An Ember In The Ashes Book Review

By Jenna Mark

     An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir hit bookstores last year and went flying off the shelves. It was an inspirational book that told of fate bringing two people with different stories together, for their destinies were intertwined and their choices would shape the future of their world. As you flip through the pages, you are taken on a journey through a dystopian Empire, where the harsh reality of an oppressed nation is perfectly captured. Although it takes a while to reach the main action, the book hooks you in right from the very beginning with gruesome details and heartfelt dialogue. “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.” (page 65)

     An Ember in the Ashes brings together the two main characters who are living completely different lives but are both slaves to the will of the Empire. The book switches throughout the two main characters’ points of view, Elias and Laia, giving you a glimpse of the different hardships they face. Neither Elias or Laia have any freedom. They are either forced to bend to the rules of the Empire or face the destruction of all they know and love. Laia lives with her family, never challenging the Empire, but suddenly finds herself breaking all the rules to rescue her brother, who was taken by the Empire. Being the naive young girl that she is, she seeks help with the rebels and is given the chance to save her brother, but only if she can give them something in return. She is thrown into the life of slavery, spying on the most dangerous woman in the Empire, in hopes that she will be with her brother soon. Elias is a soldier who does not want to conform to the will of the Empire; he doesn’t want to kill others with no remorse for the innocent life he had just taken. They meet at the academy where Elias trains and Laia is sent to spy, later realizing that they met for a reason. “Life is made of so many moments that mean nothing. Then one day, a single moment comes along to define every second that comes after.”(page 20)

     Both of our characters are not your typical hero/heroine. Laia is weak and naive, only forced to take action and put on a brave front when her brother is taken, but she was a wonder. Although insecure to no end, Laia has a fierce inner strength that simply shocks the reader. Throughout the book, you see her prove her courage, endurance, and kindness many times and it makes you wonder what her role is in the grand scheme of things. Elias is a completely different character though. He wants to be good and cut all the ties that connect him to the monsters in his bloodline. He is a dangerous combination of a powerful warrior with a kind heart and is determined to remain true to himself no matter what he faces. Over the course of their story, they both earn battle scars, whether physical or mental, and grow and develop into strong characters, pushing past all of the despair. “They all find reason to smile and laugh. Reason to hope.” (page 250)

     Bold, original, and an incredible read, An Ember in the Ashes will leave you begging for more. Even with its portions of slow plot development and confusing new ideas, this Roman fantasy makes readers hang on to its every word, captivating them in a wonderful story about of fighting for love and freedom, overcoming betrayal, and living out your destiny. Hopefully, you’ll read this book soon, as it is worth every praise it got. “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.” (page 430)