Review: Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes

Title: An Ember in the Ashesan ember in the ashes
Series: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Young Adult Fiction, Dystopian, Fantasy
Publication Date: April 28th, 2015


I got this book for Christmas. It wasn’t on my must read list, I hadn’t even heard of it.

But a couple of pages in and I was hooked.

Sabaa Tahir grew up in California’s Mojave Desert at her family’s 18-room hotel. She spent her time devouring fantasy novels and wrote An Ember in the Ashes while working at the Washington Post.

Tahir’s debut novel immerses the reader into the fantasy realm of the Martial Empire—a land based on ancient Rome and as brutal as George R. Martin’s Westeros.

Five hundred years ago the Martials, a militarist group, conquered the Scholars and created the Martial Empire. They continue to oppress the Scholars with their large military and group of elite soldiers referred to as “Masks.”

Masks are chosen at a young age and put through grueling training at Blackcliff Military Academy. Masks are identifiable by the metal masks fused to their face.

The young adult novel alternates point of view between two characters: Laia, a Scholar, and Elias, Blackcliff’s most promising student.

Laia is an orphan, living with her grandparents and brother. She lives in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets and keeps her head down, that is until her brother is taken for treason.

She offers herself to the rebellion, to be placed as a slave in Blackcliff, in exchange for the rescue of her brother.

It is at Blackcliff that she meets Elias. With his graduation from Blackcliff on the horizon he plans to run, uncomfortable with enforcing the Empire’s tyranny. Plans change and soon Elias and Laia find themselves thrust together by circumstance, and possibly fate.

Tension is present throughout the whole novel, with both Laia and Elias’ lives always on the line. Elias finds himself in a life or death competition with his fellow Masks. Laia is undercover as a slave to Blackcliff’s headmistress, the most brutal woman in the Martial Empire. It’s this tension, along with the tenderness and tentativeness of Laia and Elias’ interactions that gives the novel a page turning effect.

The book garnered a lot of buzz even before its debut, snagging a seven-figure movie rights deal with Paramount. You can buy An Ember in the Ashes on Amazon. Plus keep an eye out for the sequel  A Torch Against the Nightwith a scheduled release of August 30, 2016.

Let me know what you think of An Ember in the Ashes in the comments!


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