An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

*I’m going to do my best to make this spoiler-free because you have to read this book. You have to.*

“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.”


Synopsis: An Ember in the Ashes follows Laia, a spy for a group of rebels, and Elias, the finest soldier at Blackcliff Military Academy, who find that their destinies are entwined. When Laia’s brother is taken, suspected of rebellious activities, she desperately seeks the rebels he may have worked with. Hoping for their help in rescuing him, she agrees to act as their spy at Blackcliff, serving its ruthless Commandant. In this society inspired by ancient Rome, there is a distinct line between people groups and Laia and Elias walk closely along it, risking themselves and those around them in order to create a better world. While Laia is spying for the rebels, Elias is trying to find a way out of his future military career, forever bound to the Empire. They both have choices to make – choices that will affect everyone close to them and even the Empire, itself.

Feelings: This book was exactly what I needed. I read it at lightning speed, staying up late to read “just one more chapter” and waking up early, anxious to read more. Those are the signs of a fantastic read. After just the first few pages, I knew I was going to really get into this book. This story has intrigue, action, powerful characters, mystery, supernatural elements, and left me desperate for more.

I can totally dig the whole Roman-influenced fantasy novel thing. Let’s make that even more of a thing. I found their society really interesting and pretty unique. While I”ve read other books with various types of caste systems, this one was still different.

Issues: I had issues with Laia at the beginning of the novel, just because I wanted her to be so much more. About halfway through, though…she found some big girl britches and was like BAM! I’m cheering loudly for her now.

(spoilers in this paragraph) Is it possible for a book to have too many mysteries? For example: Who is Elias’ father? How did his father “fail” his mother, as she said? Who is Cook? Who betrayed Laia’s parents, really? Why does Cook have some serious issues with the Lioness? WHY CAN’T ELIAS LOVE HELENE? (Ok, that’s mostly just a personal issue of mine.) What’s up with Helene’s new singing super power? How exactly did the Commandant help Marcus and poor Zak cheat? How’d she get in with Nightbringer, anyway? What exactly happened with Laia’s parents? Did they really die in the prison? Are we sure her sister is dead? SO MANY QUESTIONS.

Honestly, though…that’s about it on the issues front.

Characters: I guess this book has a love…square? Each of our POV characters have 2 possible love interests. The good thing is that they’re both good options for each, so yay for that. If this was a stand alone novel, then the love square would be a total bust and I’d be obnoxiously angry. I’d probably write the author an angry letter…or tweet. But since we know there will at least be a sequel, I’m going to be ok. There’s room for development for everyone. Another yay.

I like how Elias and Laia have a strong friendship as their base for whatever comes next. They’ve proven that they have each other’s backs and their journey is only just beginning. I would have loved to see Helene as a POV character…she’s so strong and intense…she deals with some pretty significant things. I hope there’s more from her in the next book.

Final thoughts: This is one of my favorite books I’ve read this year so far. I was totally immersed in everything that happened. I was emotionally invested, I love the characters, I’m totally digging the writing style, I kept up with the fast pace…I need more!

Pick this up if you liked:

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (society of different factions, interesting powers)

Legend by Marie Lu (similar action, writing style, rebellion-ish)

Defy by Sara B. Larson (love triangle, fiesty female warrior…I read it with the same lightning speed)


Goodreads rating: 4.28/5 rating: 4.5/5

My rating: 4.75/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn


8 thoughts on “An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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