An Ember in the Ashes
An Ember in the Ashes follows main characters Laia and Elias. Tahir weaves together aspects of an impoverished group of people known as the Scholars, of which Laia and her family are a part. Martials are the militant arm of the Emperor in power who use intimidation and violence to suppress the Scholar sect of society as well as to tamp down any spark of resistance.
Laia and her brother are living with their grandparents, when her brother is accused of treason and imprisoned.
Elias, is a Mask at Blackcliff Academy, the training ground for Martials. He secretly despises everything that the Martials stand for and do in the name of the Emperor. He plans to defect at his first opportunity and, more importantly, before his Mask can permanently join to his face, becoming a sickening constant reminder of the terrible acts he is forced to commit.
Laia: In desperation, and with nowhere else to turn, Laia agrees to spy for the Resistance in return for its help locating and freeing her brother. However, she is given the impossible task of working as a slave girl at Blackcliff Academy in the service of the Commandant, the next highest person in power to the Emperor. The stakes and risks are very high as all of the Commandant’s previous slave-girls were beaten, raped, and eventually murdered, or committed suicide.
Elias: Did I mention that Elias is also the Commandant’s son?
Ethereal beings called Augurs appear to everyone after hundreds of years in order to find a replacement for the heirless Emperor. The Augurs announce that, through a series of trials and tests, one of the Masks will become the next Emperor, one will become the Emperor’s Blood Shrike in lifetime service to the next Emperor.
A dystopian world inspired by the Roman militancy, blended with elements of fantasy and magic, involves characters with ulterior motives and jockeying for power, a couple of love-triangles. Things are not always what they seem, and readers will come to realize that we never really know what is going on behind someone’s closed door.
Why I picked it up: Marie Lu (Legend) tweeted that she missed her connecting flight because she was so engrossed with An Ember in the Ashes (Twitter, October 2, 2014, @Marie_Lu)
Why I finished it: I listened to this on audiobook and couldn’t “put the book down” until I found out what happened. I really hope there will be a sequel. I liked how Tahir shifts back and forth between Laia’s and Elias’ stories to build suspense and keep the pace at a good clip.
I’d give it to: Fans of Dystopian and Fantasy genres. If you like books such as The Testing, Girl of Fire and Thorns or The Glass Sword, definitely try An Ember in the Ashes.
I’d give it: 4 Stars
Reviewed by: Andrea Hornedo, Haggard Library