"An Ember in the Ashes" is the captivating tale of a Scholar (race) named Laia and a Martial named Elias. Each is trapped in their world and seeking freedom. Laia's story begins with the capture of her brother and death of her grandparents (their parents and sister are already dead) at the hand of the Martial Empire. As a lowly Scholar, she does not have much recourse other than to try to join the Resistance and spy for them in exchange for them working to break out her brother.
Elias has been raised to be a Mask, a ruthless type of soldier from whom Emperors are chosen. Deserters are publicly killed, but he is willing to risk it for his freedom. The POV is third person limited alternating between the two characters. Their lives intertwine at various points, each a reminder of himself in the other.
One of the things I found really unique about this book was that the two main characters were not each other's primary love interests, and I liked that it wasn't forced. Additionally, this world is unlike any I have ever read- there are elements of a dystopian society but combined with fantasy (ghuls, jinn, etc.). The characters are each interesting and flawed- they lack a specific type of courage that they need to be satisfied with their current lot in life. What they learn throughout the book is the strength of their own character which is really enough to achieve what they need and want.
The story is carefully woven and their destinies are aligned, though exactly how much doesn't become clear until the end (which I did not entirely predict). The plot kept me on my toes and I found this book impossible to put down. It's beautiful, real (flawed and all), and fantastic.
Laia is just a normal girl, well as normal as a Scholar could be in this world. Least she wasn't a slave. Still, it's a very dark world. Life is not fun here. The Scholar's were overtaken and enslaved by the Martials. A brutal, vile people.
She's left without her family one night after a raid. Her grandmama and grandpapa were killed and her older brother was taken in the raid. She goes to the Scholar Rebellion and demands that they break her brother out since she thought he was working with them.
The leader says he will help her on one condition, she becomes a spy in the worst place ever, for the worst person ever but through that she meets Elias...
Elias is a Martial, he was breed for death. To be a solider that does nothing but kill or rape. Just horrid things. All this for the glory of the Empire.
Our two little lovelies end up crossing paths and find themselves drawn to each other but also others... this is my one gripe with this books. There are two love triangles... yeah two. Not cool. I don't like that at all. I just wish there was Laia and Elias. That would be good enough and fill my need for romance perfectly.
This world is not a nice place, it's one of the darkest places I've ever read about. There is hardly any hope, anything happy in this world. That being said, I could not get enough. I loved this book so much.
The end is something I did see coming, it was pretty easy to guess. That didn't make it any less good, I often see plot twists and still enjoy a book greatly.
There is also diverse characters in this book which is awesome! This book was so hyped and everyone wanted to read it and it has diverse characters! Look people at what we are starting to do! I consider this a major victory.
The writing is flawless, for a debut it's amazing!
I'm trying not to give spoilers and this is all I can really say. If you like dark and brutal worlds, with the smallest amount of hope. If you like character driven books and slight romance, then this is for you.
I also love the voices they used for the characters. It really helped me envelop inside the story. I can't stand audio books that have horrid narration. So not only do I recommend this book but this audio book as well. It's great!
I received this book as an ARC a couple weeks before its' release on April 28th. This is hands down the best book of 2015 so far and here's why: Sabaa Tahir has created a world in which we never want to leave. She has taken Laia and motivates her with her brother being stripped from her life and she is forced to endure unspeakable things to attempt and save him. She is a prime example of female strength and everybody can take tips from her. I admire her strength and willpower. The other main character is Elias Veturius and he is very interesting. What sets him apart from most other fantasy novels is the fact that he isn't a prince or someone of high standard, well he is, but in a very different way. Elias doesn't like where he is in life, because he has to deal with his mother who he very much dislikes because she is a very strict person. He has heart and its admirable. The side character like Helene and Spiro are so incredibly important. So are Chef and Kitchen-girl. Everyone plays such a pivotal role in the plot-line and it is incredibly difficult for an author to do that and it is fantastic that she managed it! The plot is very fast-paced and it will definitely keep the attention of any Young Adult reader and of anyone who reads fantasy novels, period, even if you usually only enjoy adult fantasy. The style of the writing isn't like anything I have read before and that makes this story even more appealing to everyone. This is a wonderful novel that leaves you begging for more. As of right now it is a standalone novel, and after reading it, I NEED A SEQUEL. Go ahead and read it yourself and you will understand why a sequel is a necessity. We need more Sabaa Tahir and her wonderful writing.
The characters are extremely well developed
The plot is intriguing
The writing is so wonderful