An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Thursday, November 12, 2015

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: April 28th, 2015
Pages: 446
Song I Played While Reading: Here We Go Again by Hardwell
Rating: 3.8 stars

Laia is a slave.
Elias is a soldier.
Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not boy their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk th 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 schools most finest soldier- and secretly, it's most unwilling. Elias want sonly to be free of the tyrant he'd being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realized that their destinies are intertwined- and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

That about sums up how I feel on An Ember in the Ashes. Some parts I loved. Some parts I thought were super boring. Some parts I felt like I was reading from 1 dimensional characters. Other times I thought the were going to jump out of the page. DO YOU SEE MY CONFUSION?
The first 40% of this book, I wasn't too keen on this story. Nothing was jumping out at me and making me want to read more, except for some of the lovely people on instagram who informed me that I should, in fact, keep reading. It got better, bless you, Jesus, and I got hooked. HOOKED, I TELL YOU. Until the plot twist occurred and I thought to myself "That was it?" The ending, which is set up to reel you in for the next book (which I can't believe Tahir wasn't fully committed to writing, DAMN GIRL, TALK ABOUT A CLIFFHANGER), was so... anti-climatic? I literally don't even know. I'm split down the middle here. One part of me thinks it was awesome and dramatic and heart-wrenching and good gravy, Helene, you're killing me here, while the other half of me kind of pouted in annoyance.
This review is already annoying me cause I have an urge to just split it in half, name one side "My likes" and the other half "My dislikes" and call it a day since I'm so torn up.
I liked Laia, but wasn't overly impressed with her. I'm all for a middle-ground kind of narrator (nothing special, isn't overly heroic or overly evil, confused, blahblah) but there wasn't that one spark that made me connect to her. Sometimes she confused me because, damn, the girl didn't even cry. Like, at all. Or did she? See, I don't even remember. BUT, I had to give her kudos for sticking with the Commandant because DAMN THAT BITCH WAS CRAY AND I FEARED FOR LAIA'S LIFE.
(Also, the entire time I was reading AEITA I was calling her "Commandment". FAIL.)
Elias was a little higher on my "likes" list, since I enjoyed reading about his internal struggles and seeing his relationships with the people around him at Blackcliff. Plus, the boy was a hunk. But I still didn't feel a huge amount of love for him.
Helene was a character that I had a major like/hate relationship with. One minute I hated her guts (has she NEVER heard of girl code?), and the other minute I grudgingly could admit that she, yes, could be thoughtful and nice. But most of the time I was annoyed with her, more so than I was with the Commandant. Her blind loyalty and snobbiness infuriated me, especially over the female slaves. This was a part of the book that I couldn't comprehend. Everyone acted as if mutual consent over sex didn't exist. They threw around rape as if they were saying "having sex". It made me really uncomfortable and disgusted. I wish I could go back and tick off all the times someone says "Did he rape you?" or "I'm gonna rape you", but it would take too much effort. But know it's A LOT. And Helene's refusal to protect Laia against Marcus, when he always says he's gonna rape her and she gets furious over it, was incomprehensible. Just because she's a slave doesn't mean she deserves to be raped and killed. HELENE, THE LADIES HAVE TO STICK TOGETHER.
I really, really liked the plot and the way Tahir weaved everything together. She kept me guessing, and I have to hand it to her on that Third Trial; my god damn soul was crushed. That's the only time I cried in this book, and it was an ugly cry.
I hope Tahir talks more about the world because I'm super interested in it, especially on the politics and the diversity between the characters. Were the scholars originally middle eastern? I read somewhere that Tahir used inspiration from Kashmir. And then were the Martials where all the blondes came in? I'm always hesitant to bring up diversity in books since I feel like I don't know the correct way of wording it, but it was such a huge aspect that I couldn't help but try.
I'm VERY excited for A Torch in the Night, though I'm seriously questioning Tahir's mental state. How the hell is she supposed to wrap everything up in just one book? There's so much! Nonetheless, I have faith. I can't wait for Laia and Elias's next adventure!

"The field of battle is my temple. The sword point is my priest. The dance of death is my prayer. The killing blow is my release." 

""This life is not always what we think it will be," Cain says. "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."

"Suddenly, everyone is talking.
"Mirra and I set fire to an Empire garrison-"
"She could cut right to your soul with her eyes, the Lioness-"
"Saw her fend off a dozen axes once- not a bit of fear in her-"
I have stories of my own. She wanted to leave us. She wanted to abandon her children for the Resistance, but Father wouldn't let her. When they fought, Lis took me and Darin into the forest and sang so we wouldn't hear them. That's my first memory- Lis singing me a song while the Lioness raged a few yards away." 

"When Hand-to-Hand Centurion screams at me for poor technique, I barely hear him, instead considering what will happen to Hel and me. Is our friendship ruined? If I don't love her back, will she hate me? How am I supposed to get her on my side for the Trials if I can't give her what she wants? So many bleeding, stupid questions. Do girls think like this all the time? No wonder they're so confusing."

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