An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes, #1) blurb:
An orphan fighting for her family. A soldier searching for his freedom. A story burning to be told.
Laia is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested in the dead of night for treason and her loved ones slain, Laia must go undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from those who claim that they can save her brother from execution.
The academy’s finest soldier, Elias, is secretly its most unwilling. But before he can act on the desertion he plans in his heart, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.
When Laia and Elias’s paths collide, they will find their destinies are inescapably intertwined and their choices will rock the future of the very empire they fear.
Now THIS book is really good fantasy. In fact, depending on how good the rest of the series is, I may have to rewrite my top 10 fantasy series list (not the classic fantasy from the other week – the one from like a year ago…).
So, Ember tells the story of Laia and Elias and the very sad story of how the Martial Empire came to be ruling the Scholars. By ‘sad’ I mean, it’s sad how the Scholar’s are treated, but also, their ancestors should not have done what they did.
Let’s start with the characters. Tahir is a skilled character writer because there’s no ambiguity with how you’re supposed to feel about each of them. You love the good ones, you hate the bad ones, you’re wary of the sneaky ones, you’re frustrated by the annoying ones, you’re ambivalent about the strange ones, and you cheer for the redemption arcs. Each of the characters play their part to further the story, but they are all also fulsome characters in their own rights. There are moments where you feel pity for the evil ones, and anger at the protagonists.
The story is told in alternating chapter points of view. Every uneven chapter is Laia, and every even chapter is Elias. And while this is ridiculously frustrating to read, you only feel that way because nearly every chapter ends on a mini cliffhanger. I don’t think I once thought ‘oh, thank goodness you’re done, let’s get back to the other one’. It was more of a ‘NOOOOOOOOO!!! I can’t leave them!!!’, every single time, no matter whose chapter it was. The only other book that I can remember being that enthralled with the POV switch is Temple by Matthew Reilly, and to be honest, I was far more into the sacred text part than Race.
The plot was fast paced enough to keep the story moving – it’s pretty short for a fantasy novel (correction, I thought it was short, but my copy is 450 pages) although it is book one of four as well. But having the quiet moments, like at the festival, interspersed with the action doesn’t make it feel overly dramatic, or like a bad 80’s action movie too (*cough* Matthew Reilly *cough*). And it’s the quiet moments that also help balance plot with character build as well.
The fourth book isn’t out yet so I can’t binge read the series.
Oh yeah, and I’m not really keen on the love triangle part, but it’s not really a triangle so I feel like I can’t get mad. More like a couple in interest, and then this unrequited thing over on the side with a slight twinge every so often.
I really loved this book. It just had so many fantastic moments to it that I’m still thinking about ten days later with three books in between.
Ember is the type of book where you can speculate to your heart’s desire, which is so exciting, and one of the things that I secretly love about it, but also at the end I had more questions than answers… which was equally annoying but still exciting!! (Exciting because you want to read the next book immediately!!)
Also, that ending, totally not a cliffhanger!! So THANK YOU, Ms Tahir!!
ENDING SPOILER THOUGHTS *DO NOT CLICK UNLESS YOU HAVE READ*
As per usual, I have *THEORIES*… Feel free to skip this paragraph if you like.
So, the traitor who turned her parents in. For the whole book I thought Mazen was too obvious a choice, although, his actions speak otherwise. But I’m wavering on him. Personally, I think that it’s Cook.
Second crackpot theory, Laia’s sister Lis is still alive and is maybe also at the place her brother is (that I can’t remember the name of right now…). So, how the hell did I come up with this? Because Laia always talks about how her parents were captured with her sister, but when she’s in the Commandant’s rooms she never mentions seeing her sister on the posters. It’s also entirely possible that Lis was captured, reprogrammed and is now a mask. She WAS only 12 at the time.