SYNOPSIS (via Goodreads):
“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.”
I was very excited to read An Ember in the Ashes from the synopsis alone. It soon became a book I couldn’t put down, staying up way too late some nights to read. Each chapter we jump between Laia and Elias’ points of view, each equally compelling. You really get a feel of the hardships on each side, and how crushing the Empire has become. There really isn’t an escape even if you are willing member of the Empire. The students at Blackcliff are punished harshly for their mistakes, even if they may seem innocent. That’s what makes this novel so compelling. Everyone is a victim, even if they may not realize.
Laia is incredibly relatable, she is terrified and unsure throughout most of the novel. She has every right to be, she watches her remaining family get slaughtered while her brother is hauled off to prison. She then is put into slavery by the Resistance as their pawn. She is desperate to live up to her family’s reputation and save her brother. Tahir’s world building is incredible. Things are placed subtlety and have importance later on, and I imagine even more important as the series continues. I’m excited to pick up the next book and see where this series goes.
Overall, I definitely recommend this book and series. It was compelling, exciting, and very easy to get sucked into.