My Bookshelf

Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Genre:  Fantasy

Publisher: Penguin Books

Publication Date for this Edition: 2015

Pages: 446

Rating: 9.0 / 10

“This life is not always what we think it will be,” Cain says. “You are an ember in the ashes, Elias Venturius. You will spark and burn, ravage and destroy. You cannot change it. You cannot stop it.” – Sabaa Tahir, An Ember in the Ashes


You know you have a good book in your hand when putting a bookmark between the pages is just as annoying as the 10-minute commercial breaks that plague the TV. To minimize this annoyance, I finished this book within a few days.


The reason for my high rating on this book is simple: the reader becomes attached to the characters in this story.   –   (I see an opportunity to make some new fictional friends!)

Throughout the book, the fast-pace novel is split between the perspective of two characters: Laia and Elias – each has their own struggles to face.

  • Laia: She originally lives with her grandparents and older brother; they are all known as “Scholars” who are under the control of the Martial Empire. When her older brother is taken away for treason, she makes a decision to ask the Resistance to aid her in rescuing her brother. In order to do so, they present her with only one option – to risk her life as a spy within the Empire’s military academy.
  • Elias: He is a student in the Empire’s military academy and he is also a member of a well-known family, and son of the Commandant. Although he is considered one of the best in his group, he wants nothing more than to be free of the Empire. He truly does not believe in the cruelty they condone in order to rule.

Although both of the characters come from different backgrounds, neither one of them feels free. They both want change. And, they both face obstacles that the reader can relate to:

  • For Laia, aside from the Empire, her greatest enemy is herself. She continuously questions her courage and her ability to save her brother. Her head is always at battle between comparing herself to her brave parents and believing that she is merely a coward.

Ah, and what do we know about self-doubtit kills (dreams, opportunities, hope, the list goes on…). In the story, can Laia kill her self-doubt or will it eventually end up killing her brother?

  • Elias, on the other hand, is surrounded by those who completely support the ruling methods of the Empire. Everyone around him expects him to live up to his name and swear his oath to the Empire.

And here, we see the individual fighting against the whole – to pave one’s own road or to follow the paths of others, that is the question. Can Elias give up his soul to support something he does not believe in at all? Or, should he run?

…Fate will eventually bring these two characters together (and will also answer these questions).

In addition to these two, there are a few interesting supporting characters – a heartless tyrant, a few future seers, and a couple of good friends.

In regards to the details of the world, Sabaa Tahir decides to focus more on the drama of the novel.  There is not much world building within the book, but the fast pace story line manages to keep the reader interested.


What this book offers: a story involving a fight against time, the breaking of an empire, and a few love triangles mixed in.

You will hope, agonize, and feel angered for both characters in this novel –

so be prepared.


* There is a sequel, which I will be checking out at the library. If you start this book, you will need to find out how the story ends for the two characters. Trust me.


Quote Highlights:

“There are two kinds of guilt. The kind that’s a burden and the kind that gives you purpose. Let your guilt be your fuel. Let it remind you of who you want to be. Draw a line in your mind. Never cross it again. You have a soul. It’s damaged but it’s there. Don’t let them take it from you.”


“Fear can be good, Laia. It can keep you alive. But don’t let it control you. Don’t let it sow doubts within you. When the fear takes over, use the only thing more powerful, more indestructible to fight it: your spirit. Your heart.”

“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.”

Recommendation Diagnosis:

Want some new fictional characters as friends?.. Then check this book out. You will become close to the protagonists in this novel.


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