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Friday Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes

By Robert Drinkwater

Friday Book Reviews is a blog dedicated to reviewing books that I have read.

Welcome to Friday Book Reviews! Every week on Friday I will review at least one book. Basically, I will be talking about parts I liked, didn’t like, writing style and overall quality and I won’t go too in depth with spoilers. This week I will be reviewing An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir.

An Ember in the Ashes is a young adult fantasy novel that is a first novel in a quartet. The story follows Laia, who lives in a world in which her people, Scholars, are mistreated and abused by the Martial’s. The Martial’s control The Empire and one day Laia’s brother gets captured by Martial soldiers. Throughout the story we see Laia’s journey as she takes on the Martial Empire and attempts to rescue her brother. The story is told from the point of view of Laia and Elias, the the latter being a Mask, a highly trained soldier working for The Empire.

Sabaa Tahir manages to tell a compelling story from beginning to end. Within the very first page there is conflict. The novel is full of twists and turns and unpredictability. Every chapter is packed with suspense and mystery. Most of the side characters in this story show many layers. Some are sympathetic, while others are cold and calculated. As the story progressed we learn more about each character and everyone seems to have their own quirks and traits that make them stand out. One of things I enjoyed most about this novel was the lack of fluff in it. Each chapter served a purpose and moved the plot along and every side character is three dimensional and they serve a purpose in the plot.

Another thing I  enjoyed was the world building aspect of the novel. As the story progresses we learn more about the world in which these characters live in along with the different cultures. We find out more about the different regions and the people that inhabit those regions.All of this is done with immense detail making is seem more realistic. However, Tahir does it in a way in which we gradually learn more as the novel continues, it isn’t just one big info dump.

An important theme in this novel is challenging the status quo. Laia for instance is a part of a group of people that is oppressed and mistreated. There are many instances in which both Laia and Elias question the status quo and even stand up to the ones who are oppressing them. At one point in the novel someone refers to her as “An ember in the ashes” meaning that she can help her people. We see her begin that journey in this novel as she overcomes hardships and fights against oppression.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel. I thought that it was well written and provided several complex and interesting characters. The novel had a compelling plot that was full of plot twists and mystery that kept me reading.  I recommend this book to anyone who likes to read Young Adult Fantasy novels.

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