Author: Sabaa Tahir
Series: An Ember in the Ashes series #1 (hopefully!)
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Source: Gifted to me by my #OTSPSecretSister
THIS. WAS. INCREDIBLE, WOW. I can’t say much else right now other than here is your synopsis from Amazon: LAIA is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution. ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier— and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor. When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.
1. This book is told in two first person narrations, which I usually love. This is no different.
One of the most awesome things about this book is the differing chapters. Laia is a Scholar and she is of the oppressed people in this world. Elias is a Mask – he is among the elite, the warriors, but he is very different. Laia’s chapters take a bit to get interesting, but Elias’s grab you immediately. It is so awesome to see the contrast between these two characters and their lives. I’m not going to tell you “then we find out they’re not all that different” because it’s not true. They both have a duty to perform and both (at first) lack the strength to perform those duties and stand by their convictions. They’re both flawed, just in different ways. The character development between the two main characters is insane. It was like seeing a friend grow into themselves and become who they were always supposed to be. I loved it so much.
2. Sabaa Tahir knows how to write some incredibly fierce females.
Before I explain about these females, I want you to know about the Masks. True to their names, Masks wear masks, made of kind of a liquid silver that binds to their faces. They are never supposed to take them off. The mask becomes their face. Knowing this, know that the Masks rarely have women in their ranks. I forget how long it had been previously, but then enter Helene. She is one of the best soldiers that the Masks have. She is blindly loyal to the Martials and she can fight with the best men. She is the only female in a world run by men (other than the Commandant, more on her later) and she rules. She is so awesome. Next, we have Izzi and Cook. They are slaves in the Commandant’s house. Both have grievous, hideous injuries. Cook has hideous facial deformities while Izzi had her eye snatched from her face. Does this stop them from being steadfast, strong, and loyal? No way. These women are awesome. I’ve already explained about Laia, and I think it was refreshing to see that she didn’t start out immediately brave. I loved seeing her grow into her courageousness. I didn’t think I would like her at first, but she developed into one of the most incredible women in this book. Finally, the Commandant. This woman is pure evil, for real. However, she RUNS THE SCHOOL FOR THE MASKS. She is ruthless, heartless, and an all around cruel person. She is super evil, but also so strong. I couldn’t help but feel in awe of her.
3. So. Many. Villains. We have so many villains here.
The Masks are the first enemies you meet. They are ruthless, trained killers who feel no mercy. First, you only see one, then you get to Blackcliff and see them everywhere. They are mostly all the same. Then, you have some villains who you do not expect to be villains. I won’t tell you who they are, just that they’re there. Then, you have the Commandant. She is the embodiment of evil and everything the masks believe in. You have the fey creatures, which include a few, and they may or may not be real. Again, I’m not telling. Then, you have the Augurs. But, are they villains? It’s hard to tell. I won’t tell you how to think! There is a lot in this book where you need to make up your own mind.
4. This book is heavy in the theme of fate vs. choice.
Elias knows that as a mask, he is built to be a killing machine. He shouldn’t care about anyone but the other Masks, his adopted brothers and sisters in arms. However, being raised in the desert and taken from his family’s tribe, he has a soft spot for slaves and all of the downtrodden villages of his world. Laia is a Scholar, and she is always meant to be a slave. If she’s not a slave, she is making things for the elite, but she will always be a lowly, poor Scholar. Laia turns into a brave woman when she goes after her brother. On this journey, she discovers that the Scholars (and all other enslaved tribes) deserve more than the cards they are dealt. She knows she is meant to do more with her life, and she wants to go out and take it. Refer to the point above where I refer to bad ass females. 5. Don’t read this book before bed if you’re trying to sleep. I’m not saying this because this book is scary. I am saying this because this book is SO EXCITING and it never quits. From the first chapter, I just had to keep going to figure out what was happening. The writing was fantastic, the story was exciting, and it wasn’t one to read if you had to sleep at any point in the night. I was so obsessed with this book that I even had dreams about it. Not only did I have dreams about the story, but I had dreams that I was watching myself reading it. Sleep me was extremely jealous.
OVERALL: FIVE STARS!!! This one was SO fun and full of adventure and amazing characters. I really, really loved this and I cannot wait for a hardcover of this! Just to warn you, I learned from Sabaa Tahir’s Twitter that there hasn’t been any deals for a book two, so THIS BOOK NEEDS YOUR SUPPORT!! Buy it in every way you can! This comes out on April 28th, so click the link below to preorder!