Release Date: April 28th, 2015
Source: First To Read
Rating: 5 out of 5
After the first few pages of An Ember in the Ashes, I just knew that this one was going to be a winner. I had that moment of pausing after the first chapter and just grinning excitedly to myself and rubbing my hands together, anticipating the awesome stuff that was going to go down in the story. You guys, An Ember in the Ashes deserves ALL the hype it’s getting.
An Ember in the Ashes is set in a Roman Empire-esque world, with some fantasy elements weaved in. What I love about this world is how Tahir doesn’t info-dump! She reveals the world with little tidbits at a time that are easy to absorb, making it all flow nicely into the plot itself. And while this world can resemble a dystopian world, she certainly makes it unique by crafting it more as a fantasy with the elements of sword-fighting (or in this case, scim-fighting), magical creatures, and even some magical abilities. The atmosphere in the villages and catacombs make it all the more engrossing and vivid.
Furthermore, this story is told through two perspectives in first person: Elias, the Commandant’s son who’s in the running to be Emperor, and then Laia, the girl from the enemy and poorer side, who’s also a slave to the Commandant. I’m not going to go into too much detail about the world and the hierarchy because of spoilers, but I can announce that I loved this dual perspective. Tahir writes the POV from a boy SO WELL. Elias was a realistic older teen boy, and being in his head was super fun. Elias himself discovers that he is not like the others in this ruthless society, and he stays true to himself. What sets off Laia’s story is her search for her brother, the only person left in her family. She’s loyal, extremely brave, and all around endearing. There’s an innocence to her that is so real and genuine. Tahir fleshed out these two characters beautifully.
Not only are the main characters fleshed out in detail, but so are the side characters. The Commandant, aka the villain of the story, is ruthless, let me tell you. The Commandant of this Martial Empire is a woman, and her brutality towards everyone, including her son, is so infuriatingly good. EVIL VILLAINS BE EVIL. We also meet Elias’ best friend, Helene– fierce and stubborn, entertaining the idea of a possible romance. There’s also a romantic aspect for Laia: Keenan, a red-head that helps her find her brother. However, Keenan is shady and he makes the reader question him. The way all of these characters entwine is impressive and absorbing.
The plot really hit it home for me. Elias is in the running to become Emperor, which means he has to go through a series of Trials that test his courage, strength, and loyalty. This was a little similar to The Hunger Games except a little more toned-down, but it was riveting nonetheless and had me on the edge of my seat. Laia is acting as a slave girl and spy, so of course her staying under the radar is exciting. But what Tahir does best is crafting a plot that falls into place perfectly like a puzzle piece in the end. It’s always amazing to see such intricate plot lines executed well.
An Ember in the Ashes is a story that I won’t be forgetting for a long time. The ending screams SEQUEL TO COME, and I’m positively dying for one after falling in love with this Roman Empire world, Elias & Laia, and the exciting plot. I need more from Tahir! If you love fast-paced, action packed, but also well-crafted fantasy/historical settings, you will for sure love An Ember in the Ashes. As the title says itself, it is its own ember in the ashes of YA literature. This one’s a winner!