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An Ember in the Ashes Paperback – February 9, 2016
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An Amazon Best Book of May 2015: If the test of a good novel is how badly you want to drop everything to finish it, then Sabaa Tahir’s debut An Ember in the Ashes gets an A+. The world she creates is rich in fantasy, coupled with echoes of a historical saga, all vividly rendered on the page. Tyrannical leaders and a building rebellion set the stage for dual narrators, Elias, one of the elite, trained from a young age to become a skilled assassin for the Commandant at Blackcliff Military Academy, and Laia, one of the oppressed, forced into the role of spy and saboteur in order to save her only remaining family member. Though diametrically opposed within their society, both Laia and Elias are wracked by internal conflict and driven to great lengths by shame and a desire to escape the bonds of their present lives. A complex relationship between them ensues, and while there is a romantic thread to the story, it is ancillary to the larger forces of political power, crippling deceit, and an undistinguished hope that endures in even the darkest corners of their brutal world. Potent action and liquid language whisk the chapters along all too quickly and while this has not been released as part of a series (yet), there can only be great things in store for author Sabaa Tahir, her Martial Empire, and her readers. -- Seira Wilson--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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
From the Hardcover edition.
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However, the novel is marred slightly by too linear, simple, and somewhat predictable plot elements. Many of the elements which take place during the novel's climax seem to have been shoe-horned in and were frankly cheesy, but their reasons, along with more of the world's backstory, are likely forthcoming in the second book. The tale is worth your time, but don't expect complete resolution, as more novels are coming, despite the author's initial view that it could stand alone.
Laia is a Scholar. Elias is a Martial. Under the Martial Empire's iron fist, the Scholars are fighting to survive. If you are a Scholar, you are either working class or a slave, and few rebels (or suspected rebels) are left unharmed or undetected. When Laia's brother is taken from her, she is willing do anything to save him—even if it means going into Blackcliff and never coming back. Blackcliff is a military academy where Martials like Elias Veturius are trained to become Masks, the assassin-soldiers of the Empire. Supervised and lead by the cold-hearted Commandant, even Blackcliff's students must face the violence and cruelty of the Empire. This cruelty and violence is part of the reason that Elias Veturius plans to desert.
An Ember in the Ashes is a breathtaking dystopian novel based on the Roman Empire with fantastical and mythical elements woven in. As long as I can remember, I've been fascinated by not only Roman mythology, but Ancient Rome in general. The politics, military strategy, and social structure of that era is a fascinating topic in history, and I'm happy to say that Tahir's twist on the era did not disappoint.
Before focusing in on Elias and Laia, I'd like to take a second and point out that Tahir did a phenomenal job crafting the slew of characters seen in An Ember in the Ashes. Even the characters with the smallest role in the novel were three-dimensional—not a single one seemed flat or a copy of any other character. I often find that secondary and minor characters are not as finely crafted and can seem very similar to one another, but I was pleasantly surprised by Tahir's cast of characters. She truly honed in on each and every one of her characters, big and small, and thought through how each of their minds worked and how they'd play a role in the plot. These seemingly minor details about the lesser characters really helped me appreciate An Ember in the Ashes even more, and proceeded to further my understanding of the main characters and their emotions as well.
The words of Elias Veturius' grandfather and the motto of Gens Veturia always ring in Elias' mind. As the heir to Gens Veturia and the star student at Blackcliff, it is only understandable the immeasurable amount of pride his grandfather feels towards him, and also the immeasurable pressure put on Elias as a result. Yet fame and strength are not on Elias' mind—all Elias truly wants is freedom.
I absolutely adore Elias as a character. He is a strong character who knows right from wrong even when others do not. Although he makes mistakes (he is human after all), he is willing to make amends and fix his errors. In a society where it is easy to accept social standards and leave people to suffer and die, Elias is willing to fight for justice. He is an extremely caring person who looks out for his friends and even for people he doesn't know.
“But I’m not strong. I’m weak, and I’m sick of pretending I’m not.”
Laia lost it all, and she's struggling to reclaim the one person she might be able to save—her elder brother, Darin. Although she may be able to save him, she knows it won't be easy, yet she's still willing to take the risk.
Laia has a lot of expectations to live up to, and tries her best to do everything she can to make her dead family, and her brother, proud. I admire Laia's determination and strong will. Although she falters once in a while, she always finds the strength to get back up and fight again. I believe that despite her flaws, and despite her belief that she is weak, she is in her own way unbelievably strong for trying over and over and over again.
Tahir's writing is exquisite, and I was captivated from beginning to end. She was able to perfectly mix the world-building, character development, dialogue, and action. The book was a delectable treat that went beyond satisfying my recently book-deprived heart and soul.
Tahir told Laia and Elias' story beautifully, and I cannot wait to see how the rest of their lives unfold.
"You will burn, for you are an ember in the ashes."
Ms. Tahir is very good with introducing the main two characters (pretty much only the two main characters though) I feel for them and their plights.
The biggest issue I have with the book is that it does not have very clear transitions, specifically which respect to time. She could be talking about an event and then the next sentence, we are at the event 5 days later. It threw me off more than a couple times.
The main villain (as others have pointed out) has not really had any type of real character building besides being a terrible person. We get some details about them towards the end but other than that we may have to wait til book two or later.
The romance in the book for the most part is understandable but also not a strength of the book. There is a scene that feels forced about 75% through the book when they meet in town. /*spoiler* /dancing is involved
Other than the time transitions, the book flows very well. I would recommend for anyone that likes YA fantasy