Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Genre: YA Fantasy


You’ll like this if you like: Rome, a Compassionate, Yet Deadly Warrior-Hero, a Relatable Protagonist, Or Realistic Characters.


Cleanliness: For starters, this book is pretty dark. It does involve some super natural creatures. All of them so far seem to be evil, except for the Augurs, who I’m not entirely sure about. There’s mentions of prostitution (the hero, being an honorable man, has never participated) and rape, but we never really see either. This is book one in the series, so I hope it remains clean. I’m going to read the next book in the series, and if I find that eventually the hero and heroine get involved in things they’re not supposed to, I’ll update it here.


Hero Type: Alpha/Virtuous Hero


Favorite Profound Quote: “There are two kinds of guilt. The kind that’s a burden and the kind that gives you purpose.”


Favorite Descriptive Quote: “ATTENTION.” Three thousand bodies swing forward, three thousand pairs of boots snap together, three thousand backs jerks as if yanked straight by a puppeteer’s hand. In the ensuing silence, you could hear a tear drop.


From Amazon

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.



Wow, I loved this book. As mentioned above, there are a lot of supernatural elements, and the story generally has a dark tone. First of all, what really hooked me was how this fantasy world was based off of Rome. I love the Roman culture, and it put an unusual spin on one of my favorite genres, since most fantasy is medieval-based. Then there are the characters. Laia is so painfully relatable. After her brother fights off soldiers, giving her an opportunity to escape, she runs. And she hates herself every moment afterwards for it. Hopefully, I’m not the only one who dreams of doing courageous things that would make someone’s heart clench, yet I also find myself being a coward when it comes to little things. Despite Laia’s weakness, she proves that she’s every bit as courageous as her brother. Then there’s Elias. Despite the brutal way he’s been raised, he’s compassionate and gentle. I love seeing the lives and worlds of these two colliding. Again, this is book one in the series, so I’m not sure if the second book is clean or not. I’ll find out and get back to you after that 😉


Buy Ember in the Ashes


What historical empires, aside from Rome, would you like to see a fantasy world based off of?


Recent Comments

  • Hannah
    September 6, 2016 - 2:04 pm · Reply

    Wow, this book looks amazing! Definitely on my list. I love Rome. I have always loved Greece and Rome, and ever since I was tiny I read Greek/Roman mythology. It’s like fantasy or fairy tales set in Greece – which is why I loved it so much. I also read lots of Norse mythology, which of course spawned many of our current fantasy tropes. Egypt and the Celts (especially Irish) had fascinating mythology as well for me. I came to love all of those cultures through the “fantasy” that was built in.

    Non-mythology cultures that I love… England: Under the Anglo-Saxons, under Norman feudalism, The Hundred Years War, The Wars of the Roses, the Tudors. I am also fascinated by ancient Japan (which does have a mythology, but I don’t know it well), up to the Shoguns. The ancient Middle Eastern nomadic culture is neat too – how did Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob live?

    Suffice it to say, I love history. Add fantasy or mythology and I can disappear for hours! 😀

    • Elizabeth Newsom
      September 9, 2016 - 2:28 pm · Reply

      Oh, it is 😉 If you read it, tell me how you like it! I adore Rome too, especially after I’ve gotten to study it through Latin. Are you still studying Latin this year?

      Hmm. Ever think you’ll write a historical?

      Lol! Same 😀

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