Look at how pretty this cover is! It shines in the sun!
This book has been so hyped for the last few months, which automatically makes me nervous. You want it to live up to all the hype, and when it doesn't, it always feels more disappointing. This book definitely lived up to all the hype for me. I loved it, and I need a sequel asap. I'm so glad it's been selling well, because that means the odds of the publisher wanting to buy another book are much greater.
From Goodreads: AN EMBER IN THE ASHES is a thought-provoking, heart-wrenching and pulse-pounding read. Set in a rich, high-fantasy world with echoes of ancient Rome, it tells the story of a slave fighting for her family and a young soldier fighting for his freedom.
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.
Sounds crazy, right? This book is not for the faint of heart. There is lots of violence and rape threats, which can make it a difficult read, but that's the entire premise of the Empire.
The characters are varied and so interesting. Laia isn't the super brave heroine that we've come to see in YA fantasy lately. She is strong in her own ways, and does what she does in order to save her brother. She grows a lot throughout the book, and doesn't let any of her hardships sway her from her mission.
The Commandant is absolutely insane, but also fascinating. I liked that we got to see a bit of her back story, because while it didn't make me sympathetic towards her, it did leave me more intrigued.
Elias is more the hero we're used to, but like everyone in the book, he has secrets. I really liked his character because he seems to be one of the only people in the Empire (the actual military part of it) with any sort of brain. He has compassion, wit, and the guts to do what's right. He stands up to his best friend(s), which is never an easy thing.
I did have a few slight issues with the love triangle, but honestly, it didn't take away from my enjoyment of the book. I'm interested to see how that plays out if there's a second book.
I'm probably not doing a great job of reviewing this, but I did really, really like it. The world building was gradual, but sufficient in that there wasn't an overload of information, but you understand the world and its ways. You hate some of the characters and the world, but you also cheer for them. I can't say enough good things about this book. I need a sequel!
Definitely pick this one up if you're in fantasy with a diverse set of characters, and a world that is equally horrible and fascinating.
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