Author- Sabaa Tahir
My Rating- 5 STARS
Synopsis- 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.
From the very first chapter I was completely hooked. Laia, a brave girl who has lost all her family to an Empire that has conquered and enjoyed torturing the Scholar people, her people. Her parents were part of the Resistance who fought against the Empire with their heart and soul, only to be betrayed by those they called friends and handed over to the Empire for torture and execution. Her Nan and Pop murdered by the Empire's Elite warriors called Masks, in front of her eyes, and her brother captured and imprisoned. She is all that is left and she vows to free her brother and so she seeks help from the Resistance who send her on a mission to spy on one of the most frightening and deadliest people in the Empire.
Elias, a Mask for the Empire who is pulled in many directions by his strong views of what is morally wrong and what he is forced to do at the constant threat of punishment and death. He is one of the most skilled Masks amongst his age and has the qualities to grow better. Except that he meets Laia, who is a slave, and is drawn to her beauty and inner strength. He cares for her and of the lives he takes. He struggled to fully be the cold, merciless killer he was trained as.
It is very hard to review An Ember in the Ashes without giving too many spoilers but these two characters had me cheering for them throughout the entire book and the hardships they were set to face. There are much more powerful beings, called Augurs, who can sense thoughts, who dream and have visions of the future, who are guiding the characters along their paths whether they like it or not. Whether it breaks their minds and souls. The plot is intricate, the villians are awful and I hate them with a passion and can only hope the time will come for them to fall. The Resistance are not what they seem and magic is coming back to the world.
The only tiny thing I was not keen on in this book was the fact that the main characters couldn't decide who they had feelings for. Elias, as a young man, was often distracted by a pretty face and was sexually confused about his best friend, Helene. Laia incited something deeper in him though we have yet to see where that goes. Romance in this story is just touched upon. There is far too much going on around them for these things to hold importance....at the moment...but I am hoping this will develop in later books! because honestly I love Elias and Laia together, they are strong and understanding with each other. Laia herself has confusing moments with another man. But it seemed to me, if Elias and Laia were meant for anyone else their paths would have taken them that way and not thrown them both together so often (my opinion of course).
This book was fantastic! I loved the writing style, I love the way the plot was woven and layered and it was hard to guess what would happen next. I loved every darn second and can't wait to read the next books in the series!