Monday, May 11, 2015

'An Ember in the Ashes' by Sabaa Tahir


AN EMBER IN THE ASHES is a thought-provoking, heart-wrenching and pulse-pounding read. Set in a rich, high-fantasy world with echoes of ancient Rome, it tells the story of a slave fighting for her family and a young soldier fighting for his freedom.

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.

Wow. Just wow. This is a stunning story. It really draws you in. 

The characters were good. Solid characters. I enjoyed rooting for the main characters Laia and Elias. 
Elias is loyal. And strong. And brave. Gosh. You would think Elias is the whole package. Why hasn't he got a fiancĂ©e yet is a reason I don't know. But gosh. Elias is amazing. He's badassery times infinity. He fights. And it's not just that. Anyone can be a fighter. But he's one of the top, maybe the best, fighter around. I mean...whoa. And then you discover his layer of loyalty. And that is pushed to the limits with, of course, the Trial of Loyalty. But he sticks by his friendships. By the people he cares for. I think Elias does seem a bit too perfect. Thank goodness he tried to desert. (That takes down his Perfect(ly impossible character) Factor down a few notches.) Elias is solid. A good character. Strong and brave. Loyal. Determined. A hero of sorts. 
Laia is determined. At first, I didn't like her. She seemed...weaker? I don't like comparing book characters to book characters, but she was an odd contrast to Elias the Mr. Macho-Mask-Man. I was confused by this. Until she starts spying. And that is when you see her true personality. (Or...unleashed personality? I'm not sure.) She becomes this determined girl. Who loves her brother to death. Who is cautious. And absorbs the pain. Just because of her brother. And then I started liking her because of it. She wasn't weak but strong. She wasn't a punching bag anymore. Laia turned into this brave person. (And...maybe she became a woman then.) My major problem with her, and this goes for Elias as well, is the -shudder- love triangle. (Technically, it's a love angle. But...shush. Don't tell.) I'll discuss this later, though. 
Helene is loyal. And she's a female version of Elias. Strong. Quick. She's loyal to the Empire. Which irks me. She also is loyal to Elias, though. Best friends or something more, it doesn't matter. They're close. Very so. And I think I want a bond like that. (Not the complex 'He's making me blush' stuff. No no. The great friendship stuff.) But calling her just the female Elias is not exposing her entire being. She's strong. A great fighter. Clever. And she catches on quickly. Helene isn't my favorite. She IS more Mask-like than Elias or the other Masks. (Faris. Leander. Etc.) She will do what she has to to protect Elias or help aid the Empire. Helene would have been a great rebel if she was a Scholar not a Martial. 
Keenan isn't the best with qualities. He's the rebellious type. Not in the way you would think, though. But I love that he changes. Loyal to the rebellion. Then...well. You can pick up on my drift from there. He becomes someone else. Because of Laia. And that, dear readers, is something amazing. 

The plot...stunning. Betrayals. Surprises. Spying. Fight scenes. The Trials. It was a wild ride. I was glued to my book. I couldn't help myself. The story was so captivating. I loved the plot. It switches from Elias to Laia. And it's the same pattern. Some stories don't keep up with the pattern. This one does. And I appreciated that. You can't expect anything. Everything seems to be a surprise. You can't predict anything. The plot is a roller coaster. And you can't see the end or what happens next. And I admit without shame that I got a bit of a rush from this story. 
The action was amazing. It's was fast-paced and exciting. The fight scenes were fantastic. Oh good graciousness. They were amazing. I love that the characters were good fighters, great fighters even. They kept the fight scenes great. The scims clashed. Smack smack. Clang clang. Daggers. Dodges. Punches. Kicks. Ducks. Gosh. It was exciting. Exhilarating. 

The romance wasn't bad. I saw chemistry. Elias and Laia...they had that weird skin-tingly thing. The sloppy, romantic kiss thing. Yeah. Romance isn't something I like about books. I prefer the action. But the romance in this book...I'm not sure what to say about it. It's not bad, I'll say that for sure. The characters are cautious. And they aren't reckless. They don't just randomly kiss. It's cautious. Slow. Maybe passionate. The romance isn't bad. It's not something I would ship. But it's not bad. 
I didn't like the love rectangle. But that can slide for now. Why? The rest of the story makes up for it. But seriously? Four people? Love square? I can barely stand love triangles. This is just pushing it. Really. 

I love that it's based off of Rome. I'm a fan of Rome. The Roman Empire is fascinating. The strategy. The mythology. I love how the Roman Empire is completely in this society of Martials and Scholars. The Illustrian society. And the tough training regime. The setting is great. I can see the Roman Empire echoed in the setting. 
And that's amazing. 

The ending...a cliffhanger. Wow. I can't right out what will happen. That's terrible for me. The author made the last words echo with me.
Freedom. That's truly something to worry about. Who is free? What is freedom? 
Everything that happened in the last chapters...they were fast. They were action-y. Amazing chapters. I enjoyed reading them. 

Sunny with no clouds

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