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An Ember in the Ashes

An Ember in the Ashes - Sabaa Tahir

"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."


Author: Sabaa Tahir

Series:  An Ember in the Ashes#1

Rating: An enthusiastic 5 stars

Narrated by: Fiona Hardingham, Steve West


Book Blurb: 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.

I loved this book.
Let's start with the world building. It was excellent. Not that a great deal of time was spent on it. You were thrown into Laia's and Elias' world and figuratively told to keep up. Crisp, clear explanations were given as you went, never twenty pages on a type of tree or class infrastructure. Just the way I like it. The claustrophobic, hopeless feel of living under the book's Roman-like empire was palpable. So well done.
The pacing is quick so the book never lags. The story wasn't predictable. Just when I thought I had a handle on the story, something would derail my suspicions.  The plot was twisty but never lost me. There were threads left hanging at the end to lead you into the sequel that is out next year.
The characters are portrayed well.  Some are obviously not what they seem and hiding things -important, story-changing things. Rarely do you fully trust anyone. The book alternates chapters from Laia's and Elias' point of view.  I enjoyed seeing different events through each character's eyes. This book does contain not one but TWO love triangles- something I never thought I would tolerate.  Fortunately, it worked. Ms.Tahir can write a good love story,  so it never came off as too much or too awkward. It's handled well.
Two things put this book in the 5 star category for me:
1. Sabaa Tahir's writing style is beautiful. I loved it. The ability to take dry actions and make them almost poetic is a gift. I would read another book by her easy.

2. The narration. I realized about half way through that the narration is available through Scribd. I'm so glad I did. The narration is excellent. Fiona Hardingham does a great job at conveying emotion through her voice. And Steve West? That man could read me the phone book -  if he would be so kind.
I will definitely be continuing with the series.
Unfortunately the next book is a year away... sigh.