May 17, 2015

Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Publish Date: April 28th, 2015
Publisher: Razorbill
Rating: 3.5 / 5

I purchased a copy via Amazon.

Blurb:
I WILL TELL YOU THE SAME THING I TELL EVERY SLAVE.

THE RESISTANCE HAS TRIED TO PENETRATE THIS SCHOOL COUNTLESS TIMES. I HAVE DISCOVERED IT EVERY TIME.

IF YOU ARE WORKING WITH THE RESISTANCE, IF YOU CONTACT THEM, IF YOU THINK OF CONTACTING THEM, I WILL KNOW

AND I WILL DESTROY YOU.

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.



First Thoughts

I know Sabaa Tahir has said that there are no plans for a second book, but come on.. there has to be a sequel! The way it ended.. seriously? I kind of need to know what happens next. There are too many loose ends that need to be tied. Too many fates that need to be revealed. You can't just end it like this!



What I Enjoyed

The Masks. Everything about these elite soldiers intrigued me. I, for one, could not imagine learning to kill and survive from an early age. I would hate wearing that silver mask, knowing that one day, it'd bond with my face and I'd never be able to remove it again. The training is intense; I'd never survive it.

The Trials. Just when I thought the schooling and physical training that Masks endure each day was rough, the Trials to name a new Emperor began. Was the Third Trial really necessary Sabaa?! Anyone who reads An Ember in the Ashes should prepare for that particular Trial to tug on their heartstrings a good bit.


What Could Have Been Better

The love.. square? Love triangles suck most of the time, but some of the time, they can be written very well. Love squares, however, are never good. Elias loves Helene but she's one of the guys so he can't love her, right? Oh well! Slave girl Laia is looking pretty fine, so Elias will just like her instead. Let's not stop there. Laia thinks of Elias often, but there's also her red-headed friend in The Resistance. Who does she choose? Well. We don't know, because the book literally ends as the action gets good.

Everything after the 50% mark. Everything was going great prior to the halfway mark. The world-building and story-telling was on point. Then LOVE got in the way. Elias started making idiot decisions because of his feelings for Laia. Laia's love for her brother clouded her judgement when choosing who to trust. It was like the characters became stupid all of a sudden.



Tie up the loose ends. If it's true and this is a standalone, then what the heck?? This whole thing starts because Laia wants to save her brother. So does she save him or what?? Also, the whole story builds up like the Scholars have been oppressed by the Martials but some people (like Elias) want change. So is that change going to happen?? The two major plot points don't have a resolution by the end. How can I be ok with that?


TL;DR

One of my most anticipated 2015 releases ends in a bit of disappointment. Supposedly a standalone but ends with some major loose ends. World building is great. Halfway through the book, the characters become idiots. I kind of still wonder what the whole point of the story is if there's no sequel.


3.5 / 5 asterisks