Author: Sabaa Tahir
Published: April 28th 2015
Series: An Ember in the Ashes #1
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.
How I felt as I went through the book: I LOVED the first 40% (4 stars) and then it got draggy all the way till the last 100 pages. (3 stars) It was so exciting! But then I soon realised that there were only 50 pages left and there was no way that that one giant loose end was going to be tied up by the end of the book. (2 stars)
This book was marketed as this interesting standalone fantasy novel and I picked it up thinking that that was really rare and hard to pull off. I decided to read it solely based on that fact. And needless to say, I FELT CHEATED. You can't create hype based on a lie! BLEAGH. This left a bad taste in my mouth. If this was wrapped up well enough with just a tiny bit of loose ends that had the potential to be expanded into a sequel, I would have been perfectly fine with it but what annoyed me was that this was OBVIOUSLY not meant to be a standalone. There were a buttload of things left unexplained and the ending made it seem like this was a 800 book that got cut right in the middle, it was abrupt and did not address the whole "their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself" as stated in the synopsis. Nothing the characters did in this book is actually going to affect the empire.
The biggest problem for me was Laia as a character and her storyline. She did not make any progress at all towards saving her brother. I don't get it. I felt like she did not really add any value to the story other than being the damsel in distress 99% of the time. I could've skipped most of her chapters and the book would still make sense.
Elias was okay I guess. He was kind but not really swoon worthy/ memorable.
I was surprisingly okay with the love triangle/square that everyone is hating on. It played a part in the plot but it didn't overshadow it. Anyway I guess I just don't really care for the characters in general so I am not invested enough in the romance to be annoyed by it. :P This was probably an attempt at forbidden love but tbh, I don't even know why Elias finds Laia attractive, it seemed more like pity to me.
World building was poor to say the least. Everyone keeps talking about how this is set in ancient Rome but I didn't get that from the book at all. There were little to no descriptions of the buildings, the people, the surroundings. The only setting I got from it was that it was some dirty castle surrounded by a desert!? Is that what Ancient Rome was like?
The writing style is simplistic and very easy to get through but it just doesn't work for high fantasy, imo.
There was also a lot of offhand mentions of rape and some random sexist comments that were so jarring, I had to put the book down for 2 days.
"She can't turn into a girl on me now" - referring to a character's emotions
"She screams, a girlish shriek I know I should never ever mention." - may I know what a girlish shriek is?My issue with it was that the female character let it slide and she did not say anything about it, making it seem okay.
I would not have read this had I known that it was going to be a series and false marketing is just disgusting, so I am not continuing with this series.
The only reason I am not giving this less than 2 stars is that I did not think of DNF-ing it even at the boring bits so I guess Tahir did something right?
This does not live up to its hype. Even if the publishers did not falsely market the book, I would still have given this 2 stars because the synopsis was misleading, resulting in a totally different set of expectations on my end. Nothing is worse than a book that ends crappily.
I would recommend this to anyone who is curious or hasn't read the synopsis. ;)
Writing style: 2.5/5
World Building: 1.5/5
World Building: 1.5/5
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