Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Razor Bill an imprint of Penguin Random House
Publication Date: May 2015
Photo Credit: @stephanieleannebookish
“All the beauty of the stars means nothing when life here on earth is so ugly.”
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir is a dual perspective desert fantasy. Our first perspective is Laia, and Laia is a Scholar. Scholar are essentially slaves to the empire, although they have some agency within their lives they must live by strict rules of the Empire enforced by the Black Cliff Army or the Masks. Our second perspective is Elias, who happens to be a Mask in training, but he wants to flee the academy as soon as he graduates. And thanks to some unthinkable events, both Laia and Elias are forced to make some hearty decisions which bring them together as one and alter the course of their future for good.
I loved this book. While I know AEITA is very much a foundational book there is no lack of raw grit, emotional turmoil, and realism to the overall plot. Despite the fact that there is a magic system developing and we are seeing small fragments of that system unfolding, AEITA focuses on the intricacies of the relationships established and developing, rather than trying to info dump an entirely new and complex magical system.
Speaking of relationships there’s are a lot of love circles(?) happening within the story, though I will admit it didn’t bother me as much as the typical love triangle. Mainly due to the fact that the love aspect didn’t steal the spotlight, rather the motivations and politics were a more compelling plot point. And if anything the storyline and brutality stole my attention.
As for characters, I loved them all, good or bad, and how they interacted with one another. It says a lot when you’re dying to see what the villain of the story is going to do next. For me, a story needs to have both compelling and complex characters as well as an interesting storyline, although if there are a whole cast of well fleshed out characters I am okay with a lacking plotline, and honestly, AIETA nailed the complex characters as well as character development.
Overall this was one of the best YA fantasies I’ve read and I recommend this to all my fantasy lovers, bearing in mind this is a foundational book.
I gave An Ember in the Ashes a 4.7/5
–Steph (Woodland Public Library LTA)