An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir | Book Review

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Genre: Fantasy, Dystopian
Publication Date: 2015


(from GoodReads)

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.

–Minor Spoilers! Read at your own risk!!–

“This life is not always what we think it will be. You are an ember in the ashes, Elias Veturius. You will spark and burn, ravage and destroy. You cannot change it. You cannot stop it.”


Okay, maybe “fun” isn’t the best word to describe it. It’s more like the sadistic kind of fun. The kind of fun that’s also kind of scary.

This book had my heart racing. It gave me a Game of Thrones feel because I felt like anyone could die at any minute. No one is safe in this book. The Empire is brutal and merciless. It was all so exhilarating and so very “fun”, I enjoyed every moment while reading it. I loved how dark the story was, sometimes it got so dark I was scared to keep reading. It’s so horrible how the Martials treat the slaves like they’re less than them. Like they’re not even human. It horrifies me to no end because at one point our world had slaves too. I still can’t even begin to imagine what slavery was like. What being a slave was like. Everything Laia, Izzi, and Cook go through… It’s absolutely horrifying and scary to think that in some ways are we any better than the Martials? The Empire? The Commandant? Raping, killing, abusing, slavery. Do we take, take, take until there’s nothing left to give?

The Commandant scares the shit out of me. She’s such a ruthless and complex character. I also think she’s a bit crazy, but I loved absolutely every minute reading about her. I want to learn more about her childhood and what happened between her and Elias’s father.

Marcus seems to be a little insane as well. I’m actually really nervous about him and what his character will become in future books. I’m pretty sure he’s a psychopath to be honest.

Laia she’s definitely not your typical badass female character, but I loved her so much! I loved her determination to beat her fears. I loved how she expressed fear and bravery at the same time. I loved her love for her brother. I love her character development and how she finds her own strength. Izzy is super badass in her own little way, I love love loved her. Cook also had her shining moments. I’m not exactly sure how I feel about her, but I know I want to know more about her character. She’s so mysterious!

Elias is also very complex as well, all the characters had so much depth! I liked how he was constantly trying to escape his “destiny”. How he saw his destiny in the first trial and swore to break it. It really made me respect his character.

I know destiny is probably going to play a huge part in the books. I’ve personally never believed in destiny. I think the future is constantly changing and you couldn’t possibly know the EXACT outcome of everything. Maybe that’s why I was so skeptical about the Augurs. I didn’t really know what I thought about them. I know with their power comes a great burden and responsibility, but I feel like because they knew the outcome they should have tried their best to fix it. Like sometimes they helped and sometimes they didn’t?

And the Trials, oh my God the trials. The third trial was absolutely horrifying to read about. I had to close the book just to breathe. I was sobbing. Sobbing by the end of it.

I just couldn’t understand. Perhaps I’m asking too much. I am not an Augur though and I know, what they do is “beyond my comprehension.” But even so, I still don’t think I can ever forgive it. I don’t know the outcome, maybe it’ll all turn out okay. I hope so. I do love their complexity and I really hope to learn more about them, I really wish I could tell what they were thinking!

Back to Elias, his strength, his bravery, and his need for freedom really made me like his character. However, I was getting a ton of mixed signals from him! Him and Helene were honestly super confusing. I couldn’t tell is he was just thinking with his dick or with genuine feelings. Sometimes Helene could get on my nerves, but I understand where she’s coming from. I loved their friendship and I really hope they can overcome all the problems I know they will face in future books. Keenan, meh, there’s a part of me that doesn’t trust him, which is probably because the entire Resistance group seemed shady to me from the beginning.


An Ember in the Ashes needed a sequel. There’s so much of the world we have yet to explore. I want to learn more about the tribes and the history of the Scholars before the Martials came and screwed up their lives.

There’s still so much more I want to learn about all the characters, so many things left for our protagonists to do! The characters were all so complex and full of life. I have so much I want to learn about them. I wish I could get inside their heads!

The fact that there was never a plan for a sequel makes me so upset and extremely confused especially since that ending was not an ending at all! I NEEDED MORE. I don’t understand how anyone who likes the book wouldn’t want more!

Thankfully though, we are getting a sequel. I’m so excited for this ride. I know it’s going to be amazing!

“You are full, Laia. Full of life and dark and strength and spirit. You are in our dreams. You will burn, for you are an ember in the ashes. That is your destiny.”

Dear Marcus,

With hatred,
Readers Everywhere

5 out of 5 stars


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