Author: Sabaa Tahir
Series: An Ember in the Ashes #1
Publication: February 9th 2016 by Razorbill
Source: Finished paperback copy provided by the publisher
Genre: High fantasy, Romance
Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. 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.
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Loopholes, you guys. It is all about loopholes. I love that this story explored the loopholes or else, Laia would have been killed the moment she steps in to Blackcliff. I mean guys, Blackcliff is a school for assassins and Laia is just too weak to survive there. Without these loopholes, I really doubt she'd make it.
The Commandant is a cruel bitch (ugh, I want to put this bitch in a grinder or kill her with chainsaw haha), the cadets are trained to kill and are rapists, MC's situation is just as fucked up as their society's status and then just because of a sketch book, Darin's taken somewhere to be tortured. Laia is all alone without money or anything, she's not made for any of this and them kaboooom, she seeks the Resistance. Nope, she isn't lucky at all but she survives because of the loopholes. How can she possibly breakout his brother in prison when she couldn't even fight for herself, right? She's weak because she's made that way initially but as you go along the story, she develops not into an assassin but into someone she has to be - brave and hopeful. These loopholes in their lives make her surpass these life-threatening situations and escape these violent people and I love how she slowly realizes she can think and what Pops taught her are all useful in given dilemmas. She uses all the advantages she could get in order to see her mission through no matter if her life is at stake (both stupid and brave). I mean she has this eye to every small openings and she grabs them and most of the time, she gets what she wants. What I only disliked about her is her "confusion" to whom she likes most. I have nothing against love triangles but in An Ember in the Ashes, I just can't take that she had the guts to even glimpse at this part when she has to basically prioritize her brother. Oh and guys, this is only a 400 plus-page book but it would feel like you are not making a dent to what you are reading. The beginning was so brutally slow, kind of picked up in the middle then dragged its ass down again until the end. (But it will put you on the edge of your seat!)
Speaking of love triangles, I totally enjoyed the triangle between Hel, Elias and Laia (this is not even a spoiler because once you meet Hel, you'd know haha). I mean, it isn't every day we get to see this and thank the skies for Tahir for making this one enjoyable! I lovedddddd it to bits! And guys, I love Elias. I do, I absolutely do. Not just because he's the best in what he does or that Martial slash assassin vibe or that oozing appeal but because he's vulnerable. Ironic, right? Loving someone because of his vulnerability? I fell for him the way he's ready to just forget his training and everything he owns in exchange for freedom, that he remembers his kills and those memories are all associated with pain in his heart and that Blackcliff didn't completely destroy his soul. He's all these labels attached to him but his true weakness is his heart. I love you, Elias Venturias. I luuurve you you sexy vulnerable but kickass assassin you.
An Ember in the Ashes is the most brutal novel I've read this year. For fans of Red Rising and The Hunger Games, this haunting, dark and heart-wrecking novel is a must read! Buckle up for a wild ride!
Thank you so much Penguin Random House for the review copy!
"Life is made of so many moments that mean nothing. Then one day, a single moment comes along to define every second that comes after. Such moments are tests of courage, of strength."
"There are two kinds of guilt. The kind that's a burden and the kind that gives you purpose. Let your guilt be your fuel. Let it remind you of who you want to be. Draw a line in your mind. Never cross it again. You have a soul. It's damaged but it's there. Don't let them take it from you."