I just finished An Ember in the Ashes, and it was SO AMAZING!!!!!!!!
This book will definitely have a sequel - you can't just write something like that and leave all the suspense hanging like that!!!
I will admit, I had a little bit of a hard time getting into the book during the first few chapters. But as soon as Laia, the female protagonist, is sent as a spy, I couldn't put the book down!
An Ember in the Ashes has two main plot-lines (Imagine this happening in a sort of ancient Rome, but set somewhere in the Sahara desert - that's how I imagined it! ^-^)
First, there is Laia, a Scholar girl (basically lowest class) who witnesses her brother being arrested for treason. She decides to find the Resistance, a, well, resistance group, so that they can help her find her brother. They agree to do so as long as she serves as a spy in the greatest military academy in the Empire, under the disguise as a servant for the academy's toughest commandant.
Then, there is Elias (Ilyaas), a Mask (high-rank, fear giving soldier) and a prodigy in the very same academy, who only dreams of getting his freedom. However, on the day of his graduation from the academy, he and three other students are chosen to fight to become the next Emperor. He gradually learns how wrong everything in the Empire actually is.
The two characters meet in a really unexpected way, and a friendship grows between them, weaving the two plot lines together like a fancy braid (that was an awful metaphor I'm sorry XD). The story, the plot(s) the characters... everything in this book was so beautifully complex, that it just made me want to read more and more! The details of the plot, the twists and turns of the story, heck, even the awful scenes of torture were just made majestically!!!
The rhythm of the story was perfect - you know you always have those books that are either way too slow, and others that just have their events whiz by and you are like 'wait that just happened?'. Yeah this book is right in the middle, making reading is super nice, and even almost cozy?! I dunno it was a weird feeling I had of coziness when reading it. Kinda like the coziness of being on a boat that's just going at a very steady rhythm with the waves.
I actually felt very emotionally attached to the characters, both Laia and Elias! They are both so different, but are willing to push through everything and anything, for the sake of family and freedom. (And they are both followed by awful back-stabbers, more on that in the spoilers ;) )
There is a love triangle (square?) in the novel, but it doesn't take up the whole story line. Actually, it builds up extremely naturally from what happens in the novel itself, and it's never really forced onto the reader. However, it is super sweet :3
All of the side characters are amazing, all of the tiny actions are perfectly timed and mean so much to the story!
One fair warning about the book though - I'd say that it's really for audiences of about 15+. Yes it is YA, but it deals with some themes that are fairly bold (i.e. killing your best friends, murder, torture etc...). These are mostly in the background, but if you are sensitive to that kind of stuff, I'd consider these things before picking it up. Again, they are barely mentioned, but still. Didn't bother me now, but it might have a few years ago. =p
The villain was awesome, too! I can't CAN'T wait for the second book to be announced, let alone published! :D
Anyway, that's all I can say without pouring out spoilers! So, if you have read the book, spoilers will be below in this magnificent color!
- Commandant is AWFUL!!! Oh my gosh she was an amazing villain, but just a bad, bad person! She abandoned her own son, and regretted not killing him herself! What is that?! O-O
- Keenan is awesome :) Didn't really like Helene though. She was a great character, just didn't like her personality :') Izzy's really great though! :D
- TRAIL THREE
ALMOSTMADE ME CRY! How cruel is that?! You have to kill your enemy, aka your BEST FRIEND to show STRENGTH?! I felt so so bad for Elias :( But he didn't kill Helene so yay c:
- TRIAL FOUR was a bit better but WAS ALSO TERRIBLE! I like how it ended, but not the fact that Marcus is the new emperor... and that they sent Elias to jail because he showed mercy in a trial about loyalty.
- That resistance leader is an awful person
- Marcus is an awful human being!
- Every time Laia got beat up I felt so bad for her :(
Anyway that's basically it! :D
Go out there, find the book, read the book!
I have this book 5/5 stars on goodreads!
This book completed my 'a book set in a different country' goal!