An Ember in the Ashes – Sabaa Tahir

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Summary:

Set in a terrifyingly brutal Rome-like world, An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy debut about an orphan fighting for her family and a soldier fighting for his freedom. It’s a story that’s literally burning to be told.

LAIA is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.

ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.

When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.

Review:

If I had to pick a word to describe this book, it would be “generic.”

I was put off when I read about the militaristic Martial empire (really, can you GET much lazier?) and the crushed Scholar empire (how does a group of scholars grow large enough to become an empire anyway?).

It didn’t get much better when tropes kicked in: the plucky young girl whose family was killed by the bad guys vowing to save the only brother she has left and the guy from the evil empire who is actually good. He is good more or less because if he wasn’t, then he couldn’t fall for our heroine, another staple of the genre. Heck, we even got a ridiculously fatal scheme to pick a new emperor that makes no sense, because why pick an emperor based on his or her skill on the battlefield when you can have the young adults kill each other off instead!

There just isn’t anything new here.

Ultimately, it’s not the worse thing that could happen: the author knows the beats that are expected of her and she tells them well. She mixes things up a bit by having the guy have two possible love interests and the romance is never at the forefront of the story, which is both appropriate and a nice departure from the norms of the genre she’s writing in.

All in all, it’s solid title that fans of the genre should enjoy and I’d recommend it over a lot of what is out there. It’s one of those titles that isn’t striving to reinvent the wheel and if you understand that going in, you can have fun with it. If you want something different though, I’d recommend that you keep looking.

Verdict: Borrow It

Available: April 28th

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