on April 28, 2015
Series: An Ember in the Ashes #1
Narrator: Fiona Hardingham, Steve West
Length: 15 hrs and 22 mins
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.
I’m pretty ashamed of myself for not reading this book sooner. Why? WHY did I wait so long?! An Ember in the Ashes is one the most captivating books I’ve read in a very long time. The story starts off intensely and never really lets up throughout the entire book. This book is violent and sometimes painful to read, but I was unable to turn away from Laia and Elias’ stories.
There’s a lot of elements of An Ember in the Ashes that aren’t new. It’s a fantasy/dystopian world with a very oppressed group of people, the Scholars, and an all powerful evil ruler, the Martial Empire. Even with the vaguely familiar world, there were plenty of surprises. There’s magic! Magic is always a plus for me. But the most fantastic part of the story was the characters themselves.
Laia and Elias are all of us. It’s so easy to see yourself in both of these characters. Laia isn’t brave, but when everything is ripped from her she does the only thing she can, save her brother. Laia puts herself in unfathomable danger to save her brother. Her fear and determination are palpable. I really adored Laia. It was so easy to relate to her and become fully invested in her mission. I felt genuinely worried for her on many occasions. That’s the mark of fantastic writing!
Elias was just plain incredible. He hates his place in life from the very beginning of the story. He doesn’t want to be this killer that Blackcliff has made him into. He just wants out. He’s such a heroic and strong character, but he has to endure so much pain. Elias’ sadness made me want to save him. From Blackcliff, from his mother, and from himself. I loved him.
An Ember in the Ashes also has the best villain I’ve read in many years. The Commandant is pure evil. She doesn’t have even a glimmer of goodness. She was truly frightening.
I listened to this book on audio and it was hands down one of the best performances I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. Steve West and Fiona Hardingham do an extraordinary job with Elias and Laia. I think I could listen to both of them talk for the rest of my life and never grow tired of their voices. The also brought incredible emotion and depth to both characters. I really can’t recommend the audiobook enough.
An Ember in the Ashes had just about everything that I could’ve asked for. Gorgeous writing, remarkable world building, and characters that I was left thinking about long after I had stopped reading (or listening). I downloaded A Torch Against the Night when I was half way through this one, because I knew I would want to start it right away. This book will be high on my favorites of 2016 list.