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An Ember in the Ashes Paperback – February 9, 2016
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BOOK ONE IN THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING SERIES
One of Time Magazine’s 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time
One of Time Magazine’s 100 Best YA Books of All Time
Instant New York Times bestseller
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Sabaa Tahir
Amazon's Best Young Adult Book of 2015
People's Choice Award winner - Favorite Fantasy
Bustle's Best Young Adult Book of 2015
“This novel is a harrowing, haunting reminder of what it means to be human — and how hope might be kindled in the midst of oppression and fear.” — The Washington Post
“An Ember in the Ashes could launch Sabaa Tahir into JK Rowling territory…It has the addictive quality of The Hunger Games combined with the fantasy of Harry Potter and the brutality of Game of Thrones.”—Public Radio International
"An Ember in the Ashes glows, burns, and smolders—as beautiful and radiant as it is searing."—Huffington Post
“A worthy novel – and one as brave as its characters.” —The New York Times Book Review
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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From the Publisher
|An Ember in the Ashes||A Torch Against the Night||A Reaper at the Gates||A Sky Beyond the Storm||All My Rage|
|Read more by Sabaa Tahir||An Ember in the Ashes book #1||An Ember in the Ashes book #2||An Ember in the Ashes book #3||An Ember in the Ashes book #4|
|Set in a rich, high-fantasy world inspired by ancient Rome, Laia is a slave fighting for her family, and Elias is a young soldier fighting for his freedom.||After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.||Beyond the Martial Empire and within it, the threat of war looms ever larger.||Prepare for the jaw-dropping finale and discover: Who will survive the storm?||A brilliant, unforgettable, and heart-wrenching contemporary YA novel about family and forgiveness, love and loss, in a sweeping story that crosses generations and continents.|
Named one of the best books of the year by:
Barnes & Noble
The Wall Street Journal
The New York Public Library
“This novel is a harrowing, haunting reminder of what it means to be human—and how hope might be kindled in the midst of oppression and fear.” —The Washington Post
“[An Ember in the Ashes] thrusts its readers into a world marred by violence and oppression, yet does so with simple prose that can offer moments of loveliness in its clarity. This complexity makes Ember a worthy novel—and one as brave as its characters.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Sabaa Tahir spins a captivating, heart-pounding fantasy.” —Us Weekly
“An Ember in the Ashes mixes The Hunger Games with Game of Thrones...and adds a dash of Romeo and Juliet.” —The Hollywood Reporter
“Blew me away...This book is dark, complex, vivid, and romantic—expect to be completely transported.” —MTV.com
“Fast-paced, well-structured and full of twists and turns, An Ember in the Ashes is an evocative debut that has left me invested in knowing what happens next.” —NPR
“Once you get caught up in the story, it’s addictive, and there’s no way you can put it down before you figure out what happens to the characters you have fallen for over the course of the 400 some-odd pages. So I didn’t.” —Bustle
“One thing I can say for sure: this is a page-turner. There comes a moment when it's impossible to put it down. Sabaa Tahir is a strong writer, but most of all, she's a great storyteller.” —The Huffington Post
“This epic fantasy set in the Martial Empire has it all: danger and violence, secrets and lies, strong characters and forbidden romance and a touch of the supernatural.” —The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“A setting inspired by ancient Rome; a fierce battle for freedom in the face of tyranny; and a villain who makes Cersei Lannister and Dolores Umbridge look like a pair of pathetic amateurs...An Ember in the Ashes is at the top of our must-read list for 2015.” —MTV.com
“Be prepared to be blown away by this fantasy-thriller-adventure.” —Girls’ Life
“An Ember in the Ashes is a book that's too good to put down.” —RedEye
“Perfect for fans of Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races or Sarah Maas's Throne of Glass series…The book is already set to be a film, which will be EPIC!” —TeenVogue.com
* “Tahir’s deft, polished debut alternates between two very different perspectives on the same brutal world, deepening both in the contrast. In a tale brimming with political intrigue and haunted by supernatural forces, the true tension comes from watching Elias and Laia struggle to decide where their loyalties lie.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Tahir’s world-building is wonderfully detailed and the setting is an unusual one for fantasy novels. All of her characters, even minor ones, are fully realized....For fans of Game of Thrones and of Melina Marchetta’s Finnikin of the Rock.” —School Library Journal
“An original, well-constructed fantasy world...truly engaging.” —Kirkus Reviews
“An epic fantasy debut about an orphan fighting for her family and a soldier fighting for his freedom. It’s a story that’s literally burning to be told.” —Hypable.com
“First-time novelist Tahir has written an ambitious sword-and-sand adventure story that is notable for its suspense and scope.” —Booklist
“Here's one of the year's most anticipated young-adult debuts.” —io9.com
“I was so engrossed with this book that I missed a connecting flight. If that doesn’t convince you to read An Ember in the Ashes, I don’t know what will. An explosive, heartbreaking, epic debut that will keep you glued to the pages. I hope the world’s ready for Sabaa Tahir.” —Marie Lu, New York Times bestselling author of Legend
“With An Ember in the Ashes, Sabaa Tahir shows us light in the darkness, hope in a world of despair, and the human spirit reaching for greatness in difficult times.” —#1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson
“An Ember in the Ashes is a spectacular page turner that asks readers to consider how far they’d go to save the ones they love. Sabaa Tahir is the next superstar in young adult fiction and her debut is as cinematic as Gladiator and as high-stakes as Game of Thrones.”—Holly Goldberg Sloan, New York Times bestselling author of Counting by 7s
“A heart-pounding story of love and loss, with the most original world-building I’ve read all year. Deeply felt and deeply moving, I could not put it down.” —Margaret Stohl, New York Times bestselling co-author of Beautiful Creatures
“This electric debut is a pulse-pounding action-packed Romeo and Juliet story in a richly imagined world with a great twist and heroic characters you’ll root for and won’t stop thinking about.” —Melissa de la Cruz, New York Times bestselling author of Frozen and The Ring and the Crown
About the Author
- Publisher : Razorbill; Reprint edition (February 9, 2016)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 480 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1595148043
- ISBN-13 : 978-1595148049
- Reading age : 12 - 17 years
- Lexile measure : HL680L
- Grade level : 7 - 9
- Item Weight : 1.25 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.13 x 1.3 x 9.06 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #10,163 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Reviewed in the United States on July 2, 2019
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It starts in the perspective of Laia, a lowly scholar girl who lives with her brother and two grandparents. She’s noticed lately that her brother Darin has been keeping odd hours and carrying around a sketchbook everywhere he goes. When she catches a glimpse into said sketchbook, it’s filled with doodles of weapons—concerning behavior to say the least. A group of masks (or a fancy word for soldiers) comes to their home one night, killing their grandparents and accusing Darin of treason. The two siblings try to escape, but quickly get caught and Darin tells Laia to run. She listens without thinking, barely making it to safety and spends the rest of the book berating herself for leaving Darin all alone. There’s no friends or family she can turn to for help, so she goes to the only connection she has left—the resistance. Through her interaction with members of the resistance, we learn that Laia’s parents used to be a part of it before they were killed and apparently were pretty bad ass. With some aggressive negotiating, the resistance decides to help Darin escape prison if Laia will pose as a servant and gather information for them in return. Feeling guilty with her recent abandonment, she readily agrees.
We also get to hear the perspective of Elias—a.k.a. my new fictional husband—who has spent most of his life training to be a mask at the very strict and very prestigious Blackcliff Academy. He’s been there for years and has finally made it to graduation, but he hates it. The life of a soldier is not one he wanted and he’s planning to escape. Elias has spent months hiding rations and supplies and he’s finally ready to blow the joint after the graduating ceremony. As luck would have it, he’s stopped right before he can get away by an Augur, which is basically a big scary-looking fortune cookie that can see the future. For anyone who has read The Mortal Instrument series, they’re pretty much exactly like the Silent Brothers. Anyway, the Augur tells Elias to reconsider his escape plan, saying freedom won’t be all it’s cracked up to be and he’ll have a chance to create his own freedom if he has the will to stay. Since he hasn’t mentioned his plans to anyone, even his best friend Helene, he takes the Augur’s warning seriously.
After graduation, it is announced that the Augurs want to look for a new Emperor and have created a competition for four specially selected students to fight for the title. And guess who gets chosen?! There are four trials to this competition and the first person to win two will become the new Emperor. Elias only hesitates a moment before he accepts, remembering the Augur’s words from earlier. All four competitors are forced to meet with the Commandant, one of their superiors (who happens to be Elias’s mother) and a god damn she-devil with no soul. During this meeting Elias happens to notice that his mother has a new servant who is none other than Laia in disguise! DUN DUN DUN!!
While Laia tries to dodge blows from the Commandant and gather insider information, Elias has to compete in the nightmare-inducing Emperor trials. All of the character’s lives get intertwined in unexpected ways and there’s an amazing ending that will literally blow your freaking socks off.
Oh man, where to even begin.
Laia is such an amazing female main character and I love how independent and strong she is throughout the entire novel. The same goes for Helene because even though she had a tendency to get on my nerves, that didn’t take away from her intelligence or killer fighting skills. Reading a young-adult book with strong, independent female leads is always a good day in my opinion. Woo feminism!
On the flip side, Elias was also a great character to read about and I loved the alternating perspectives between the two. He’s a strong soldier with heart of gold who just wants the chance to live his own life, and who doesn’t love that?! After watching Elias show kindness to everyone around him while still being smart on the “battlefield,” you can’t help but fall into the old rooting-for-the-underdog trap.
And the villains!! Oh my god, I have never hated a character more than I hate the Commandant. All too often I encounter fictional bad guys that are more annoying than evil. You’re not scared of them, you just want them to get out of the way and stop ruining the story. This was different though. Marcus and the Commandant seriously scared the crap out of me. Both of them are so emotionless and determined in their scheming, it makes you wonder if they can even be defeated! Some hardcore Cersei Lannister vibes up in here.
The setting is really brilliant too and Tahir has done a great job building up this universe, down to the last detail. Just looking at all the maps makes it evident how much time and thought was put into this. I even listed this book on my website under historical fiction (technically it’s not but…) because The Empire really feels like ancient Rome. That’s not a time or place we hear very often about these days, especially in young-adult books, so it was a refreshing perspective.
In terms of narrators, the two voice actors did a great job and really brought life to Laia and Elias. Right now I’m actually reading a hard copy of the sequel A Torch Against the Night and I can hear their voices in my mind as I read. That might be weird of me, but it’s hard to care when I have smooth sounds of Steve West’s accent in my noggin.
NOTHING. THIS BOOK IS PERFECTION.
If you haven’t noticed from this incessantly long and rambling review, I loved this novel. Whether you read a hard copy or listen to the audio book, just freaking read it. You can thank me later.
Warning! LONG REVIEW AHEAD!
Please Lord tell me there is a sequel. If this book does not have a sequel I might just punch somebody.
That was the most dramatic and tense ending to a book ever! I was nervous and I was afraid for the characters in ways I rarely ever am. In books I never feel as if I should fear for the characters because nothing bad ever happens to them. They are put through trials but you never really see them get hurt. The MC's never get broken. In this book the characters get destroyed. They get split open and ripped to pieces and you never know if they are going to make it out completely whole and I live it.
I love this book so much. It was both tense and intense. There was so much happening. So many secrets and so many lies and so many hidden agendas.
The plot of this book was of epic proportions. After her brother is accused of working for the resistance, Laia witnesses her grandparents brutal murder and has no choice but to run as her brother is captured and take to one of the worst prisons in the Martial Empire. Feeling guilty for leaving him behind she makes a deal with the resistance: free Darin and she will spy on the most vicious, most dangerous woman in the Empire, the Commandant of Blackcliff Academy, the training grounds of the Masks, the most dangerous and most feared soldiers in the land.
On the other side of this is Elias, a Mask in training just a day from graduation. He is the highest ranking Mask at Blackcliff yet he wished for nothing more than freedom. After planning his escape and dreaming of his freedom for months it is all taken from him when he is chosen as an Aspirant, one of four Masks to compete for the ultimate prize, the crown to the Empire. Where any other soldier would be honored and proud Elias regrets his missed opportunity at freedom and dreads his future as either Emperor, Blood Shrike, or dead.
Now the thing I loved most about the plot was that it was two separate stories that weaved together to make one. The two characters, Laia and Elias were their own separate people and we got to see that. We got to see their individual lives and who and what they were before we got to see how they were together. In fact they are apart for like 90% of the entire book. This way we get to see all the things that are happening in all the different places and all the characters that make the story whole.
Another thing about the separation was that the characters sounded different. I could tell which was Laia and which was Elias. I did not need to look at the name on top of each chapter because they characters minds were so distinctive that there was no worries for confusion. In many occasions we even see the two thinking similar thoughts which sound so different coming form the different minds.
Then there was the romance. You know the best part?! There was none. That's right! NONE! I mean sure there is attraction but hey, Elias is a pretty hot guy and Laia isn't bad looking herself. They see each other and thing “wow that person is good looking”. Then they keep going with their lives because they both realize they have bigger problems to deal with. They don't sit in their rooms thinking of each other all day because they have things to do. They aren't lovey dovey or any of that because in truth, THEY DON’T LOVE EACH OTHER!!! There is no declaration of love or loyalty or any of that crap and it was awesome. The fact that they were apart for most of the book does help though.
This brings me to the supporting cast of characters. More specifically Helene. Helene is the only female student at Blackcliff. She is as beautiful as she is deadly and almost as powerful as she is loyal. She and Elias love each other. Not in a romantic way but in a way that is so much deeper than that. They have been best friends since they were six years old and have been watching each other's backs for over 12 or so years. Elias loves her. Again, not romantically, but he loves her. He is loyal to her and she to him. Helene is more important to Elias than Laia and that is the way it should be considering that Helene is the 12 year friend and Laia a slave he met 3 days ago. I love Helene. I may not have always agreed with her and her methods but she stuck by Elias until the end. She was stubborn but loyal and those are the best of all people.
The rest of the supporting characters were great too. I love Elias grandfather. He was barely in the book but he looks so cool in a powerful and dangerous sort of way. And the commandant was such a terrible human being and that's what made her a good villain. She was cruel and without remorse. She put the characters through hell and she reveled in it. If the villain was not as villainous then I doubt the heroes would have come out as heroic. Even Marcus and Zak were real and believable. Is it wrong that I feel bad for them?
Then there was the world. It was filled with strange creatures and unknown beasts that even the characters don't full know what's going on. It was a wonderful twist of fantasy into this ancient dystopian world.
This is one of my favorite books of the year so far and I cannot wait for more. I mean, there has to more right. THERE HAS TO BE A SEQUEL!!!! I recently met The author and she does not currently know if there will be a sequel but is hoping there will be. A book this awesome deserves to continue!
But anyway, this is a book I recommend to everyone. Admittedly, the book does have long moments in which little action happens so if you like really quick books this may not be for you. But if you are patient and calm and can get excited about nothing then this is the book for you.
I have no doubt that Sabaa Tahir will go on to do great things. I am ready to read whatever she writes.
P.S. Watch the book trailer! Its awesome!
Top reviews from other countries
In all of this, the story of the two main characters emerge. A girl, Laia, daughter of two of the leading figures of the resistance (now dead) whose entire family is captured or killed by the martials and Elias, one the prominent figures in the martian legion who however is trying desperately to escape a life of violence.
Their lives interwine when Laia infiltrates the martials school in order to save her brother from prison and Elias fails in his escape by being selected as the potential next emperor.
The plot has a little bit of everything: perfectly describes action scenes, suspace created by the unknown of the supernatural, mythology of different nature (there is a bit of a mix of roman and egyptian mythology which fits very well with the whole “martial ruling in the middle of a desert vibe”), several backstabbing scenes and just a hint of some sort of love …ehm … rectangle? Enough is going on to keep any fantasy reader engaged.
Characters are not one-dimentional, but it must be said that the relationship of the two main characters is a bit confusing. I am yet to judge given that there are several more books in the saga, and cannot wait to get started on those!
I found it easy to get into despite the writing being very dry, the world around the characters isn't described much. At one point Laia goes to a moon festival at night and it's all lit up with lanterns. This should have been vibrant and full of life but it felt flat. I couldn't picture it in my mind.
The speech and behaviour are very modern, which sounds odd in the historical setting.
I do like the way the two different viewpoints of Laia and Elias were written though and I like how it takes a while for them to start being aware of each other. Laia I really enjoyed reading. She starts off quite timid and scared and we get to see how she grows and gets braver.
There's not much romance, which I liked. There's a bit too much worrying about who fancies who (and seriously, these people have bigger things to be worrying about), but no proper romance, and definitely no insta-love!
I found it strange how the characters have gone through some very traumatic things but still act like normal teenagers (even though Elias is supposed to 20). Their life experiences don't seem to have had much emotional impact on them.
The trials Elias goes through are physically and emotionally difficult. They're aimed at choosing a new Emperor and removing the old one and people die in the process, but somehow it feels like they're not that big a deal, they're no more important than a big exam or a job interview. Elias is more worried about if his friend fancies him or not, and does he fancy her back.
The whole thing seems unrealistic, but I would say suspend disbelief if you can because the story is good. It's full of twists and turns and I didn't want to stop reading and go to work or to bed. I know I like a book when my other half has to forcibly remove it from my hands.
Elias and Laia are wonderful protagonists and both provide excellent POVs that keep the story moving along. They provided an emotional insight that keeps the story grounded even when mythical creatures and suspicious side-characters are introduced. It's fast moving, has dimensional and diabolical villains and plenty of plot twists. In short it’s wonderful.
If you’re looking for a new series to read I’d really recommend this one - I’d say it falls more into New Adult as opposed to YA as it doesn’t hold back on some of the darker, more violent parts of the story. Plus with the new one coming out in December, you can start this knowing you won’t have to wait for the final installment!