An Ember in the Ashes – Ancient Rome meets Hunger Games

  • TitleAn Ember in the Ashes
  • AuthorSabaa Tahir
  • Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
  • Words to describe: Tense, dystopian-esque, fantastical
  • Publication Date:  February 2016
  • Publisher: Razorbill
  • Rating: 4/5 stars

Sabaa Tahir has a kehanni’s skill in weaving a story. An Ember in the Ashes writhes with emotion, tension, and a world so built out, scenes are vivid. I got to know the character, how they thought, what they would feel.

Ember is a rush of adrenaline. Even in the midst of death, the characters burn with life and defiance for the Martials and the Masks that want to slaughter them.

“You are an ember in the ashes, Elias Venturius. You spark and burn, ravage and destroy. You cannot change it. You cannot stop it.”

Drawing from ancient Rome and the Middle East and no doubt, Holocaust history, Tahir meshes the lure of gypsies, the power of revolution, and the spark of life and humanity that flares in the the most skilled of murderers. The book also calls upon the Hunger Games-esque Trials, which is used to find the next emperor. Tahir blends everything together so well, so powerfully, that I never know what to expect next.

I can’t get over how Tahir is so skilled as a storyteller; she’s with a pen as Elias is with his scims: fearsome and powerful and exacting.

Ember is its own world, its own life, and everything is so skillfully wrought. I feel with the characters. When they make a decision, I agonize over its consequences with them. Everyone is so human in this book, except maybe the Commandant – I still don’t understand her intentions in wanting to kill her son Elias, yet failing to do so even though he lived alongside her at Blackcliff.

I read Ember a few years ago and devoured it. Then I begun A Torch Against the Night, and also loved it, but never finished it for some reason. However, I had the foresight to pre-order Reaper at the Gates and decided to return to Ember and Torch to remind myself of the story.

“You are full, Laia. Full of life and dark and strength and spirit. You are in our dreams. You will burn, for you are an ember in the ashes.”

I devoured both Ember and Torch in less than a week. I’ll be cracking open Reaper shortly. I expect even more tension, higher stakes, and more emotion.

Favorite quotes from An Ember in the Ashes:

“All the beauty of the stars means nothing when life here on earth is so ugly.”

“The field of battle is my temple. The swordpoint is my priest. The dance of death is my prayer. The killing blow is my release.”

“Just because he’s a good leader doesn’t mean he’s a good person.”

“…Too much fear and you’re paralyzed. Too little fear and you’re arrogant.”

“The best lies come from the truth.”

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