Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Released: 9 February 2016
Favorite quote: “You are full, Laia. Full of life and dark and strength and spirit. You are in our dreams. You will burn, for you are an ember in the ashes.”
This is a novel that my friend, Taylor, bought me for Christmas. She works at a bookstore and thought/knew that I’d love it. Well, she was right. Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes is one of those novels that makes me uncomfortable in the best way possible. On goodreads, I rated it 5 stars (though it’d be more like a 4.5, if we could do half stars). Slight spoilers, but nothing major.
Laia, a young girl who is forced to make tough decisions and face death straight on, is the protagonist. Usually when there are inner monologues on the page that stress the discomfort and pain of the main character, I’m turned off by how it’s done. However, Laia’s “complaints” were well written and didn’t make me want to face palm myself even once. Even though she does complain at times, I think her character is what makes it more than tolerable – appreciated. (That and the fact that the situations that she’s in are outrageously stressful.) She’s a self-proclaimed coward, and yet she does what she must to save the ones she cares about. When it counts, she’s brave. Never does she say that it’s easy. In fact, she points out constantly how easy it would be to not do what she does and instead turn away, but it’s her compassion and heart that drive her to bravery. I think that Laia, in this sense, is one of the most relatable characters that I’ve read in a while.
Elias, the golden boy/literal bastard who is the sole drop of water pushing against the waves, is the (/a?) love interest. (I’m kinda confused about where the romantic side of this series is going, even after having read the last chapter. It seems like it would clear some stuff up, but I think that even though this is set up to have the Elias/Laia love plot, it’s still going to be a love triangle?) The thing that I hate about stories like this is that there’s always the head-of-class/powerful/terrifying character archetype that seems like it comes from nowhere. Why do they think differently? Because, duh, they’re special! No. No. This is unacceptable. So! When Elias’ background actually makes complete sense in building his moral code, I instantly became a happy camper. I love his character.
Cook, Izzi, Helene, Marcus, Zak, the Commandant, and the others. I know that this is rushes, but I want to make a general statement about these characters rather than go into detail. They’re refreshing. They aren’t the two-dimensional characters who are written to serve a single purpose. Everyone fluctuates as characters as they would as people. No one is really straight-forward and sure (except maybe the Commandant) because these characters are subject to change! I love that. It’s awesome to read side characters that I root for just as much (if not more than) the main protagonists.
Setting and plot.
Should I stop saying that I love everything? Because it seems a little difficult for me to stop while writing this review.
Honestly, the plot was unpredictable and the setting has as much life as the characters. The layout descriptions create this stunning yet ravaged land that furthers the plot and the develops a specific atmosphere that envelops the reader as easily as wrapping a tired child in a blanket.
The history of the land is unique and definitely something that fascinated me right off the bat. The only negative thing that I have to say about that is that it set up for a couple major plot developments later on were too clearly foreshadowed, making some things easy to pick up on (though not anything that ruins the main twists and turns!). Also, I felt that when it did get to the explanations near the end, the whole thing felt rushed, like something that you’d read in an old cliche adventure story than what I typically expect from novels now. Other than that, it was awesome.
Definitely read this novel/series if you haven’t! It’s amazing and I think it’s appropriately written to attract both males and females. Warning: mentions of rape and physical abuse, so be cautious if you are squeamish. I don’t like reading stories with rape, but there wasn’t anything direct in An Ember of the Ashes. The physical abuse in present tense was kept to a minimum, but there were tons of references to what had been done in the past. It was a bit upsetting, but nothing that made me even consider putting the book down.