An Ember in the Ashes
Happy Saturday Guys!
I came across An Ember in the Ashes by Sabba Tahir on Goodreads the other day and thought I’d give it a go. A couple of the reviewers I follow gave it such differing reviews, that I wanted to judge for myself.
An Ember in the Ashes takes place in a brutal society, where slaves can be disfigured, people disappear from their homes in the middle of the night and scars from whippings are hardly glanced at. And in this hellish world, live our two protagonists and narrators: Laia and Elias.
Laia is thrown into slavery when her family is killed and her brother taken. She risks everything, including her life to get him back by joining the resistance–a secret sect of scholar fighters who crave a revolution no matter the cost. In exchange for freeing her brother, Laia agrees to become a slave in the commandants household in order to spy for the resistance. But the commandant is the worst kind of slave-master and it will take everything Laia has just to stay alive.
Elias, on the other hand, is a mask–one of the empires greatest warriors. Masks are molded into cruel, emotionless creatures who do horrible acts on command, without question. But Elias is different, he hates everything about being a mask and only wishes to be free of the empire. But the empire isn’t ready to give him up.
Elias and Laia’s fates become entwined and the two must face brutality, betrayal, and darkness that should only exist in fairy tales. They long to be free of this world but freedom comes at a cost. Is it a cost they are willing to pay?
This book is not for the faint of heart. It is brutal; it shows us the very worst of society… and also the very best. But seriously, the brutality in this book is full of feels! I didn’t find myself cringing in disgust or damning the author for making me read xyz. No, I felt real emotion–the fear, the horror, the injustice and rage. This book makes you feel along with the characters and that is what makes a story great. Prepare yourselves for just utter desolation in chapter 38–I warned you!
For a first book in a series, we get all the good building blocks needed to set the stage for more. The world building was OK, I think we’ll see more of it once we move outside of this books bubble. But there are conflicting factions–the empire, the beaten down scholars, the tribesmen and mariners–and within each of these we have even more fissures and cracks. It’s a world waiting to be torn apart and Tahir is going to do it!
A few things did irk me but weren’t horrible. For example, the constant back and forth between certain characters about their emotions was about two back and forths too much. There’s conflicting emotions, we get it. And the Augers, good lord talk about all powerful… why do we even need Elias and Laia to save the day when these beings literally know all! I really hope Tahir gives them some kind of weakness in the second book; she almost humanized Cain at the end but it wasn’t quite enough.
Overall, I liked it. My initial reaction was 4 stars and I am going to stick to it. Second book comes out later this year.
That’s all for now!