Thursday, June 4, 2015

Review: An Ember in the Ashes

Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Series: An Ember in the Ashes
Volume: 1
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: April 28, 2015

A Quick Introduction: Laia is one of the Scholars, a people conquered by the spreading Martial Empire. When her brother is taken by the Masks, elite Martial warriors for treason, she'll do anything to get him back. Even agreeing to become a slave at Blackwood, the Martial Empire's school for Masks. Among those training to become Masks is Elias. Despite the fact that he's among the best, all he wants is freedom. As the stakes mount, and their paths intertwine, they discover that nothing about the Empire is as it seems.

Out of Ten: 7/10

Review at a Glance: A strong debut, with an interesting world and engaging characters living a story that I'm looking forward to more of.

Review: This turned out to be my favourite debut of the year so far! While it still has the feeling of a an author finding their feet, it was an enjoyable read, and I'm certainly looking forward to reading more of the story (now that the sequel is confirmed).

While this book had its moments of falling back on some old tropes, there were generally enough unique elements to breathe new life into them, and I found myself quite enjoying the story. Old tropes can be good tropes if they're made interesting. Except the rape-as-a-plot-device trope. That one is pretty much never good.

An Ember in the Ashes is told in alternating points of view, by Laia and Elias. I found that they both felt very young somehow, despite the difficulty of their respective situations. If overdone, I think this would have bothered me, but instead I found it refreshing. They're both in desperate situations, they're both idealists, and we definitely see that idealism put through some serious trails over the course of the story. They're both flawed, but despite that, they manage to not only hold my attention, but have me rooting for them.

The character relationships were hit-and-miss. Some of them were intriguing, some just fell flat for me. I'm hoping to see more of Helene (she deserves her own storyline after all she's been through, and I would like to see her and Laia interact more), and hoping that we don't see Keenan again, because he was just tedious. The Augurs are vague characters at this point, so I'm hoping for more insight into.

I wasn't really expecting magic to play into the story, but it does, and I'm hoping that there will be more explanation for what it is and how it works in the next book, as it was somewhat vague in this book. Its one of the small gaps in the worldbuilding that I would like to see filled in. Otherwise, there are few gaps, though I would like to see the worldbuilding go deeper into the world, with a little less info-dumping, which sometimes bogged down the story a little.

Overall this was a great debut, and I'm looking forward to seeing where Sabaa Tahir takes this world next.

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