This is a hard book to review, but I do have to say, if you are looking for your next YOUNG ADULT AUDIOBOOK purchase, go no further. It was a wonderfully crafted audiobook with great narrators that reflected the characters nicely. Fiona Hardingham (Narrator), Steve West (Narrator) did a phenomenal job and I could listen to West’s voice all day long. As far as the story, let’s just say, I’m glad I got it in audiobook form. This is one of those hyped novels that wasn’t as exciting as they wanted me to believe, but I did enjoy it, like I said–hard review to write.
AN EMBER IN THE ASHES is a blend of “Gladiator” meets “Game of Thrones.” Set in an alternate universe, this fantastical tale focuses on two characters, Elias and Laia. Laia is a scholar who loses her family to the Martials, her brother carted away to jail. In order to save her last remaining relative, she finds the rebels and asks for their help. They don’t want to help her, but on finding out who her parents were, leaders of the rebels a long time ago, they pledge sort of help her–but only if she helps them back.
Laia is given a crazy task of infiltrating the Empire’s military academy and spying on the Commandant, the scariest leader in the Empire. She does this, posing as a slave and as a slave, Laia is beaten, threatened and faces death everyday.
The second POV is Elias, a student at the academy. He is the best of his class, but wishes secretly for freedom. Just as he is about to escape the stranglehold the Empire has on him, he is approached by an Auger, one of the strange, psychic non-humans that have predicted the rise of the Empire. The Auger tells Elias that if he stays and goes through the trial to be Emporer he will one day find his freedom. He agrees and the trial begins.
The two characters stories intertwine as one fights to save her brother and the other fights to save his soul.
It was a very compelling story, full of action, suspense and horror. I enjoyed Tahir’s voice, her ability to tell a story and build up suspense. The storyline was very complicated, the worldbuilding intense and Tahir’s attention to detail was phenomenal. I enjoyed reading about this new world.
Where the story fell short was where all the lines crossed. I loved Elias story, really loved this one, if it was only his tale it would have been perfect, but the story wove Laia’s into it and it kind of fell flat with her line. Her interaction with the rebels was predictable and far-fetched. She was a very naive character when it all began but once pushed into her slave status she was climbing walls to spy on the Commandant and trekking through trails with ease – that these military academy kids couldn’t even do. She had the logic to navigate a new world of spying, but she couldn’t figure out that the rebels weren’t playing straight with her, even though it was quite obvious to me, the reader. She was also, wanted by everyone, beaten a few times to the point of death – but back up and doing strenuous labor in a few days. Laia’s story just felt forced.
Elias on the other hand, was well crafted, unless he crossed with Laia – who he was inexplicably drawn to. I liked Elias’ trials, I liked his interaction with the other students and I liked his storyline of saving himself. His chapters were what kept me reading.
But, then you get to the ending. Tahir has stated this is a STAND-ALONE, which I think, has to be wrong. The novel left tons of plot-lines open and the ending while it was a conclusion of sorts, was not wrapped-up tightly. The book already has a movie deal, I’m sure once sales come in favorably there will be more books. We will see.
Recommendations: If you like Sarah Maas’ books you’ll like this one. If you like audiobooks, hit this one up in that format.
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa TahirPublished by Penguin Group USA on April 28th 2015
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
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.