Thursday, March 17, 2016

Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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. (Summary from Goodreads)

This was a read for Forever YA Bookclub  - a national book club mostly for adults that read young adult titles and meet at random places throughout the country to discuss them - see if there's one in your area here! Several of us meet at our library and carpool to different restaurants in Central Indiana, where we discuss the book we read and try new foods.

Anyway, on with the book, to be honest I was a little hesitant to start this one. When my hold came in from the library, it looked huge! Don't get me wrong, I like big books (and I cannot lie), but I really wanted to get on to the next book in the Parasol Protectorate, so I was hoping it would be short and sweet. So I put it off for a few days, and listened (again) to The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (which I will write a review on soon!)

But when I finally did start in on Ember, I was impressed. Tahir writes beautifully, describing the lives that Laia and Elias are trapped in. Though they come from different places, have nearly opposite backgrounds, and their stories begin to intertwine very slowly, it is clear that they're both facing the same issues. They have little control over their futures.

What I really loved about this book is that both Laia and Elias' stories are fully developed. Elias is unhappy with the idea of continuing to work for the Empire, where he is expected to feel joy over the death of a deserter, no matter how young they might be or who they are, and worse feel nothing over the ill treatment of slaves and Scholars. Laia doesn't believe she has the strength and courage of her parents who were Scholars and leaders of the Resistance, and she is haunted by the fact that she ran away when her brother was arrested by the Empire. She decides she has to try to save him and ends up spying for the Resistance. Eventually, they speak to one another and in the course of one night, they're able to change the way they look at their world just by hearing the other's story.

Although the book did seem to stretch on a little in parts, I actually wish it had been longer. It seems like the story started to pick up just as it ended. But never fear, the sequel A Torch Against the Night comes out August 31st, and I will definitely be reading it!

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