ARC Review ~ An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Genre: YA High Fantasy
Page Length:  443 Pages
Publication Date: April 28th, 2015
Publisher: Razorbill
Source: ARC via publisher (thanks Razorbill!)
Set in a terrifyingly brutal Rome-like world, An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy debut about an orphan fighting for her family and a soldier fighting for his freedom. It’s a story that’s literally burning to be told.

LAIA is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.

ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.

When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.

Easily one of the most anticipated debuts of the year, Sabaa brings a hardcore roman-esque world filled with brutality and intrigue that won't fail to fascinate readers.

The Martials are war-like people who conquered the knowledge-seeking Scholars. The Martials are brutal rulers who conquer and force people into submission. They rule with an iron-tight fist and induce pain left and right. Sabaa's imagination ran rampant as she created such a detailed world and society. The Roman-esque flair was fascinating and coupled the overall feel of the book very well. There's a bit of magic at play as well.

Ember follows two protagonists in dual points of view, Laia, a Scholar, and Elias, a Martial solider. Laia's brother is accused of being a rebel and is imprisoned. Grief-stricken and having nowhere else to go, Laia seeks out the rebels and urges them to save her brother. In return for their help she must spy on the Empire for the rebels. Throughout this book we see Laia go through tremendous growth as she shifts from her timid and cowardice nature towards a bold and fiercely brave side. Elias' character was most relatable as he struggled to determine where his loyalties laid and questioned the morality of his surroundings. His conflicting feelings felt very realistic. The other characters are all extremely well written and portrayed. They each have a complex set of desires and feelings that twist and fuse and fight with others.

As the emperor's filial line is about to end, a new emperor must be chosen. Elias is selected to compete in the Trials, a set of tests that will determine who the new ruler will be. Through these trials traumatizing things happen along with a few new elements introduced. Lots of action and blood and sweat ensues.

The romance gets a bit confusing as both Elias and Laia have their own complicated relationships yet are inexplicably drawn to one another. I wouldn't call this a love triangle (or even two), yet I think I confused my ships a bit. The romance(s) had a slow burn gradual feel to it. Every touch is important, every glance filled with longing sets us readers on fire.

Sabaa's writing is fantastic. In a mere 440 pages she wrote and balanced two points of views, matched them with different voices, filled the pages with an addictive plot, and introduced a new world to readers. Ember was captivating from cover to cover. I think some people might find a slight pacing issue. There's a perfect blend of intrigue, politics, romance, and action in the novel. I really enjoyed the multiple twists this story seems to pull out of thin air. There's a cautious edge to this story throughout, we're quickly turning the pages to see if the threats will consume our characters and if these embers in the ashes will rise. The ending was intense and crazy and phenomenal.

As of right now Ember is a standalone, yet I could definitely do with another book! If you're looking for a new epic fantasy series with descriptive characters and a brutal roman-esque feel then this is the book for you.


  1. I am dying to read this book!I love the sound of a Roman like world-because I am kinda obsessed with Rome and Greek civilizations and the story sounds amazing.And your review has tempted me even more!
    Wonderful review Rach!

  2. I need more fantasy in my life and this one sounds perfect. Lovely review, Rachel! This goes to my TBR. :)

  3. I'm so happy to hear you also loved this one, Rachel! I am very impatiently waiting for my preorder to arrive so I can read it too!

  4. I really want to read this one soon :) thanks for the review, Rachel. I like the story's concept, but I'm sort of sad to see that Elias and Laia both had complicated relationships and stuff. This has always been in my TBR, by the way! Can't wait to get to it real soon :)

  5. Confusing ships are not what I'm looking for at the moment. I really liked the idea of the book and your praise for it makes me want to read it, but I had a lengthy conversation with a friend about the book and I think I'm going to wait to make sure there's a sequel. It worried me a little because when we talked to the author she mentioned that she personally had no plans for a sequel but if the opportunity rises she'll pick it up.
    Anyways, I'm glad you were able to enjoy it though! Sounds like you were very invested.
    Great review! :)

  6. I had an eARC of this, but it wouldn't download, and it's driving me crazy because I started the preview. I just need more of it, but it's on its way to me next week.

    I was a little confused by Elias' narration, so I'm hoping that I can get that down once I actually sit down and read the whole thing. I'm just hoping that the confusing relationship between him and Laia won't confuse me even more.

    Great review!

  7. I have the audiobook for this one, but the no sequel thing worries me. I really hope it gets picked up.

  8. I cannot wait for this one! I genuinely am so excited about it. It sounds amazing. I don't care that some people aren't loving it, I want it anyway! Thank you so much for this amazing review, and getting me more excited about this AWESOME book!

  9. I absolutely agree with what you wrote for "series." She has an idea for one, but we still have to wait for Razorbill to pick it up. :P

  10. AHHH. THIS SOUNDS WONDERFUL. I always like when authors write fantasy worlds that are reminiscent of / inspired by actual historical worlds (like Shadow & Bone for 19th century Russia and A Girl of Fire & Thorns for 15th century Spain), so I'm curious to see how Sabaa manages to handle that. Thanks for sharing Rachel and, as always, fabulous review! ♥

  11. Ahhhh, loving the sound of this one!! This one is on my TBR for sure.

  12. I wanted to order this one, but I hesitate buying physical copies if I might not re-read them again. I do love the sound of this one though, the hype hasn't gotten to me yet, but it will soon lol.. I did enjoy your review though, I hope the book is just as good<3 Benish | Feminist Reflections

  13. I have wanted to read this book for so long! It sound's like a great great read. It always interests me when the world is based off a real like civilization! So glad you liked it. Can't wait to read it myself. ;)


  14. You are so lucky you had an ARC of Ember! I hope I could get an ARC from great publishers, soon! I enjoy your review, btw! :) YANI @

    1. New GFC and Bloglovin' follower here! <3 cute blog

  15. I am actually INSPIRED WITH YOUR REVIEWS. You read so many books! I, meanwhile on hiatus with books but you make me want to read books. Seriously. And this book you're reviewing with its "Rome-like world", love those types, feeling the fantasy. <3 You're a high scorer for English for sure.

  16. I'm planning on listening to the audio of this next. Glad to see you enjoyed it so much! :)

  17. I'm not sure about the confusing romances, but the brutal romanesque world sounds intriguing! :D I'm glad you enjoyed it, maybe I'll give it a try sometime.

  18. This was not really my kind of book, and I do agree with you about the complicated romantic situation. But this can't be a standalone, not with that ending! That's just too mean!
    Jen at YA Romantics

  19. This better not be a standalone that ending was too open ended. And I don't get it - this book has been such a success it seems - there should definitely be demand for a second book! Ugh. As you can tell I loved it and I want more!!

    Nicole @ The Quiet Concert


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