An Ember in The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (Book Review)

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Title: An Ember in The Ashes

Author: Sabaa Tahir

Published by: Razorbill

Genre: Fantasy, YA Fantasy

Pages: 446

Buy it: Amazon

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Trigger Warnings: Book contains talk about physical and emotional abuse, torture, and r*pe.


An Ember in The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir is the first installment in her four-book series. The book is a YA Fantasy set in a Martial Empire. The novel is incredibly well-written and tells the woven story of a slave girl and a Martial soldier.

Though I am a strong believer that this book needs a trigger warning – overall it was an incredible experience to read this book. I had put it to the side so many times, and my book club decided to read it for July’s book of the month. I’m so excited to share with you this thorough, yet spoiler-free An Ember in The Ashes book review.

Photo from: @thenovelthief Instagram

According to Goodreads, this is the synopsis;

“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, it’s 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.”

If you love books about unlikely allies, strong and independent characters, and family then this book is meant for you.

Footage of Laia and Izzy alone

Personal Thoughts

You know I love myself a good Fantasy series, I mean, couldn’t you tell from my A Court of Silver Flames book review where I got overly excited?

I was intrigued by this book when it was chosen as our July choice in YA/NA Book Club

When I tell you I couldn’t put the book down, I mean it. I read this book from cover to cover in just two sittings. Elias’s point of view was powerful, and Laias’ was just the same. It’s rare for me to find a book where I enjoy all the points of view equally.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo is one of the rare moments where I did, while *gags* the  Percy Jackson series was one where I very much didn’t enjoy the POV. 

Me reading anything but Percy Jackson POV’s

One of my favorite parts of this book was that both Laia and Elias, though one living in poverty and the other as a noble, were dealt the wrong hand. They both suffered in their own ways. Yet, I still believe Laia was given more than Elias especially in the terms of family.

Elias’s story was one that nearly brought me to tears, and I’m pretty butch – so it’s hard to make me cry. A combination of his family, friends, and desire for his own freedom really made me reevaluate my own situation.

This book is very character-driven, there wasn’t a lot of detail in terms of setting. This didn’t bother me as much because I was genuinely interested in the livelihood of Elias, Laia, and others throughout. 

Photo from: @thenovelthief Instagram

Although, the two main characters didn’t clash much in this book I’m sure they will in the next few books. I loved how in this book both characters aren’t automatically made for each other, the way it’s written sets up other possible love interests that enter the MC lives.

The one thing that I strongly believe needs to be brought up about this book is that it needs a trigger warning. I put a trigger warning within the first paragraph of this review but will restate it here.

This novel contains a lot of talk about abuse, torture, and r*pe. It is not for the lighthearted. I was actually taken aback by how many times instances like this was brought up between Laia and others. 

I am, however, glad Sabaa Tahir didn’t fully glance over this especially given the book took place in an Empire run by an awful blood-sucking Emperor. Truth is, realistically in this period of time and the role the characters have this type of horrible behavior occurs.

Review Breakdown

An Ember in the Ashes opened up a new door of Fantasy books I enjoy. I am no longer only interested in Fantasy books with my beloved batboys, there are more bookish boyfriends in the world I must discover. 

I’m so ecstatic to jump into A Torch Against the Night, but before that, I’m going to share with you my review breakdown for An Ember in the Ashes

Overall: 8.5/10

Characters: 9/10

Plot: 8.5/10

Writing Style: 10/10

World-Building: 6/10

Spice Levels: N/A

Overall: 8.5/10

This book made me feel a rollercoaster of strong emotions. Some of pure bewilderment, others of fury. Then there were some emotions of pure joy along with the warm and fuzzies. 

I loved the strong arc of character development between Elias and Laia but had wished to have a little more world-building. It’s quite possible that the world-building will grow more in the next installment – so I won’t panic just yet. 

As I mentioned earlier, I liked how this book had more than one love interest for the MC, it made the book more realistic in the sense that we fall for people all the time. Our true soulmate doesn’t really exist, as multiple people have the qualities we look for in a partner.

Characters: 9/10

You know I had to slap that 9/10 for characters automatically. Laia is beautiful and strong, while Elias is definitely more reserved despite his strength. 

I love how they balance one another out, but I would say in my mind Laia is definitely the boss.

Also, I loved the secondary characters in this novel like Helene, the Cook, and Izzy. The Augur definitely brought upon me a new fear I never knew existed.

Photo from: @thenovelthief Instagram

Plot: 8.5/10

I can’t help but rate the plot lower than the characters. I enjoyed the plot overall but sometimes felt as though it was a little slower than I hoped. 

The idea of Laia being a spy where Elias lived was chilling in a sense

Writing Style: 10/10

Sabaa Tahir has a way with words and just like Sarah J Mass if she wrote a children’s book, I would read the shit out of it with my kids. Tahir can write anything and I would spend however amount to immediately buy it.

Her books are incredibly descriptive and written in such a beautiful way, it’s mindblowing. It makes me enthused to read her other novels as well.

World-Building: 6/10

Unfortunately, this book was very character-driven.

The World Building was minimal with the exception of learning about the Martial Empire and those who rule it. I would have loved to see more details about the villages within the Empire that Laia and Elias escape to for freedom.

Quotes From The Book

“Fear is only your enemy if you allow it to be.”

“You are an ember in the ashes, Elias Veturius. You will spark and burn, ravage and destroy. You cannot change it. You cannot stop it.”

“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, Elias.”

Similar Books

Shadow and Bone (The Shadow and Bone trilogy) by Leigh Bardugo

The Wrath and The Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin

Photo from: @thenovelthief Instagram


How many books will be in An Ember in The Ashes series?

There are 4 books in the series!

What is the rating of this book?

It’s for young adults, however, given its more mature talk I would say this book should only be read by individuals 16+

What is the next book called?

A Torch Against the Night is the second book in the series. Get ready because once I finish that book, A Torch Against the Night book review is on the way.

I hope you enjoyed this book review!

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