Books by Muslim Authors, Diverse Books, Muslim Shelf Space, YA Books

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir – Book Review

I read this book for the first time a couple years ago and completely fell in love and I wanted to reread the first two so I could finally read Reaper! This book is just as amazing when I read it for the second time!


Rating: 5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:

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.

I reread this book as an audiobook and I absolutely loved it! I loved that we had two narrators and they were perfect as Laia and Elias! I highly recommend the audiobook if you enjoy listening to them.

When I started my reread I forgot just how brutal and violent this world is. Laia and Elias have grown up in a merciless world and it has made them who they are. Laia has learned that she needs to be invisible and Elias has learned that emotions are a weakness. Part of their journey throughout the story was to unlearn these and to accept themselves fully. Another thing I loved was that Laia was brown, it means so much to me that I see characters that look like me and I know that it will be just as amazing for so many others out there.

The world building is incredible, it’s as if you can truly see the places that are in this world. Yet it does not take away from the plot, right from the beginning we are thrown right into the action and see how much Laia’s people suffer at the hands of the Martial Empire. How they destroyed libraries and education institutes and in doing so destroyed their ability to develop and progress and essentially enslaved Laia’s people.

We also see from Elias’ point of view that despite him being one of the elite he hates having to train to be a soldier. He has the unique perspective of having lived with the tribes as a child and wants nothing more than to escape this life he has been forced into.

“Shadows will bloom in your heart, and you will become everything you hate.”

One thing I found so interesting that Sabaa had included was that Elias’ name had been changed to suit his grandfather when he was brought to Blackcliff. His name was Ilyas but it was changed to Elias. I loved how Sabaa hasn’t shied away from writing these things into her story. The parallels I see of how the colonialization of half the world essentially eradicating their culture and heritage and telling them that the west was superior. It included things like changing names which we still see today, where people won’t even attempt to pronounce non-english sounding names correctly. Honestly I see so many parallels with real history and real life and I really love how Sabaa has included it into her story because being Muslim and Asian our people have experienced that.

The character development of both Laia and Elias is so great. But especially Laia, she goes through so much in this book and I loved how real she felt. She isn’t instantly brave and able to face whatever happens without issue. She is afraid, she doubts herself and she may be hesitant to act because of the fear yet she perseveres. She is courageous not because she is fearless but because she still does what she needs to do despite being afraid.

“As long as there is life there is hope”

I also loved seeing Laia and Elias interact with each other. They are instantly attracted to each other but their friendship and relationship develops slowly and hesitantly because of who they are to each other. I really loved seeing them slowly learn more about each other and unlearn stereotypes and misconceptions about each other.

One character that I absolutely detest is the Commandant, she is Elias’ mother yet there is not a drop of compassion or empathy or any feeling at all in her. She is absolutely awful and I hated her so much! I really need Elias to kill her just like she wanted to kill him as a baby.

The second half of the book is especially brutal and violent and no-one is safe! Honestly just fear for the lives of everyone! It will keep you on the edge of your seat, staying up late into the night reading one more chapter because you need to know what will happen next. The book ends on a cliffhanger and there are so many questions and I am really looking forward to my reread of A Torch Against the Night!

Just go read this book! You will not be disappointed

8 thoughts on “An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir – Book Review”

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