Review Blog

Jul 16 2015

An ember in the ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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HarperCollins, 2015. ISBN 9780007593279
(Age: 16+) Highly recommended. In the same vein of teenage dystopian novels that flooded bookshelves in the wake of The Hunger Games, comes another such novel, An ember in the ashes. One might be forgiven for thinking that this book is just another cheap attempt to cash in on the latest craze, but that person would be sorely mistaken, as this is a wonderful, highly engaging novel.
It tells the story of two people living very different lives in the same world; Laia, a Scholar-born girl, has lived in fear of the ruthless 'Empire' and its formidable soldiers since she was born. When her brother is taken by them, she has to enlist the help of the mysterious Resistance to get him back, but to do so she must first spy on the Commandant, the ruthless overseer of Blackcliff Academy.
Elias is in training to become a Mask - one of the Empire's most elite and dangerous soldiers - at the same Blackcliff Academy, but he is horrified with what he has had to do as a Mask-in-training and plans to escape. However, nothing goes to plan for either of them...
Sabaa Tahir has created an absolute gem of a book with An ember in the ashes - it rollicks along at a fierce, engrossing pace, yet never feels rushed; the characters are fully fleshed out and deeply intriguing; even the romantic tension between certain characters - which can often feel forced if done badly - feels realistic and captivating here. It's hard to find an authentic page-turner that also manages to be a smart read, but An ember in the ashes accomplishes it all. Apparently it became an instant New York Times bestseller upon its release in April, but that's no surprise - the book's exciting premise and broad appeal is perfect for both teenage and adult audiences. Thankfully, there is a sequel in the works, which will be released next year, but for now, I can't recommend this first instalment enough.
I highly recommend this novel.
Rebecca Adams

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