An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir – Review

Posted August 3, 2020 by Tina in Book Review, Books / 0 Comments

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An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir – ReviewAn Ember in the Ashes
Series: An Ember in the Ashes #1
by Sabaa Tahir
Published by Penguin
on February 9, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy & Magic
Amazon / Book Depository / KABO / BookShop / BAM / Abebooks
Source: Purchased

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir is the first book in the series of An Ember in the Ashes. A young adult fantasy series with an ancient Rome inspired setting.

An Ember in the Ashes Summary

Laia our main character’s brother gets taken into the Empire’s prison during a midnight raid. Knowing she has no other choice she turns to the Scholor Resistance for help to break her brother out of prison. Her family has a history with the Resistance. Both of her parents were leaders of the resistance and then died at the hands of a traitor. They agreed to break her brother out of prison but in return, they send her on a spy mission to Blackcliff where they train the very people who are enforcing the oppression of the Scholor people “the masks.”

At Blackcliff as the Commandant’s personal slave and spy to the resistance, Laia meets Elias who was raised by the Saif Tribe despite being the Commandant’s son. Because he was raised by his adoptive tribe, Elias doesn’t agree with what Blackcliff stands for or what the academy was created to do. He had a plan in place and the supplies ready to go on the run and disappear, when he was chosen by the Augurs to compete in the trials in order to choose the next ruler of the Empire. One of the Augurs convinces Elias that he was favored to win. Elias chooses to stay and compete in the trials for his chance to become ruler of the Empire.

Elias and Laia slowly form a bond they hope could change the Empire.

An Ember in the Ashes Review


Laia honestly annoyed me. Her whole personality was that she felt she was weak and not brave like the rest of her family. Even when people told her she was brave she just complained about how weak she was. How another person in her family would have been braver and handled the situation differently and would have had a better outcome. Over and Over again.

And Over again.

Elias, I didn’t love but I was really interested in his character. I liked reading from his point of view better then Laia. I felt he was a far more in-depth character. Between doing just what he had to, to survive, and what he thought was morally right. At times he wishes he could just conform to the Blackcliff Academies’ way of thinking, and buy into what the Empire teaches to be right. But he also is disgusted at these thoughts as well. This inner conflict makes him a more interesting character to read from.

Commandant, I liked her she was my favorite character on-page. She was brutal with absolutely zero, goose egg, zip, zilch, nada, remorse. She thrives on the violence she causes. But toward the end of the book, we do find out she has her own reasons for the horrible things she has done. This does not justify her in her horribleness but it gives her a back story and made me want to learn more about her. She had more substance as a character then Laia.

Cook and Izzi. The Cook I would love to know more about. I want her back story so bad. Izzi I believe had more of a character arc then Laia. Izzi became a badass in a short time, from first meeting her to the end, considering her back story!

Book Review of An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir Image

Its told from two different points of view and it switches back and forth each chapter. Sometimes this kind of stops the momentum for me. This was a super quick and fast pace read for an over 400-page book. Very digestible. Super action-packed, there was never any downtime where something wasn’t happening.

So because we fallowed two characters kind of separately there was kind of two plots. I felt one of the plotlines happened, we got the story. The other not so much. But I’ve been told the next book in the series is better, so I ordered A Torch Against the Night.


I really liked this world’s history. I feel like this series could be set up to be great based on the little teasers I got of its history in An Ember In the Ashes. So I hope Sabaa Tahir dives into the history more in future books. But the trials were what kept me turning the pages in this book. They explored some of Elias’ deepest fears and took him to very dark places.


There were 2 love triangles that didn’t need to be there. There was only 1 romance that I felt kind of made sense, and even then, I think it would have been better as a solid loyal friendship. I will comment in the spoiler section below on who they were. I feel like the romance slowed down the plot for me.


I did enjoy An Ember in the Ashes. Laia did bother me but from her point of few, I got more of the Commandant, Cook, and Izzi which are characters I really liked seeing on-page. I love the trials and how they were told, put me on the edge of my seat and that is a little hard to do lately. I’m definitely moving onto the second book A Torch Against the Night so look for that review.

Did you read An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir? What did you think? Agree or disagree let me have it in the comments below.

Spoiler Thoughts

I don’t think there needed to be any love interest in this book. Everyone is fighting just to say breathing, keeping both eyes, and keeping all limbs. With how brutal this book is, who has time to fall in love? Trusting someone not to rat you out would be hard enough.

The only love interest that made sense to me would have been Helene and Elias. They have been together since they were 6. So it would seem natural that they could fall in love.

Posted August 3, 2020 by Tina in Book Review, Books / 0 Comments