Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (UK edition)

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (UK edition)

Title: An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes 1)
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Genre: Dystopian, Fantasy, Young Adult
Publisher: Harper Voyager (11th February 2016)


When Laia’s grandparents are brutally murdered and her brother is arrested for treason by the empire, the only people she has left to turn to are the rebels.

But in exchange for their help in saving her brother, they demand that Laia spy on the ruthless Commandant of Blackcliff, the Empire’s greatest military academy. Should she fail it’s more than her brother’s freedom at risk . . . Laia’s very life is at stake.

There, she meets Elias, the academy’s finest soldier. But 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.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (3 stars)

AN EMBER IN THE ASHES is the debut novel of Sabaa Tahir, and the first book in an intriguing young adult fantasy series with lots of potential. The book is set in a traditional style fantasy world. It tells the story of Laia, a young Scholar, and Elias, who is just about to graduate as a Mask. Their paths cross after Laia loses her family and desperation sends her to the rebels, who demand that she acts as a spy on the ruthless Commandant of Blackcliff the Empire’s military academy, the place Elias is receiving his training, and it’s not long before their paths cross.

I have been curious about AN EMBER IN THE ASHES since 2015 when it was quite popular on book blogs and on booktube. When it’s sequel A TOUCH AGAINST THE NIGHT came out in September 2016 it renewed my interest in the series, especially after the chapter sample that was in the August 2016 Illumicrate. There has been so much hype about this book and this series that I was honestly curious if it would live up to my expectations. Tahir creates an interesting world, but for me it lacked something (I can’t quite put my finger on what) and whilst enjoyable it wasn’t magical.

The story is told from both Laia and Elias’s points of view in alternating chapters. This worked well to build up a bigger picture of events going on in the books, as it allowed us as readers to both get into a rebel camp and inside Blackcliff. Tahir gave both narrators compelling voices, and I found them both to be likeable characters. The secondary characters were well written, particularly Helene, and the rebels seemed interesting – although there appeared to be more going on with them than was covered in the book. In fact I think you could say that about a lot of factions in this book. AN EMBER IN THE ASHES definitely had the feeling of a first book in the series – the stage was set, and the main characters were introduced.

I’ll be honest this book did not stick with me. Although it was a good solid read whilst I was reading it, looking back as I write this review I struggle to think of anything particularly memorable about it. This is perhaps why I’m confused about all the hype it got. Don’t get me wrong; AN EMBER IN THE ASHES is a good, solid, read. The world building is interesting, and the characters are well written. Yet nothing in particular stands out. I am interested in reading the sequel, as there is definitely potential for the series. But if you’re looking for an original take on fantasy, then in my opinion this is not it. If however, you are a fan of the fantasy genre and are looking for good world building and interesting characters, then this may very well be a series for you.

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