“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.”
Harrowing. Breath taking. Heart wrenching. Beautiful. An Ember in the Ashes is Sabaa Tahir’s debut novel about a slave, Laia and a soldier, Elias. Both of them belong to the Empire and neither of them is free.
“All the beauty of the stars means nothing when life here on earth is so ugly.”
An Ember in the Ashes is a haunting story about what it means to be free, how far people can be pushed, what it means to lose our humanity, and the power of fighting back in an brutally ugly world.
Laia begins as a meek character, very much unlike the callous female assassins we’re now used to seeing in YA, and I loved it. Throughout the book, Laia grows into such a brave character who’d rather die fighting for her loved ones than run away and see them hurt. She has one of the strongest character arcs I’ve seen in YA. Her fear is something readers will be able to connect with, and her spirit, resilience, and determination will inspire them.
Our other main character, Elias, is one of the most beautifully written and complex male characters I’ve ever encountered. Elias, from the beginning, does not support the Empire, but is forced to be a soldier and defend its corrupt and inhumane ways. Like Laia, he is not free. But, Elias constantly has to hide from the people he loves because he is a martial and expected to not only support, but to also continue and enforce the ways of the Empire. Elias’ anger, sadness, powerlessness, and then resistance was heart aching to read, and he was by far my favorite character in this book.
“The field of battle is my temple. The swordpoint is my priest. The dance of death is my prayer. The killing blow is my release.”
I don’t have enough words of praise for this masterpiece that Sabaa Tahir has created. I felt every emotion ranging from anger, sadness, hope, fear, and happiness. This world is cruel and unforgiving, our characters are so heartbreakingly real, and their story is sweeping and much bigger than any of them can imagine.
Thank you Sabaa Tahir for writing this book and for sharing these characters, their world, and their story.
“You are an ember in the ashes, Elias Veturius. You will spark and burn, ravage and destroy. You cannot change it. You cannot stop it.”