Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, The Ember Quartet #1
Gosh, this world is incredible! The detail is incredible, and the characters have so many layers to them. Not one of them is depicted as a typical 'hero' which is so refreshing. They've each got their own demons to fight and overcome, making them that much more human.
The cruelty and brutality described in this book is horrifying, but the worst part is that it isn't just a figment of the author's imagination - enslavement happened, and is even going on in the world somewhere right now. The treatment of the Scholar's by the Martial's is horrendous, and the fact that Laia was willing to submit herself to that to save her brother was admirable. The abuse she experienced at the Commandant's hand would have broken most people, but somehow she managed to keep fighting.
Speaking of the Commandant, I don't think I've ever despised a villain so much. The fact that she inflicts her cruelty so much on her own son is baffling, and I'm desperate to know the back story that led to her pregnancy and subsequent abandonment of her son. I have a feeling she's going to be a very interesting character in this series.
I think my favourite character so far has to be Helene. Whilst we didn't see much of her in this book, there were some great flashes of her throughout and I'm intrigued to see how she develops in book two. Elias also greatly interests me - he seems to have been the only person to come through Mask training with a conscience, and he sacrificed everything at the end of AEITA.
Read the summary below:
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.