An Ember In The Ashes (An Ember In The Ashes #1) by Sabaa Tahir
Rating : 5 stars
When I read the cover synopsis for An Ember In The Ashes I have to be honest and say that I was a little cautious about this book. Set in a Romanesque setting where a group known as Martials rule over all the other people, especially stamping down on those known as the Scholars. I have never really read any novels set in this type of setting and wasn't sure how I would get on engaging with it.
From the very first chapter, this story is fast-paced and full of great characters. There is no holds barred as Laia, a young Scholar girl, has to stand by as her grandparents are butchered by a Mask, one of the Martials most fearsome kinds of warrior. Her brother is taken away to prison and she is left truly alone in the world with no one to turn to. She decides to approach the underground movement of resistance fighters where she makes a deal that will see them attempt to rescue her brother from prison in exchange for her going undercover at Blackcliff the training school for Martial soldiers and spying on its Commandant, the cruel woman in charge of the school.
Wrapped alongside Laia's story we have that of Elias, a young warrior, and son of Blackcliff's Commandant who is preparing to graduate from the school and take on a new role as one of the Masks who killed Laia's grandparents. Elia's is an amazing character as he is struggling with the regime under which he has been raised, he hates the cruelty he sees all around him and wants nothing more than to run as far as he can from his future. When he meets Laia their story's are destined to intertwine as they both fight against the brutality of the world in which they have been raised.
This book was incredible, the two lead characters were some of the most engaging I have had the joy of reading. Elias especially was amazing, the way in which we join him on his journey to try and escape the world in which he is destined to live. The internal struggles he goes through and how he is unable to share this with anyone around him as each an every person is indoctrinated by the brutality of the school that has shaped their every view. You root for him at every turn and become so invested in his story that you are left distraught when the book ends.
This book itself is full of a full range of incredible characters. There is the dark and cruel Commandant whose actions are reprehensible and wicked. The Helene the best friend of Elias who is fiercely loyal to her best friend and yet is unwilling to betray her empire even though she has fallen in love with Elias. The wonderful Kitchen Girl and the Cook whose friendship will help Laia to survive. Each and every one you care deeply about, when things get dark in the second half of this book and Sabaa Tahir starts to sacrifice characters you are distraught and it hurts.
I loved the Augur's and the concept that they have a long-term vision about the future of the world in which this book is set and they are manipulating everyone into position so the future can play out. The trials in this book which are held to find the next Emperor made it really exciting and gave this book lots of action which felt like they had really high stakes. We hope that their vision is one that will last beyond this book and into the next two in the series as the ending of this one leaves lots of questions unanswered and lots of room for things to grow in A Torch In The Night.
There have been few books that have had me so excited as this one, none that have had me shouting at the pages and cheering the characters on so much as this one. I could not put this one down. I read over 200 pages very quickly in one day. I cannot wait to read book 2, and with Book 3 due for release in early summer it is a series I will be finishing this year for sure.