“An Ember in the Ashes” by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes

(Author: Sabaa Tahir) + (Year: 2015) + (Goodreads)


Review:

I’m almost scared to write about this book, since due to the giant hype so much as been said about it already. I was expecting to be disappointed, to be honest. Rarely does a book that shines as bright on GoodReads not disappoint.

An Ember in the Ashes, though, was definitely not the disappointment I expected. On the contrary, it was very enjoyable! Not as enthralling as some pieces of YA fiction, but absolutely worth reading if you are a fan of the genre.

Recently I have been avoiding YA, and for a reason, but I’ll be sure to follow to rest of these books, though so far I haven’t seen actual proof there are going to be any. But the ending is open for the building of a series and I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

The story in this new dystopia is set in the Empire(much like the Roman empire, though not stated expressively, because it’s obvious that the setting is not exactly something that is part of our history). We have a society build on classes and one of the main characters belongs to the upper class, while the other one is part of the ruled class and therefore, less of a person in the eyes in the oppressors. An Ember in the Ashes, however, is not a Romeo and Juliet story. The link between the two characters is slow to develop and is not a cataclysmic love.

+ On the contrary, both have completely different issues in their lives, which is a definite plus in this book. It’s not centered on a lovestory, and instead focuses on the moral dilemma of Elias and on Laia’s struggles to be brave in order to help her brother.

+ The characters as a whole are all nicely developed and interesting. They are not shallowly written at all. Though I’m still not sure of the intentions of some of them, they were definitely not one dimensional as some writers could have made them be.

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Laia was mostly fun to read about, she was not convinced of her own strengths and couldn’t find it in herself to believe she was strong, but although she didn’t have any special powers, she managed to become quite the BAMF toward the end of the book, which I enjoyed. What was not so cool about her were her many attempts to prove to herself that she is a coward by comparing herself to her mother, the infamous Lioness. In other words: too much angst.

Elias, though, was much more interesting. His issues I could understand. Though not in the same way, and not for the same reasons, I believe all of us struggle to choose whether to be good or bad. That is a dilemma as old as the world and can always be applied to every member of society, without difference of age or even the period in which the person is born and lives in.

Two characters who I really liked reading about were Keris and Helene. Not saying I liked them that much, but both were different, harder to understand. I know that Keris is supposed to be a bad guy, but why? What made her like that? Why is she so full of spite and hatred? All of this could be the result of the fact that she was not loved by her daddy, but that seems too trivial and disappointing a reason, so I’d be glad to get more insight about her. Also, who’s Elias’s father and what did he do to her, and especially, why? As for Helene, I her some problems with her motivation as well. I get it, mostly, but there are still some things I hope are better explored later on.

+ I really loved the magical element, which exists, but doesn’t have the spotlight. I see this book as more than just a magical adventure, I think the leitmotif are human emotions and internal struggles and everything else is there to spice it up a bit, which is something marvelous for a book of any genre: not a story, driven by its plot, but one, driven by the characters’ personas. I think that’s also the reason for this book’s apparent success, instead of a soapy drama with a once-in-the-history-of-the world type of main character, we have a psychological adventure for teenagers. I say the last bit because, of course, it’s not terribly complicated and hard to understand, but gives you something different than the usual YA books.

PS. I do find The Giver’s main duo very befitting, they definitely fit the descriptions of Elias and Laia.

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