Love triangles. Normally, love triangles tick me off, but Tahir puts them together so well that they are greatly enjoyable to read. (Skip this paragraph because of minor spoilers.) The major romance is between Laia and Elias. However, there are some minor ones. Laia and Keenan (a rebel) makes an interesting couple, and the idea of Helene (a Mask like Elias) and Elias being together isn't a far stretch. Each pairing is great, and it is incredibly hard to pick a favorite. Sabaa Tahir makes it a very, very difficult choice. I admit that I like all three ships. (Polygamy and polyandry, I guess? That might work.)
The world of AN EMBER IN THE ASHES is absolutely horrifying. Implied that women are treated as inferior to men, the Rome-inspired world has a scary military of "Mask." The Mask is actually a soldier who wears a silver mask. There are some gladiator-like scenes, and the supernatural elements of the story gives an incredible suspenseful subplot. Tahir puts mythological creatures, bringing a fairy tale touch to the book.
One of the two narrators, Laia is desperate to save her brother. Making a deal with the shady resistance, she goes to the nest of her parent's murderer and spies on her (Elias' crazy and heartless mother). A Scholar with an intriguing family history, Laia is interesting and a very motivated character. Her feats are grand, and she is a strong-minded character with a naive touch.
The other narrator, Elias is a soldier in the army. He is a Mask, but he doesn't fit well in the army. He is an outsider, though he is surrounded by friends. He is the son of Laia's parents' murderer, but for him, the apple falls far from the tree. He wishes to run away, but it is only fate (and an old friend, Cain) who brings him back. He is a greatly fascinating character, whose complicity serves to protect him from his enemies.
In conclusion, AN EMBER IN THE ASHES is a great start to this supernatural and suspenseful series with a Rome-inspired world. It is gritty and dark, not for the faint of heart. Laia and Elias are wonderful narrators, and they bring out the best in each other (so I ship them). The ending is absolutely satisfying with promises for more. I definitely can't wait for the sequel. I would recommend this to any reader with a fondness for love triangles, magic, schemes, and the supernatural/paranormal.
Rating: Five out of Five