Author: Sabaa Tahir
Series: An Ember in the Ashes #1
Date Published: 9th February 2016
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." - Goodreads
I can't even begin to tell you why it took me so long to read this book. If this book were human, it'd be royalty. I absolutely loved it. It was most definitely one of my favourite reads this year! The story was original, the characters were likeable (and those that were meant to be hated, were definitely hated!) I spotted some similarities between this book and parts of The Winner's Trilogy, but as you'll soon read, I absolutely loved that trilogy too so I was ecstatic to read a book that had a similar vibe.
I flew through this book, reading it in 4 days is literally a record for me lately. You'd be lucky if I could get through one book a month, let alone one in 4 days! Another very obvious sign that I loved this. The writing was captivating, it pulled me in and made me want to keep reading all day and all night. But obviously life got in the way... again!
Laia was such a likeable character, I was on her side the whole way, mentally encouraging her and hoping she succeeds. Although she was a little too trusting and naive, it was nice to see a main character have some very realistic flaws. I'm sure I would have done the same as she did if I were in those situations. It's easy to judge when you're snuggled in bed with tea and a book isn't it!
Both main characters were really likeable, it was easy to differentiate from their point of view, and I looked forward to both of their chapters equally, which is a surprise! I didn't really have a favourite. But I really did not take to Helene. There was something about her that bothered me, and I sort of wished she would just magically disappear from the book, so I didn't have to read about her anymore. But she was only a small character. I could definitely understand her character, and why she was the way she was, but there's just something about her that I couldn't connect to.
The concept of slave's in this world is both fascinating and painful to read about. The military academy was terrifying and the trials were shocking. Although there were some points where I just wished the trial would end, so we could back to reading about the main story, and the outcome of the trials, rather than the actual trials themselves. But that's just my personal preference!
Overall, I literally have nothing bad to say about this book, I loved it so much and I cannot wait to get my hands on A Torch Against The Night so I can continue with this series!