Author: Sabaa Tahir
My Rating: 9 out of 10
Summary (you rock, 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.
My Thoughts: You know, when a book is so popular that everyone is talking about it? And I mean everyone. Friends, bloggers, neighbours, parents... you know, the whole nine yards. Usually that means the book is better than good, better than great, and down right spectacular. And I am happy to report that An Ember in the Ashes lived up to all the hype it generated, and then some.
I'm always worried when I start a popular book because I want to love it and talk about it and just rejoice because it is just that great. I have not shut up about Laia and Elias since I've read the story because they are just that fantastic. They come from two completely different worlds, one the conquered and one the conquerer. They could not have come from more different circumstances if they tried, yet they are both so similar. They are both desperate for a way out of the life they currently lead. Elias wants out of the military that is controlled by his openly psychotic mother, and all Laia wants is for her and her family to stay safe and healthy. They are both forced into unbelievable circumstances and have to fight for their survival. The alternating POV's work incredibly well in this novel. Though, I admit, sometimes I'd start looking forward to Elias' POV more than Laia's (this never happens for me, I usually always prefer the female POV because it seems more realistic to me, but Elias was just so great that it wasn't even an issue).
The only thing that I really had a problem with was the worldbuilding. Sometimes I had trouble invisioning everything that was happening, and I think that if there was just a few more details it would have gone a long way. So, that's the only reason that I couldn't give this a 10 out of 10. But, with the fantastic characters, it's easily overlooked.
I'm super excited that the sequel was announced because I have so many questions and I need answers to allllll of them! Like Chef, what's going on there? And Laia's brother? And Elias? And Helene? There's just so many questions!
Final Thoughts: I understand the hype. I am the hype. You need to read this, yesterday.