Published 4nd June 2015 by Harper Voyager.
Goodreads Synopsis: What if you were the spark that could ignite a revolution?
For years Laia has lived in fear. Fear of the Empire, fear of the Martials, fear of truly living at all. Born as a Scholar, she’s never had much of a choice.
For Elias it’s the opposite. He has seen too much on his path to becoming a Mask, one of the Empire’s elite soldiers. With the Masks’ help the Empire has conquered a continent and enslaved thousands, all in the name of power.
When Laia’s brother is taken she must force herself to help the Resistance, the only people who have a chance of saving him. She must spy on the Commandant, ruthless overseer of Blackcliff Academy. Blackcliff is the training ground for Masks and the very place that Elias is planning to escape. If he succeeds, he will be named deserter. If found, the punishment will be death.
But once Laia and Elias meet, they will find that their destinies are intertwined and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.
In the ashes of a broken world one person can make a difference. One voice in the dark can be heard. The price of freedom is always high and this time that price might demand everything, even life itself.
My Review: I first heard about this at the Fire Sermon event with HarperVoyager a few months ago, and instantly the story appealed to me. Over the last year I’ve been getting into contemporary more and more, which has meant I’ve been reading less fantasy. After The Fire Sermon, this seemed the perfect read to rekindle (pun 100% intended) my love for the genre. And, it was! An Ember in the Ashes exceeded my expectations by miles. It was a mesmerising début, from a very talented new writer.
The story is told in switching perspectives; Laia, a scholar, and Elias, a ‘mask’ soldier. Laia is thrown into a world of resistance against the Empire and espionage in order to save her brother, whilst Elias is a promising soldier of Blackcliff, expected to go through horrifying things to compete to be Emperor, despite how much he detests the system. The two are about to meet in the place they are both trapped, and the path they take is set to change everything.
I adored the characters. Laia was a refreshingly unique protagonist. In the beginning, she is weak, afraid and does not involve herself in anything illegal; that’s all her brother, until he’s captured. She develops a lot over the course of the plot; Sabaa Tahir has written her character so well. I didn’t really mind the vague love triangle, too!
It’s really hard to express my feelings about An Ember in the Ashes. It was just so enjoyable – I was sucked into the world of the Empire straight away; swept away with the characters on their terrifying stories. The story ended on such a huge cliffhanger, and I actually thought it was a standalone novel… Thankfully a sequel is due and I’m eagerly anticipating reading more about Laia and Elias.
Overall, I very highly recommend An Ember in the Ashes. If you’re a fan of fantasy, Sabaa Tahir’s book is the perfect next read – and, in fact, it’s the perfect book to get into the fantasy genre with. Undoubtedly one of the most stunning debut novels I have read.
I received a copy of An Ember in the Ashes from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.
I’m about halfway through, but so far, I agree with you completely!