Rating: 5 stars
With “An Ember in the Ashes,” debut author Sabaa Tahir brings readers a story with villains so totally evil it’s difficult to imagine them as human. On the other hand, her heroes are not perfect.
Laia, the female protagonist, is filled with fear but determined to do the right thing in spite of her fear. When her grandparents are murdered by the Empire and her brother is kidnapped, she is determined to rescue him. Her parents, resistance fighters, had been killed when she was younger. Her brother is the only family she has left.
The male protagonist, Elias, is one of the dreaded Masks — a trained soldier for the Empire with a silver mask. He hates the Empire and everything it stands for.
Tahir vividly describes the fantasy world of the story from the market place to the grim Blackcliff where the soldiers live and are trained from young childhood through adulthood. Hers is not a pretty world — it’s dark and dry and a difficult place to survive.
Tahir deftly combines a fantastical world with real-life-like characters. She doesn’t overwhelm the reader with too many characters, but just enough to get to really know those who are important and those who are supporting characters. The mysteries and how they are revealed are also timed perfectly.
This would be a great recommendation for those who enjoyed “Steelheart” or “Legend.” Be forewarned: it’s a difficult book to put down.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, Razorbill, for review purposes.