Fantasy, Fiction, Uncategorized, Young Adult

Book Review: “An Ember in the Ashes”

Rating: 7.6 out of 10.0

Author: Sabaa Tahir

Genre: Fantasy (YA Fiction)

About: An Ember in the Ashes is a 2015 epic fantasy novel written by former Washington Post editor Sabaa Tahir and published by Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin Random House. The story is set in an ancient fantasy world where a girl fights to save her brother from imprisonment, and a soldier battles to free himself from a tyrannical regime. The book is a New York Times, USA Today, and international bestseller. (Taken from the Wikipedia page for An Ember in the Ashes).

Likes: There are many things to like about this book. For starters, Tahir has crafted an incredible fantasy world that is simple to understand but runs far deeper than originally perceived. Her characters follow this trend, as the reader thinks they understand the characters and their motives, but see that, as the book progresses, we hardly knew anything about the characters. In addition to those two things, An Ember in the Ashes has a powerful plot that includes several supporting subplots, weaving them seamlessly together into a beautiful work of art. Tahir truly displays her talent and passion for writing in this novel and conveys many powerful themes in a stunning way. She teaches loyalty, guilt, passion, love, sacrifice, and so much more. She teaches the pros and cons to these. And she teaches us to not just read this book and set it down and move on to the next one—she teaches us that books do affect life. This book more so than many others.

Dislikes: Unfortunately, there are several things to dislike in this book. From a literary standpoint, this novel is utterly brilliant. From a Christian, discerning standpoint, this book is still a good one to add to the list, but with some warning. The first thing to be warned about is the language. Some choice words (primarily ones beginning with “d”, “h”, and “p”) are used throughout the book. They are used frequently enough for this to be a concern. The second thing to be warned about is the sexual content. That sounds worse than it is, so just let me explain. Whores are the subject of many jokes made by the soldiers (who are, by the way, presented as evil and perverted). Raping is something that is mentioned (not in detail) throughout the book—primarily as a fear, not as something that actually happens. Some of these things are—to a degree—essential to the plot, while others are extraneous and could very well have been left out. From a literary standpoint, these things help immerse us in the setting and see it for the evil that it is and really help build the story. From a Christian, discerning standpoint, we should be cautious. I am not of the opinion that we should never ever read any books with any of this in it, because I think we can still appreciate a well-crafted story. However, we should tread cautiously and not let this be something that we become numbed to. The third thing, which is not a warning, but rather something that annoyed the literary side of me, is that some of the dialogue did not fit with the time setting that the author seemed to be indicating. For instance, one of the augurs tells Elias that he was chosen for a reason, to which Elias replies, “And here I just thought my name had been drawn out of a hat”. I haven’t done my research, but I don’t think drawing a name out of a hat was a thing back in the time period that Tahir was somewhat basing her setting off of. And there were other instances of this too. So overall, though my rating may not 100% align with my appreciation of the book, I think it is a fair rating. I simply had to subtract points for some of these negative elements, but I definitely do NOT think that means that you should not read it.

Summary: 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.

(Taken from the description on

Book Length: 464 pages (Razorbill edition)

Favorite Character: Izzi

Suggested Age: 14+

Also, I do not usually include this, but here is how I do the rating for fictional books…I think I will start including this so that you can see how I rate each one:

Plot- 1.7 out of 2.0
Characters- 1.8 out of 2.0
Setting- 2.0 out of 2.0
Unfavorable content/other- 0.3 out of 1.0
Themes- 0.8 out of 1.0
Dialogue- 0.2 out of 1.0
Quality of writing 0.8 out of 1.0

= 7.6 out of 10.0


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