Hey! I read A LOT! I know much words. 😉 But “esurience”? Yeah I had to break out the dictionary for that.

Serran summers are always blistering, but the heat in the Weapons Quarter takes on an animal esurience.

Love it!

Sparks fly from hammers as big as my head, forge fires glow a red deeper than blood, and cottony plumes of steam erupt every few feet from freshly quenched swords.  Blacksmiths shout orders as apprentices jostle to follow them. And above it all, the strain and pump of hundreds of bellows, creaking like a fleet of ships in a storm.

Perfect word pictures. You can hear the creaking can’t you!

In short, (which I definitely haven’t been … how could you be) this is a book which I know I will be reading again in preparation for the third in the series. I’m definitely getting the second book in a few days.  From what I hear there is going to be 4 books in the series, and a movie version is in the works. It’s a good time to be a fan. You should read this too! All aboard!

Song for this book: Brothers from Fullmetal Alchemist (I needed something foreign and suitably mournful – if you’ve seen the show you get it – it’s the right song)




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