Review: ‘An Ember in the Ashes′ by Sabaa Tahir

Review: ‘An Ember in the Ashes′ by Sabaa TahirAn Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Published by Penguin Group USA on April 28th 2015
Genres: Action & Adventure, Dystopian, Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
Pages: 464
Format: Hardcover
Source: gift
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.

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Laia has to save her brother from the clutches of the Martials. A free girl who turns into a spy slave she undergoes a tulmountous journey to find her brother. At the school, she meets Elias who is more than just a soldier. Laia realizes she’s in more than she bargained for. This mission could also take her life.

My most anticipated release of the year was this beauty right here. It has all the bare bones of an epic story. A battle to rescue someone she loves and to ultimately survive it. I enjoyed it immensely but some things really bothered me.


Told in dual perspectives from Laia and Ellias’s point of views, we have several plot lines interweaving through the entire book. The boarding school aspect which reminded me a bit of Sparta from the comics and movie 300, not as violent mind you..Sabaa’s beautiful writing that flows and breaths and weaves in and out that makes you want to keep reading. The cliffhanger chapter endings that also keeps you reading. The super slow-burn romance. The best action-packed scenes were from the trials which I enjoyed.

Super slow in the beginning and doesn’t pick up until the 180+ page mark. The long exaggerated cliffhanger ending which makes you want to tear your hair out because nothing is resolved and everything was open ended. The love triangle.

I also thought there were some inconsistencies. Since they live in the desert, how come they have Mooncakes? Which I thought is Chinese? Also why didn’t anyone rise up against this school? Were there too many Legionnaires or was there an army that I didn’t know existed? I thought the school was the army.


Laia starts off very weak and learns to become a spy. I liked that she wasn’t strong right from the get-go because her character arc changes. She is only human and of course she’d be attracted to two cute boys at the same time. Helene on the other hand is all fire. She’s one complex character, truly loyal and devoted to what she believes in and I admired that. Even if she was truly ignorant of how they treated slaves. Elias wants to be good even when his bloodline is tied to a monster. I thought it was truly intriguing to be born of this world but hate it at the same time. He battled his feelings very harshly and by the end, Elias changed.

WHAT WAS THAT ENDING?!? Seriously!??? *flips a table and cries* How can you leave me hanging like this? With no sequel yet?! I was left with more questions!!


I was torn with rating this but overall I enjoyed it. Minus points for slow starts, crazy insane love octagons going on, but bonus points for the gripping writing style, dual cliffhanger chapter endings and world building. Give this one a try if you like fantasy and some magic!


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. (20)
You are no boy now, but a man, with a man’s burden upon your shoulders and a man’s choice ahead of you. (52)
You are an ember in the ashes. You will spark and burn, ravage and destroy. You cannot change it. You cannot stop it. (65)
All the beauty of the stars means nothing when life here on earth is so ugly. (221)
That I should think of them as equals? We conquered them. We rule them now. It’s the way of the world. (244)
They all find reason to smile and laugh. Reason to hope. (250)
Beauty’s a curse when one lives among men. (275)
There are two kinds of guilt: the kind that drowns you until you’re useless, and the kind that fires your soul to purpose. (286)
All evil here. Monsters. Little monsters and then big ones. (311)
Such foolish hope, to have thought that despite being raised to violence I might one day be free of it. (413)
Fear is only your enemy if you allow it to be. (422)

reading progress






  1. Pingback: Wrap-Up: May 2015

  2. Jared Brown

    May 25, 2015 at 8:04 PM

    I know right? Awesome review!!!!

  3. Meredith

    May 16, 2015 at 3:46 PM

    Cliffhangers are the worst at times! I’m glad that the pacing picked up though eventually. Awesome review!

    Meredith @ A Book Lover’s Corner
    Meredith recently posted…Only Ever Yours Blitz and Giveaway!My Profile

  4. Carina Olsen

    May 16, 2015 at 10:26 AM

    Gorgeous post Giselle 😀 I’m so thrilled you liked this book a lot. I’m excited to read it. Yet nervous about the romance. Ugh :p But oh, how it is gooorgeous. So happy you liked most of this book 😀 Thank you for sharing sweetie. <3
    Carina Olsen recently posted…In My Mailbox #185My Profile

  5. Smitha

    May 16, 2015 at 8:16 AM

    I recently read this book too! The dual narrative was one of my favourite things about the book. I really hope there’s a sequel because the ending is so unsatisfying!
    Smitha recently posted…Book Review : An Ember In The Ashes by Sabaa TahirMy Profile

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