26 août 2016

REVIEW : An Ember in The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir


An Ember in The Ashes - Sabaa Tahir
Publisher : Razorbill
Release Date : April 28th 2015
Genres : YA, Fantasy
Pages : 446
Rating : ★☆

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.
  "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."

An Ember in The Ashes is categorized as a YA Fantasy but trust me : There is nothing juveline going on in this book.

Laia's life changes overnight when her brother is arrested for treason. In exchange for the Resistance's help, she has to spy on the most evil woman I've ever read, in the most dangerous place in the Empire : The military academy.

Then, we have Elias, an unwilling soldier whose only dream is to desert and finally be free.

This book made me angry. The vilains are not the type you love to hate. They are the type that pull strong emotions from you and leave you shocked and anxious. The Commandant (the woman Laia has to spy on) is ruthless and terrifying. I've read some reviews saying that Laia is just an annoying coward. In my opinion, being under the threat of beatings, torture and rape and still stay there in order to help saving her brother is an undenial proof of bravery. Nothing is too graphic, but the writing is so powerful you will feel furious and even scared sometimes.

The characters are not all black and white but I wouldn't go as far as to say I liked any of the bad guys. Yes, they have a piece of them whiter than the rest but they're still awful. The side characters have an elaborate back-story. The author made me curious but also care for some of them. It's heart-breaking to read about characters broken in so many ways. I guess, everyone would be traumatized under the sociopath Commandant's juridiction.

Elias' perspective was interesting because you see clearly how the empire enrols its soldiers. They don't see slaves as human, Scholars (the people ruled under the Martials) "deserve" what happens to them, since the Martials conquered them. It's surprising to see someone who is nice and caring, think this way.

I loved Laia and Elias' relationship. It's done subtly and slowly. The "love triangle" doesn't feel like one, I'm not even sure I should call it this way. The main characters didn't have this huge choice to make. Their relationship felt so natural and right I can't imagine them with any other person.

Overall, I really liked this story and I'm looking forward to reading the next book. If you like compelling and deep action-packed fantasy that deals with heavy topics, An Ember in The Ashes is for you.

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