Review of An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the AshesAn Ember in the Ashes
By: Sabaa Tahir
Release Date: April 28th 2015
Publisher: Razorbill
Format: ARC
Source: Borrowed from Jon from Bookish Antics then was gifted a copy from the lovely Stacee at Adventures of a Book Junkie

My Rating:

Set in a terrifyingly brutal Rome-like world, An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy debut about an orphan fighting for her family and a soldier fighting for his freedom. It’s a story that’s literally burning to be told.

LAIA is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.

ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier— and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.

When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.

Vow your blood and body to the empire.

My Thoughts:
From the moment I saw the cover and read the summary of this book I fell in love. I made it my mission to somehow get a copy to read and thankfully a wonderful friend was nice enough to lend me theirs. Even from the first page I knew my instant attraction to this novel was going to blossom into love. Tahir’s writing was clean, crisp, descriptive and incredibly emotional.

This book was epic in storytelling and scale. There are so many intricacies and depth to the characters and world. I felt that it was all explained simply and with little to no info-dump. This was a pretty miraculous fete since this was a complex world. As the story unfolds you begin to see more and more about the world’s history and why things are divided by class as they are.

This novel touched on enslavement, murder, duty and honor. I was impressed that Tahir was able to show so many aspects of her world with just two view points, Elias and Laia. The story alternates between the point of views every chapter giving the reader a look into both sides.

The characters really drove the story for me. I felt Laia’s pain and drive to save her brother from imprisonment. Her struggle seemed real to me. I felt that her drive mixed with her guilt gave her character an appreciated depth. The level of character growth she experienced over the course of the novel had me loving her even more and cheering for her. Elias was such a complex character and I tended to enjoy his POV just a tiny bit over Laia’s. I loved both but I felt Elias’ voice to be a bit more compelling because of his immense guilt and struggles with his duty vs. what his heart wants.

The world that Tahir has created was brutal and hard to read about in many sections. There are mentions of rape, abuse and all the ugly elements of what some humans are capable of. I found it disturbing, but for me, it didn’t detract from the story but helped to cement my hate for the Empire.

So far it hasn’t been announced if there will be a sequel and if there isn’t I’ll be distraught. The book works as a standalone but it left so much unanswered that I need to read more about. I must have more from these characters and world.

Final Thoughts:
I had really high hopes for An Ember in the Ashes and was not disappointed at all. This book is a favorite and I’ll be reading anything Sabaa Tahir writes. Hopefully, the next thing I read from her will be the sequel.

Still not convinced? Check out Alyssa at The Eater of Books! review


  1. says

    Yay, you liked this one! I can’t wait to get a hold of a copy so I can read it. Seems like everyone is loving it, but that is also to be expected when world-building is done amazingly.

  2. says

    I’m glad this book didn’t disappoint. I’ve been itching to get my hands on a copy since I first saw it on the First to Read program from penguin (now I’m kicking my butt that I didn’t bother to request it!) So sounds like a crazy world to live in, but an awesome world to read about!

  3. says

    Ah, the precious. <3 I am so so happy that you loved this book so much Kristen 😀 You make it sound pretty amazing. And I have been dying to read it for MONTHS. I hate waiting, lol 🙂 But ALMOST HERE. <3 I can't wait 🙂 Hope I'll love it just as much as you did. Fingers crossed. And aw, I also really hope there will be a sequel 🙂 Thank you for sharing your amazing thoughts about this book sweetie. <3 You are awesome.

    • says

      I HOPE YOU LOVE IT CARINA! I’m really unsure of how you will feel. It’s dark, painful and brooding though hopeful and beautifully written. There is some complicated love stuff but not a triangle. I hope it doesn’t bother you.

  4. says

    I’m so very excited to get my hands on this one! I hope my preorder won’t take too long to arrive!!
    And I do hope we’ll get a confirmation for the sequel soon enough, because if you say you want to know more, I know I will too!

    Fantastic review Kristen!!

    • says

      Pili I hope you love it and that your pre-order gets shipped early. We neeeed confirmation on that sequel stat. I imagine they won’t let us know until after first week’s sales

  5. says

    Sequel. Sequel sequel sequel. SEQUELLLL D: lol I really hope there will be one! I totally agree about the characters and the world – those two were elements that really made this book. I was a bit wary of the “Rome-like” comparison that people were/are giving this book, but it was totally accurate! I was really struck by the brutality of the Empire, and the Academy. I hope there will be more from this world! There are so many questions that need to be answered! Gah! :O

    Fabulous review, Kristen!

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

    P.S. Thank you for the link!!!! <3

    • says

      I totally agree Alyssa! There must be a sequel because we demand it. I’m so excited to see what all Sabaa does with her next books. I need more from her like now.

  6. says

    Oh a brutal book that doesn’t sugarcoat details? Yup, I’m definitely even more excited for this one! The premise alone was enough to hook me but now you’ve gotten me even more hyped haha! Hopefully I like it just as much as you did 🙂 Fantastic review, Kristen!

  7. says

    I think it is super interesting when you have a book which is a fantasy and a standalone! You rarely get those because once you build a world you want to spend a lot of time in it. I think this one is unique in that aspect. Glad you loved it!

  8. Cameran says

    I have to post a comment here, too, because…

    1. There MUST be a sequel.
    2. Said sequel MUST include chapters from the perspective of Helene. Am I right?!?!

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