// review + discussion: an ember in the ashes by sabaa tahir

Title: An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes, #1)
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publication: 1st of January 2015 by Razorbill 
Format: Hardcover 446 pages
Genre: Fantasy

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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.


"You an ember in the ashes, Elias Veturius. You will spark and burn, ravage and destroy."

An Ember in the Ashes is Sabaa Tahir’s debut novel. I always see her book everywhere: from twitter, tumblr to goodreads so I decided to finally get it as a part of my July book haul. And I must say that I really enjoyed it. I was enticed by Tahir’s writing. Her words are vivid without making it too heavy. Just perfect for the overall tone of the novel. The world she creates is so intriguing, she doesn't hold back on the brutality (Kind of reminds me of Throne of Glass). It also shows us the reality of how women were being treated before. Like second class citizens with a constant threats of rape. And the thing is, men got away with it. Anyway, you know it's a good book when it provokes emotions in you, and Ember in the Ashes definitely did that to me. It was such a thrilling ride, turning the page to the next, wanting to know what happens next. 

"All the beauty of the stars means nothing when life here on earth is so ugly."

The main POV’s are divided between the main protagonists, Laia and Elias. Which enables to get a good grasp of their characters and be able to connect with them anymore. The pacing of the book was great and it also allows us to understand the plot really well. 

"The warmth of his body envelops me like a cocoon. I feel suddenly, deliciously breathless."

Laia is a scholar and her people is now ruled by the martial empire. she and her brother darin are orphaned at such a young age, living with their grandparents. Until a Mask raids them one night, killing off all she ever cared about and imprisoning Darin. She seeks help from the Resistance. But they refuse to help her without offering something in return, thus sending her to Blackcliff Academy as spy disguised as a slave. 

"But there are two kinds of guilt, girl: the kind that drowns you until you're useless, and the kind that fires your soul to purpose."

One thing I liked about Laia is how she isn't a strong character at the beginning like most YA heroines. And even when she was made a spy, she doesn't magically! become a good one. There's just so much fear and doubt inside her, I just want to hug her and tell her to believe in herself. But she is a really loyal person and I admire that a lot of her. She would do anything for the only family she has left, Darin. She endures all the hardships under the Commandant for him. Throughout the book, her loyalty also becomes evident in her friendships. 

"You are full, Laia. Full of life and dark and strength and spirit. You are in our dreams. You will burn for you an ember in the ashes."

Elias Veturius, the complete opposite. He's a Mask and he's finally graduating. He hates what he is and what his people are doing. He wants to desert and be free. But the mysterious Augurs convinces him not to by telling him his prophecy: that the only way he could truly be free is by staying for the Emperor Trials. 

"Fear is only an enemy if you allow it to be."

I loved him so much. He is such a precious cinnamon roll but he doesn't even need protecting because he is the best warrior in his class. The fact that he doesn't tolerate what his people are doing and is aware that it's not right is such a plus. He is such a good person. He doesn't want to kill and torture people without a reason. He feels so much and helps people because it's right. Putting aside all those good qualities we also can't ignore the fact that he is one gorgeous human being. Could he get more perfect? 

"When the fear takes over, use the only thing more powerful, more indestructible, to fight it: your spirit. Your heart."

The book has a love quadrangle but it didn't annoy me one bit... Well not yet anyway (and I do hope it stays that way) I just want Laia to end up with someone who would bring out the best in her. Although, I am rooting for Elias! I can't wait to see what's going to happen in the sequel that its title is yet to be revealed. 

Let me know if you are planning to read this book. Or if you've read it already. Thank you for reading! 


  1. Precious cinnamon roll? XD I love it. I love him too<3

    Also I agree about how great it is that Laia isn't magically a great spy, she fails and struggles and I felt all of her anxiety and pain. It was great. So glad we're getting a sequel!

    1. he is! he looks tough and all (well he is) but he's still a cinnamon roll <333 i know, at first i thought it was a standalone and i was like what ???? it can't be 😭 i can't wait to see her character develop into a stronger one in the sequel. and i hope we get more of laia and elias heh