I almost didn’t write this review because I kept thinking that everyone read An Ember In The Ashes (by Sabaa Tahir) ages ago, and that I was the last person on Earth to join the club. But then common sense returned to me. Plus, I would like to discuss some points with people who already read it.
An Ember In The Ashes (AEITA) is a YA dystopian/fantasy novel about an oppressed population forced to live uneducated and hungry, while the Empire brutally trains the deadliest soldiers against their own will. It might sound like all the others YA dystopian novels, because that’s what it is.
And it’s awesome.
- Likable Characters. There are SO MANY dystopian novels around giving us extremely unlikable protagonists that it surprised how much I liked Laia and Elias (the two POV characters). They are smart, resourceful and have normal people feelings, for a change. Laia is sold as a slave in exchange for helping her rescuing her brother, and she acts just like a normal girl would. I liked how she was scared when she needed to be scared, since reckless protagonists are not very relatable. On the other hand, Elias is a little more clichéd, since he’s one of the deadly soldiers and he’s kinda invincible even when he’s not trying to win. But he’s also unsure about his decision and equally scared, which makes it easier to like his character.
- A bit of magic. Besides the classic dystopian kingdom, AEITA has some mysterious creatures thrown in there to make things more interesting. Some magical beings from mythology are referenced through the book and I think they really added a lot of value to this story. It is a smooth combination of a regular dystopian society with a magical twist.
- The romance. I don’t like ‘love at first sight‘. I don’t like characters that obsess with some guy/girl because they look good or smell good or whatever. That’s lazy writing, that’s unrelatable and worst of all, that won’t make ME ship the characters… and what’s the point of reading books if you can’t ship your characters?*. There’s also a bit of a love triangle in there. But at this point I just ignore love triangles.
- It’s too violent. I obviously expected violence from a dystopian/fantasy novel, but the whole plot revolves around violent soldiers, violent insurgents and extremely violent competitions that didn’t make a lot of sense. The competitions between soldiers are there to decide who is the best soldier, but all we get to see is people killing each other.. and not really in skillful ways. I think they could have made some trials that didn’t involve so much blood, but I’m not really knowledgeable in best-soldier-selections.
*That was supposed to be a joke, but I think that deep inside… I’m being serious.
- You like YA dystopian novels like The Hunger Games
- You like fantasy settings + political intrigue
- You like dark and gritty stories
- You want a book with action, trials, demons and love triangles