An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

June 10th, 2015 kimbacaffeinate Review 56 Comments

10th Jun
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
An Ember in the Ashes
by Sabaa Tahir
Series: An Ember in the Ashes #1
Published by: Penguin Random House
Narrator: Fiona Hardingham, Steve West
Length: 15 hrs and 22 mins
Genres: Dystopian, Fantasy
Source: Publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Audible
Goodreads
Rating: One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

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.

I love a good dystopian, it is what drew me to the young adult genre and when I saw reviews for An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir I was excited about the promise of a roman-world with violence, oppression and dual narratives. When an opportunity to review the audio presented itself, I dove headfirst. I am so glad that I did. An Ember in the Ashes was beautifully written and executed.

The first in An Ember in the Ashes series, Tahir brings us a roman like world filled with gladiator type military schools, slaves and an oppressed society ruled by violence and fear. The author did an excellent job of bringing the world to life from the impressive academy to the slums.

Dual perspectives gave us both sides of the story. Elias is a solider at the academy who dreams of freedom and an escape from the violence that rules his life. He unwittingly finds himself competing to be the next Martial emperor. Laia is a Scholar, living under the control of the emperor, but when her brother is arrested and her grandparents murdered, she soon finds herself working undercover in hopes of freeing her brother. The chapters alternate between the two and I immediately became wrapped up in their stories. Laia is an unlikely hero, in fact if given a choice she would be in hiding, but it is her love for her brother that drives her and her transformation alone was worth the ride.

Tahir delivers a dark tale that touches on the darker side of war, and the sacrifices on both sides. The emperor faction is dark and blood thirsty, with political maneuvering and quests for power. Scholars and slaves are treated like commodities in this quest. In the middle of it all we have a rebel group. The Revolutionist, and we learn that Laia has ties to them; she uses that connection to aid her brother.

What strengthened this novel and gave it its heart were the protagonists. Both are struggling and see tremendous growth and enlightenment throughout the story. The tale is surprisingly romance free although seeds have been planted. I loved these little teasers they gave a little hope to all the darkness. I thought a triangle was in the making, but with one line, Tahir squelched that and I was delighted. An Ember in the Ashes is dark and falls on the higher end of young adult genre making it a great crossover novel.

Fiona Hardingham and Steve West did a splendid job with the narration allowing us to feel Laia’s and Elias’s internal struggles, fear and growth. The choice to use two narrators was a good one and I hope these two continue the series.

If you have given up on the dystopian genre or feel burned out, trust me and take a chance on An Ember in the Ashes as it breathed life into this genre.

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About Sabaa Tahir

Sabaa Tahir grew up in California’s Mojave Desert at her family’s 18-room motel. There, she spent her time devouring fantasy novels, raiding her brother’s comic book stash and playing guitar badly. She began writing An Ember in the Ashes while working nights as a newspaper editor. She likes thunderous indie rock, garish socks and all things nerd. Sabaa currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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About Kimberly
Kimberly is a coffee loving book addict who reads and listens to fictional stories in all genres. She's a self-professed Whovian, as well as a Supernatural, and Sherlock Holmes junkie, She enjoys sharing books, tips, recipes and hosting the Sunday Post. The coffee is always on and she is ready to chat... Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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56 Responses to “An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir”

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Well you know me the only time I venture into YA is for dystopian, fantasy and post apocalyptic. This is on the higher end and I was pleased.

  1. Kim

    I really enjoyed this tale! Tahir deliverd all that I was hoping for. The gritty world, intrigue, a touch of magic. Plus, as you mentioned the seeds for romance have been planted.
    Wonderful review, Kimba! Makes me want to go back to this story – this time with the great sounding audio 🙂

  2. Jenny

    “I thought a triangle was in the making, but with one line, Tahir squelched that and I was delighted. ”

    YAY!!!! This makes me incredibly happy Kim! I know I’m going to want there to be a bit more romance because that’s just the way I am, but otherwise this sounds amazing and I can’t wait to give it a try:)
    Jenny recently posted…Interview: Aaron Karo + GalgorithmMy Profile

  3. Megan McDade

    This one has been everywhere lately it has been hyped so much. But it seems to be living up to its hype. Dystopian is a genre I struggle with I either love or hate it depending on the book. I like that this one doesn’t have a romance per say even though I love a romance it’s fresh to see this in YA. I am glad you enjoyed the book, you always seem to have a lot of success with audio books, I still haven’t listened to an audio book but I really need to some time this year.
    Megan McDade recently posted…#Review My heart and other black holes by Jasmine WargaMy Profile

  4. Jessica

    OOoh very nice review! I can’t wait to read this one myself! Won a copy last month or two months ago…something like that! LOL! Review books had gotten in the way, I took a break with some older books to read and now I got review books again. Sigh. Soon though. Soon! Glad to hear you enjoy this one!! Great review!
    Jessica recently posted…COVER REVEAL BLITZ–The Power by Jennifer L. ArmentroutMy Profile

  5. Ramona

    I am so torn about this series, Kimba. Please, advise me! On the one hand, the premise is amazing, but on the other there have been people complaining about a wealth of gratuitous violence and rape (I think maybe in the 2nd book), which of course puts me off. Should I try it or not? Great review.
    Ramona recently posted…Would You Rather…My Profile

    • kimbacaffeinate

      It is Roman times and yes there is violence and darkness which is why I said this was on the older spectrum of YA. Attempted rape, slave abuse..yes. Dark, gritty yes..for shock value no. It was realistic. Since it is YA, it isn’t overly detailed but it can be off putting.

  6. Tyler H Jolley

    You know, I never thought about what drew me to YA books until I read this post. I guess it was the combination of dystopian and magic (maybe more MG for magic) that changed how I read.

  7. Michele at A Belle's Tales

    Yeppers peppers — this just went right on the wish list! You know I adore a great dystopian, and this sounds like it has all the elements I love. You have me super excited about this one, my friend. Awesome review 🙂
    Michele at A Belle’s Tales recently posted…100 Words and a QuoteMy Profile

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Ah rape is a nasty business and I can see how that would effect some readers. However, realistically with this social structure it was very common