Series Review (Books 1 and 2)
An Ember in the Ashes and A Torch Against the Night
by Sabaa Tahir
Published by: Razorbill
Big Themes: Freedom, Brutality, Power, Rebellion, Duty
Goodreads Summary (Book 1/Ember in the Ashes):
Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.
What I Loved:
Fresh feel. This is fantasy unlike other fantasy. I loved the desert setting. The diverse cast. The magic, creatures, and legends I hadn’t seen before.
Parallel Characters. Both Laia and Elias are fighting against their lack of freedom, despite the fact that their situations are very different. This parallel was fun to think about and unified the story.
The Overall Characterization. There are several characters that grow and develop in unexpected ways as their layers are revealed. Helene in Torch Against the Night is fascinating. The Commander is an intriguing and layered villain.
Plot Twists. Excellent foreshadowing, but I still didn’t see many of the plot twists coming. This is the kind of book that is fun to re-read to see how everything came together.
Fresh, unpredictable, well-written, dark but with characters who bring hope. Highly recommend!
Side note: I love the new covers so much! Sabaa Tahir was so excited that they remade the covers to feature a brown girl for Laia. I’ve purchased the new covers for my classroom library because I know some girls who will love seeing someone who looks like them on the cover of a fantasy book!