An Ember In The Ashes – Review

An Ember In The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Book 1 in the An Ember In The Ashes series
Genre: YA dystopian
Pages: 464
Format: paperback, owned


An Ember In The Ashes is very popular in the YA community right now, especially with the anticipation for the sequel coming out later this year. After hearing everyone sing its praises, I was excited to finally find it at Barnes & Noble a couple weeks ago and even more so to read it. It was great, but not mind-blowing like it was made out to be.

the plot

I read the summary and instantly thought it resembled Legend by Marie Lu. Laia’s [June’s] brother Darin [Metias] was taken to prison for treason [killed] and she made it her mission to save [avenge] him. Her task brought her to cross paths with Elias [Day], who’s on the opposite end of the social ladder. See what I mean? :/ It was still unique, but the similarities were clear.

the characters

Laia was strong, dedicated, and loyal, and I admired that she remained that way for the entirety of the book. She persevered through every terrible thing pushed her way at Blackcliff — beatings, whippings, a branding, and the looming possibility of rape. That’s another thing that I really admired in her. I doubt I could’ve managed that myself. The one thing that did annoy me a little was that she made everything about her brother. I understand her dedication, but I feel like she should’ve been doing some things for herself. It may have just been me, but I feel like there wasn’t enough time to get to know Darin, and therefore no time to connect with him. Basically, I admired her love for her brother, but on a personal level I couldn’t understand it. I’ve used the word “admired” a lot.

Elias was also a very strong character, and an epic fighter, but in my opinion he felt a bit plain. He was the best warrior at Blackcliff, but secretly against the policies and violence he’s been taught. His best friend was the second best and only female warrior at Blackcliff, Helene, but he obviously wasn’t in love with her because they’ve been friends their entire lives. He saved her life a few different times and clearly cared for her, but wouldn’t admit it. He also harbored secret feelings and pity for Laia, which is a big no-no. I’m not trying to be negative, but he just felt like bits of other male leads I’ve read about put together. :/

For the sake of length, I won’t go too in depth on the rest of the characters.

  • Helene was an awesome sidekick and an epic fighter. I loved her until she started giving Elias the silent treatment and valuing her loyalty to the Empire over that of her friendship. Then I wanted to slap her. She kind of redeemed herself in the end, but not entirely.
  • The Commandant was completely sadistic. I didn’t like her even in the very beginning, and she quickly became an antagonist I love to hate, especially after what she did to Laia.
  • Cook and Izzi were awesome. They were great, supportive friends to Laia, which she desperately needed. They understood what she was doing and had her back. I respected them a lot for what they did and risked, and felt so bad for them upon learning what the Commandant put them through. I loved them and I hope to see more of them in the sequel. ❤
  • I have mixed feelings on the members of the Resistance. I really liked Keenan and Sana, and how much they wanted to help Laia. I was kind of suspicious of both of them at first, but they proved themselves. Mazen, however, didn’t. I didn’t like him at all, and I hope he gets what he deserves.
  • Marcus is a jerk. I can’t believe he got what he did, and he doesn’t deserve it at all. I like him about as much as I do the Commandant, and it makes me shudder to think of what they could do together.

the setting

This book takes place in the Martial Empire, a dystopian version of Ancient Rome. There was great detail in the world and Sabaa’s captivating writing made imagining it easy. But it wasn’t entrancing. I couldn’t get absorbed. I’m not sure why, because I loved the unique brutality of this world, but I just couldn’t. And while I don’t have extensive knowledge on Ancient Rome, this depiction seemed impressively accurate (except for the dystopian twists, of course).

the relationships

There isn’t much of a familial relationship to discuss — Laia’s is all dead or imprisoned, and Elias’ family has about as much love as a piece of rotten fruit. 😛

I loved the friendships: Laia and Izzi, Izzi and Cook, Laia and Cook, Elias and Helene, and Laia and Elias. Each was strong and unique, and wonderfully realistic. There were doubts and difficulties, but the friendships lasted regardless. They were all very enjoyable to read about. 🙂

There was also a love square in this book, and I’m not sure what I think of it. It goes a lot of different ways — Laia, Elias, and Keenan; Laia, Elias, and Helene; Laia and Elias; Laia and Keenan; or Elias and Helene. ^-^ It wasn’t a major aspect, but it was kind of overwhelming as the story progressed.

the twists

This book wasn’t predictable, but there was nothing in it that surprised me or made me go, Omg, what just happened?! either. While it was still enjoyable, I feel like it was lacking in this aspect — I always want surprises in books, no matter the genre. :/


An Ember In The Ashes was a great book and I enjoyed reading it, but it didn’t quite live up to the hype that surrounds it. The resemblance to Legend was strong, Elias was kind of plain, the love square was slightly overwhelming, and there were no surprising twists. Nonetheless, I plan on picking up the sequel, A Torch Against The Night, when it releases in August. 🙂

Giving this book a rating was difficult, but I made a decision.

my rating: 3½ out of 5 stars

Have you read this? Is it on your TBR? If you have read it, what did you think? I’d love to know! 🙂

I’m sorry for not posting for three days, guys! I don’t have any reason other than I had no ideas. (o-o)

I started We Were Liars by E. Lockhart this morning, and I’m close to halfway through it. I have mixed feeling so far. My review and/or a tag should be up tomorrow! 😉

Until next time…

post end

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