{Review//Design Analysis Vlog} AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by Sabaa Tahir

B O O K   T R A I L E R:

Some book trailers are good. Others, not so hot. The trailer for AN EMBER IN THE ASHES is really intriguing. If you're a fan of fantasy and you see this, you'll be wanting to pick this book up!

O P E N I N G   L I N E:

    MY BIG BROTHER REACHES home in the dark hours before dawn, when even ghosts take their rest. He smells of steel and coal and forge. He smells of the enemy.
    He folds his scarecrow body through the window, bare feet silent on the rushes. A hot desert wind blows in after him, rustling the limp curtains. His sketchbook falls to the floor, and he nudges it under his bunk with a quick foot, as if it's a snake.
    Where have you been, Darin? In my head, I have the courage to ask the question, and Darin trusts me enough to answer. Why do you keep disappearing? Why, when Pop and Nan need you? When I need you?
     Every night for almost two years, I've wanted to ask. Every night, I've lacked the courage. I have one sibling left. I don't want him to shut me out like he has everyone else.
    But tonight's different. I know what's in his sketchbook. I know what it means.
(pg. 3, US hardcover edition)

"You are an ember in the ashes...you will spark and burn, ravage and destroy. You cannot change it. You cannot stop it."

This review has been a long time in the making. I started reading an advance copy of this last November, but had to put it down before I even finished the first chapter because I'd just finished reading ENDSINGER by Jay Kristoff and I just couldn't handle anything dark or gritty. (Small Spoiler: In chapter one, Laia's family is murdered, and after all the death and mayhem in ENDSINGER, I just COULDN'T go through any more heartache!) I finally picked up the book again a couple of weeks before it debuted and realized why everyone was buzzing about this debut novel. I decided to hold off on reviewing it until after I had a physical copy of the book so I could vlog about it because it's GORGEOUS, and then I held off a little longer so that it wasn't one review among 50 release week. Now, AN EMBER IN THE ASHES has been out for almost a month, and I can finally share my thoughts with you!

First, a word of advice: THIS IS NOT A STAND-ALONE. I repeat, THIS IS NOT A STAND-ALONE!

I'm a little amazed at how far-spread this misconception is. 

(Granted, I thought it was a stand-alone, too! If someone hadn't warned me in advance, I would have been SO MAD when I got to the end of the book!)
Originally, it WAS
But it was so open-ended and everyone on social media has been begging Tahir and Penguin for MORE. 

Yesterday, it was announced that Penguin officially greenlit a sequel, which will publish in 2016!!!

If you love books brimming with the best kind of fantasy, saturated in action and adventure and rebellion, AN EMBER IN THE ASHES is just what you've been waiting for.

The book alternates between two worlds, the world of an ordinary girl, Laia, and the world of a deadly Mask in Training, Elias. Both Laia and Elias have different perspectives in life, and under ordinary circumstances, their paths would never cross. But these aren't ordinary times. Thanks to events started by Laia's brother, her entire family is murdered and she's forced to seek refuge with rebels, who tell her that they'll only help save her brother if she puts herself in danger and spies on the Commandant of Blackcliff Academy and discovers secrets about the upcoming Trials to become the next Emperor. Elias, on the other hand, is a student at Blackcliff Academy on the brink of graduation, but considering deserting and throwing everything away. He wants nothing more than to leave behind his Mask and the horrors it requires of him. On graduation day, he is chosen as one of four Aspirants. The two are thrown together amidst a deadly power struggle as their nation is thrown even further into turmoil.

AN EMBER IN THE ASHES is unflinchingly gritty. Tahir isn't afraid to get her hands dirty or destroy her characters. Events can be brutal, and the Commandant will quickly become a villain that many readers will instantly loathe and not easily forget. The characters are so human and easy to relate to as well. Laia isn't the fiercest girl out there, and she's in way over her head. But this girl has a core of steel and will do anything for her family. She goes through more than anyone should ever be exposed to and is stronger than she knows. Elias is a seemingly strong, powerful character, ranked at the top of his graduating class. Inside, however, he's conflicted, and those roiling emotions have started to spill into his daily life. His peers begin questioning his motives, and so does he. The back-and-forth between Elias, his loyalties, and the yearnings of his heart swing back and forth in a way that's very believable, and will keep readers wondering what happens next. There are other strong characters that propel the series forward as well, notably Elias' classmate and closest friend Helene. There are even love triangles at play, which I usually don't care for, but romance isn't the core of this story, and the relationships are handled well in a way that works for the story, so I found myself not minding their inclusion (It helps that it leans more heavily one way than others), despite the lack of romance in the book. It will be interesting to see how relationships fall into play in the next book.

I really don't want to talk too much about the book itself or the world because SPOILERS. I was glad I went into this one blind, because it made the ride more thrilling. I want that same experience for you!

C O V E R   D E S I G N:

This book is so gorgeous, I did a Design Analysis Vlog:

I love how the words seem engraved/chiseled into the rock of the cover, and how it's like they're on fire. I love the small details you miss looking at a small image of the book, such as the three human silhouettes. I LOVE the surprise endpapers backing both sides of the book. I just lovelovelove so many things about this cover!

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Sabaa Tahir
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Penguin Razorbill
Received: For Review // Purchased

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.