AN EMBER IN THE ASHES
*Warning: Minor Spoilers*
ONE WORD: YES, this book did it for me.
In a cruel world mirrored after ancient Rome, Laia watches her scholarly brother be forcibly ripped from their home and accused of treason against the “Martial Empire” (not the most creative of empire names, but it gets the point across). Laia may have the chance to save him if she can infiltrate the Empire’s prestigious military academy and gather information for the rebels. Laia succeeds and finds herself spying on the merciless Commandant, who rewards failure with bodily mutilation.
The son of this Commandant is a gifted soldier named Elias, who must compete against his top peers for a chance to inherit the Empire. Elias’s best friend is named Helene, an ambitious and cunning girl who navigates a perilous line between her desire to rise in the Empire and her love for Elias.
Elias and Helene have an intriguing story line that I found much more engrossing than Laia’s. In particular, I found Helene’s voice more powerful than Laia’s, and the moral choices she had to make were much more intriguing. However, it is Elias and Laia who fall for each other and must handle the fallout of rebelling against the great Empire.
Despite the fact that I wasn’t as drawn to Laia, I did find myself concerned about what would happen if she was discovered as a spy. The Commandant was portrayed rather one-dimensionally and seemed purely vindictive evil for evil’s sake. Elias was an adequate hero who questions the world around him, but he had some bad-ass battle scenes.
The pacing is where An Ember in the Ashes certainly succeeds! I read it from start to finish and was absorbed by what was at stake. Particularly, I was drawn to see how Helene would handle Elias’s betrayal of the Empire. So in summary, I am excited for Book II: A Torch Against the Night, and I hope Helene plays a major role! Gold mine of a character there!
Recommended for fans of: Marie Liu, Sarah Fine, Marie Rutkoski
Upcoming Book Review: Defy by Sara B. Larson