Review #126

Title- An Ember in the Ashes

Author- Sabaa Tahir

Series- the second is “A Torch Against the Night,” the third is “A Reaper at the Gates,” the fourth is “A Sky Beyond the Storm.”

Rating– 4.8/5

Genre- YA fantasy, though the violence feels like new adult

POV- two alternating POV of the main characters, first person present tense

Trope- enemies to “we will see”

Steam level- 0/5 spice

Comps- The Gilded Ones merged with Hunger Games

Cover– There are two covers and I’m not a huge fan of either. The one with the characters on the front is a little more obvious for the genre showing the action and violence in their weapons. I might have named it with a different, more obvious title.


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. 

Character Development- Laia needed to learn that she brave like her mom. Elias needed to learn that he wasn’t a killing monster

Best part- the last 100 pages and the choices the characters have to make are epic

What I would change- I didn’t like that when I switched to the next chapter, it often rewound to two minutes ago and made me relive the scene in a different POV. This messed with the flow

First chapter- sucked me in right away. Clear descriptions and setting and motivation

Setting- clear and great throughout

Prose- above average

Character goals/motivations- Laia wants to free her brother from prison. Elias wants to be rid of the empire controlling his every move.

Theme- unsure. The theme of guilt seems to be a thing they’re both processing. The overlying message of what the author is trying to convey to the world may be more obvious in the following novels in this series.Sacrifice seems to be a big one, maybe that’s it.


Diversity- some characters had “golden skin” but otherwise unclear. I don’t recall any LGBTQ characters

Ethics/morals- rape andlots of murder

Conflict/tension/obstacles- SO MANY! This was great, especially the fantastical creatures

Ending- ready for the sequel

Pacing- fast

Thoughts while reading-
Page 134- “The Trials, it seems, have begun.”

Page 148- “7 days earlier” going back in time is kind of jolting

Page 199- not sure what to make of the Cook’s info. (Looking back after finished- I don’t think this was ever answered)

I’m halfway through the novel and halfway through the Second Trials. There’s LOTS of action in this story & I love. The short chapters also make it fast paced.

Sometimes all the different voices are confusing and I’m unsure what’s real, what’s a hallucination, what’s a possible magical power and what’s internal thoughts of the character.

Page 245- that sucks dude. Rough

Page 257- two different love triangles are forming. Lovely.

Quote- “There are two kinds of guilt. The kind that drowns you until you’re useless, and the kind that fires your soul to purpose.”

Page 304- the chapters ending in mini cliffhangers are great. But then the following chapter goes back in time a few minutes for other POV and messes with the flow.

Page 307- trigger warning

Page 323- oooh what deal did she make?

Page 337- ah! This is epic writing and is so harsh!

Page 440- satisfying ending

Published by CassieSwindon

Fiction author

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