An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
There is just something sexy about a guy who wants to live life in his own terms according to his principles and values. This is how I see Elias Veturius, the soldier hero of Sabaa Tahir's , thus, it was easy for me to root for him all throughout the book.
He is a guy against a system he doesn't want to be a part of and the fates has something else planned for him. He fights for his freedom and gets to runaway with the girl at the end of the book. No, it's not a happily ever after ending since his escape from the system is wrought with conflicts that range
from breaking the bonds of friendship, living with the guilt of killing his friends, and turning away from an illustrious and entitled life of a Gens/Mask. These will haunt him in book two and will definitely play a big role in his character development. For now, it is enough for me to say that I truly enjoyed Ember, the magic, the mayhem and yes, even the murders.
In this age of GoT and the Walking Dead, reading a book that has a viscous violence in it but stays centered to a hero, tormented and seeking redemption, is definitely worth several reads.
What else worked
The world building of Tahir is neither in the past nor in the future. The place is either middle Eastern or Mediterranean. Soldiers fight with spears, daggers and scrims but they wear boots and fatigues. The social strata is similar to imperial Rome, yet the existence of Augurs, mortal mages who know the patterns of time is suggestive of Greek myth. There are djinns and efrits, fey creatures and ghouls, the stories are told in the tradition of the Arabian nights all mixed, matched and meshed in a world that made me believe it does exist.
There are girls and women characters as strong as the men and the guys; villains that can put Lord Bolton to shame; and a splattering of supporting characters created to help the heroes and push the villains with their evil plans.
Ember has so many layers and pieces put together, it is a tastefully made novel crafted with so
much care. It doesn't look like a novel that was easy to write, but Tahir knew how to do it amazingly well.
What did not work
The romance is middle grade level. The characters are in their late adolescence, between 17-20 years old and yet, I feel like I am reading about an 8th grader falling in love for the first time. Eeew.
I hope this would improve in the second book since the love angle can be a stronger force to bind Elias to Laia thus, forming a tandem that is worth swooning over and cheering for as they battle the odds in the next journey. I look forward to Helene Aquilla's turn to shine. I want to know if my hunch on Keenan, the rebel Scholar is correct. Did Cook truly survive and why does she know so many secrets? Will Marcus turn out to be a super villain aided by the Nightbringer? And, I want to find out what the heck those Augurs were trying to tell Laia, Helene and Elias all along.
On to book two as there are riddles left to solve!
View all my reviews