Published by Listening Library, Razorbill on April 28, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Length: 15 hours, 22 minutes
Narrator: Fiona Hardingham, Steve West
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*This book was provided by the Publisher for review. No compensation was provided and all opinions are strictly my own.
AN EMBER IN THE ASHES is a thought-provoking, heart-wrenching and pulse-pounding read. Set in a rich, high-fantasy world with echoes of ancient Rome, it tells the story of a slave fighting for her family and a young soldier fighting for his freedom.
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.
An Ember in the Ashes was just what I needed to restore some of my faith in the young adult genre. It was a very somber read and on the darker side of YA fantasy. I think it would be an excellent book to transition young readers over into the adult epic fantasy genre.
From opposite sides
Elias is a student at the Marshall empire Mask academy, Blackcliff where his mother is the commandant ruling over the students with a vicious tyranny. He doesn’t want to be a Mask, infact he wants nothing to do with his mother or the cruelty of the empire and has been planning his escape for quite some time.
Laia is a Scholar, her people have been conquered and enslaved for several generations now. Her whole family is killed one night by the Marshalls and her brother Daryn has been taken prisoner. Her only hope in rescuing him lies with the Scholar Rebels.
The story brings these two together and entangling their lives as Laia works as a slave at the academy and Elias competes in the Trials to possibly become Emperor. The POVs switch back and forth each chapter between the two of them. I found Elias’ POV to be so much more engrossing then Laia. He was almost everything I love in a protagonist: handsome, tortured, loyal and good natured but with just enough faults to keep him interesting. While Laia was strong and determined she was also very foolish at times and for some reason I just didn’t find her story as gripping until towards the end of the novel.
The double trifecta of love triangles
All of my reader friends know how much I hate love triangles. So imagine my horror as I’m reading and thoroughly enjoying this fabulous book when it surely comes about…yes that’s right the dreaded love triangle. But not just one but TWO overlapping love triangles. Elias seemed to care too much too quickly for Laia and that felt really forced to me. Later on in the book I got used to it but it still didn’t feel completely natural. Thankfully everything else about the book suited me so well that I was able to look past my aggravation over both main characters having the hots for two people.
World building and magic
This Roman inspired fantasy world was fascinating. I could have used even more in depth world building where it and all of the magic entities were concerned. But if there is a second book I seriously think we will be getting more background on the magical elements of this world. Some things you can expect to see: silver masks that cling like a skin, afrit, djinn, wraiths and healing magic. I have to admit I was sad how glossed over the magic and creatures were. But overall I was very taken in and just wanted more more!
Thoughts on the narration
This was one of the best narrated young adult books I’ve listened to. It might have something to do with the content as well as the two narrators Fiona Hardingham and Steve West. They were so well paired to the characters that they voiced and it’s the first time I have listened to a book narrated by either of them. You can be sure I will be looking for more! Through their narration I could really feel the sadness and despair that saturated the book which gave me so much better of a reading experience then I would have had if I read it in print.
Can I get some more right freaking now!? I wasn’t able to find the title of the next book nor a projected release date but you can bet your sweet toosh I will be watching out like a hawk for it!