An Ember in the Ashes- Sabaa Tahir
“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.”I thought, “This is going to be another book where two pathetic characters meet, fall in love, and are all of a sudden brilliant and strong people who save the world”. Plus, the cover reminds me of the Girl of Fire and Thorns, and the name sounds similar, is this just a copycat?
Emotional Involvement: ★★★★ 1/2
One of the most frustrating facets of being a young adult fantasy fan is that everyone else is a young adult fantasy fan, too. Don’t get me wrong- I don’t mind sharing my faves with the world. However, there’s a lot of money to be made in writing young adult fantasy and sometimes, when writers can’t think of something new, it seems like they just copy one of the hits. I’ve been known to quite mid-book on multiple occasions due to obvious creative laziness. This was not one of those books.
Laia was born on the wrong side of society. Her parents and older sister are dead, and her older brother and grandparents are the only family she has. Meanwhile, Elias was raised to be a brutal killer, but just can’t bring himself to turn his conscience off. Their world is shifting. For the first time in thousands of years, there is an opportunity for a new player to take power and bring hope to the thousands who live in oppression and poverty.
Both Elias and Laia develop into more complex, balanced characters. Laia learns to find her strength and Elias learns to lay his down, each in the search for freedom. Fighting, magic, kings, legends, prophesies, evil beings- this book has the whole nine yards without making it feel like the author is trying too hard. Each aspect in the book fits intuitively with the others.
Sabaa Tahir does a beautiful job of inviting the reader in the the world of the book, but not boring the reader with unnecessary details. You learn as the book goes on, and it feels natural. By the end, I felt so emotionally invested in the political and moral conflicts that my heart raced the whole last three chapters. I think the most impressive part of this book, however, is the fact that it dealt with real moral and philosophical issues, handling them with a deftness I’ve never seen in a Young Adult novel. I didn’t open the book looking for a lesson in humility and what it means to be human, but I found it. I feel like I grew as a person for having had read this book- and because it wasn’t preachy, I had fun!
I felt like I lost a friend when I finally turned the last page, and I can’t wait to read the sequel. I’m also making my husband read it, so we can discuss and think about it together. He’ll thank me later- and so will you.