An Ember in the Ashes
By Sabaa Tahir
Laia is a slave.
Elias is a soldier.
Neither is free.
Originally, I’m going to tell you that this book is awesome, wonderful, and blablabla…but then I figure that I started with those world in every review I’ve written. So…what am I going to do with An Ember in the Ashes? Well…how about start with a praise from Brandon Sanderson, the most talented epic author I’ve read in so many years? “With An Ember in the Ashes, Sabaa Tahir shows us light in darkness, hope in a world of despair, and the human spirit reaching for greatness in difficult times.” Now…even the best epic author told us that how good this book is…do I have to mention again? Of course not! When I started with this book, I’ve given myself two day to complete…and guess what? I did it!!! Yeah!!! The book just keeps me turning over pages and pages…although I kept telling myself “this will be the last page…” and as every book nerd knows…this is a lie.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.
It takes me a long time to decide whether to buy this book or not, since I thought it’ll be another “Hunger Game.” And I know that it is a dystopia…the protagonist is going to save the world, and he or she is extremely brave, rebellious, or with great vision of the world. However, when I read the story…BOOM! Nothing like that at all, instead, Laia, our main characters is rather…umm a cowardly? As she describe herself like that. Well…I won’t save she’s a coward or not, since most of the people’s first instinct is to protect themselves…and neither does she face such a horrible situation before. (Umm...not exactly face such thing.) I guess I’ve just get too much prejudice toward dystopia, and it seems to me that they are all alike. (For example…Divergent reminds me a lot of Hunger Game, so does Throne of Glass.) To be honest, An Ember in the Ashes also reminds me some of the scene from Hunger Game. First, Katniss and Laia both stand up in order to save their siblings. Second, the annual Hunger Game and Trials both torture the participants. But that’s all for the similar part, neither Laia nor Elias has the mind of bringing down the Empire. One only wished for saving her brother, while the other will take every way to own freedom. All right, I know there is Resistance…but that appears in many novels, not only dystopia. But against all those reason I refuse to read dystopia…An Ember in the Ashes doesn’t let me down. On the other hand, I’m amaze by the story all along. Both Laia and Elias are interesting characters, they aren’t perfect, but they attract readers in their own way, not to mention all those amazing supporting roles: Izzi, Keenan, Helene…to name a few. (And especially both Elias and Keenan make us swoon…) The only problem I got with this book is the “Rome” part, because besides the military academy part is very much alike the ancient Rome legion…I don’t really regard the Empire as Rome. As for the rest of them, I think its fine with me.
What I really like about this book is its characters and the story line. Although it’s a dystopia, the story isn’t just about war, fighting, revolution. Instead, it is about saving her beloved brother, learn to be brave, and seek out what’s truly right. Nonetheless, there are magic inside it! Well…I can’t say it’s truly magic or not, since it still remain mystery, but there are other things like prophecy, riddle, or even foretelling. I think that gives our dystopia something different from other, something different from rebellion. An even though Laia needs to work with the Resistance, her intention never change, no matter what has happened. Her determination and survival always awe me a lot. Then on the other side, Elias seems to be in a world totally different from Laia’s, he is regarded as one of the highest part in the Empire, the Mask, while she is the Empire’s most hateful state, the Scholar. But then when Laia disguise as a slave to save her brother, their lives cross. Since Elias hates the way all the mask do, he try to save Laia’s life, more than one time. But they actually attract each other after the moon festival dance…which was taken place before Elias revealed his true identity before her. But all of that doesn’t matter, really, according to the Augur, they are both an ember in the ashes. And apparently, the ashes are the Empire. And what’s best, although we can see some relationship between the characters, the book isn’t mainly about love, or like implying that love will save everything, life isn’t just about love, after all. Which is way the book attracts me so much, a good novel can’t leave romance behind, but too much will be a distraction. An Ember in the Ashes totally blinds it well…at least for now. I love the twist between Laia, Keenan, Elias, and Helene, but at the same time, their relationships aren’t love triangle, or rectangle… What happen between them comes naturally, unexpected. However, the author doesn’t really put much point on it, just mix a bit of their connection inside the book so that when we are anticipated for the characters’ fate, we can also hope for something that will happen to them. It’s like a flavor, which make the story more interesting to read. After reading this book…I find myself another big trouble…how am I going to wait until August for the second book? Ahh!!!
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