An Ember in the Ashes

“The field of battle is my temple. The swordpoint is my priest. The dance of death is my prayer. The killing blow is my release.”

Title: An Ember in the Ashes

Author: Sabaa Tahir

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Publisher: Razorbill

Format Read: Paperback

Synopsis: (spoiler free from le goodreads)

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

Things I liked: (spoiler free)

i. The Setting: I loved the ancient Rome feel! Sabaa pulls it off very well. I loved Blackcliff as well (I have a thing for super intense training schools 😉 )

ii. The Plot: SO SUSPENSEFUL! I was on my toes the entire time! I loved the trials, Laia’s time with the Commandant just everythingggg. Sabaa knows how to build the tension gah so perfect ❤

iii: HELENE: MY ACTUAL ANGEL CHILD ugh what a perfect babe. Can’t say anything else bc spoilers but I will fight for her.

iv: Difficult Choices: All the characters had to make and deal with super difficult choices and I loved it. There wasn’t a ton of character development but I feel like the choices they had to make will change them for book 2.


vi: Alternating 1st Person POV: I’m not always a fan of 1st person POV but Sabaa does it SO WELL and she writes both characters very distinctly.

Things I didn’t like: (spoiler free)

i. Laia: Oh my god she annoyed me SO MUCH. She was so weak and whiney and cowardly and basically just a meek child. I was not a fan at all.

ii. Couldn’t connect with the characters: Despite loving Helene, I couldn’t connect with her, Elias or Laia. However, I still really enjoyed the story.

iii: Keenan: literally the worst character ever and completely pointless.

iv: The Romance: Laia and Elias fell in love way too quickly and really for no reason. I felt like Elias just thought she was hot and was like k I like her now and I was like ??? Laia is so annoying I’m confused?? Be with Helene???? But anyway.

And here are the notes from my book that I wrote as I read Ember! (minor spoilers)

  • opening scene could have been better, it didn’t really grab my attention. I picked up Ember awhile ago, read the first scene, hated it, and didn’t pick it up again for months.
  • inspired by Ancient Rome LOVE
  • love the complex relationships
  • Helene x Elias friendship/fighting together awh
  • the trials are so exhilarating omg omg major Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire vibes
  • too many rape references like it’s unnecessary to mention it every other page
  • Laia = annoying
  • love triangles :/
  • I would shit my pants if I met the Commandant tbh

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