An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir
“There are two kinds of guilt,” I say softly. “The kind that’s a burden and the kind that gives you purpose. Let your guilt be your fuel. Let it remind you of who you want to be. Draw a line in your mind. Never cross it again. You have a soul. It’s damaged, but it’s there. Don’t let them take it from you, Elias.”
Wow… this book is a thriller. I just couldn’t stop myself from reading this book- it wasthat captivating. The world that Sabaa Tahir has created is seriously intriguing. The main source of conflict in this world stems from two groups: the martials and the scholars. From this conflict, arises a long-discussed, not-so-important theme. Which one is mightier? The pen or the sword?
Since the scholars are kept under harsh laws, they live in constant fear and poverty. I could really feel the fear emanating from Laia when she gave up some important information which her brother explicitly told her not to. This is very realistic reaction, and the realistic events were one of the things I liked about this book. I also liked how we got to read about how the Blackcliff Military Academy students are subject to a cruel environment where they are forced to watch people get beaten up. The academy has raised these students to become astonishingly loyal soldiers, and that process can be seen through the yearlings’ actions and Elias’ talk about his experience as a fiver.
When I first started the book, I could already tell that this story had a lot of similarities with the Roman Empire. The names were already a significant giveaway (Aquilla sounds really Roman to me). The martial’s belief in Augurs was another similarity. I liked this aspect, as the Augurs and their part in the story was fascinating. Not much is known about what they do, because they work behind the scenes. The aura of mysteriousness that surrounds them is thought-provoking.
I also loved reading about the relationship between Helene and Elias. Their relationship is put to the test multiple times, but the relationship between them still remains strong. Even though it may seem that certain events in the book have broken their bond, the bond still perseveres. Even after the ending, I’m sure that there is still some sort of bond between them. It’s definitely not the friendship bond they had at the beginning though. The relationship between Elias’ grandfather and himself was also quite nice. It was not the lovey-dovey relationship. The grandfather was strict with Elias, but Elias understands why and he accepts this. He still loves his grandfather in his own way and that is one of the things I love about Elias.
Elias is one of my favourite characters because of his character progression throughout the book. At the start, he has a serious emotional conflict. At the end, this conflict is resolved, and he chooses the just side (and I rooted for him). The fact that I got to see this character change is another thing I love about Sabaa Tahir’s book.
On the other hand, there were some things I didn’t like so much. There was almost a love triangle between Elias, Laia, and Keenan. There might be one in the next book, but thank god there wasn’t one in this one. Keenan is the stereotypical guy who is good looking, who ignores the girl until he realizes something about her that makes him pay attention to her. I also feel like a love triangle like this could potentially drag on. I am normally okay with love triangles, but I don’t think it would fit in with the solemn atmosphere of this book.
I also wish that the author elaborated more on the mythical creatures. The reason why this book is classified as fantasy is because of the appearance of the supernatural. This book makes it seem as though these creatures are not an essential part of the storyline. But the creatures are an important part of the plot, which is why I wish for more elaboration.
This book was fantastic and I think that it does deserve the hype… By the way, this quote is really cool:
“You will burn, for you are an ember in the ashes.”