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.
SERIES: An Ember in the Ashes #1
GENRE: Fantasy, Young Adult
RATING: ★★★☆☆ / 3 middling stars.
REVIEW: I had noticed this cover a while ago and, since it is such a gorgeous and captivating cover, I added it to my TBR list. Then I sort of forgot about it, as we sometimes do, because there is always another book and another that jumps out and grabs our attention. With the publishing of the sequel to An Ember in the Ashes, however, it was pushed front and center again and I finally sat down to read it at the urging of several bookish friends... and it wasn't everything I was hoping it to be. Perhaps it was that I have been blessed recently with reading several great 5 star reads, but AEITA (fandom abbreviation) fell a little flat. Don't get me wrong, it was still entertaining, but it didn't grab me and demand my attention.
It's a world in which a horrible class-system reigns. Evil overlords and slaves and all that. Laia, our oppressed heroine of the once free and mighty Scholars, secretly know how to read (a big no-no) and suddenly finds herself alone and fighting to free her brother from prison. Here's where my first issue comes up. Laia is far too naive. I understand that she has been thrust into a very rocky situation but considering the circumstances in which she grew up and her book smarts, she is far too trusting and naive. It didn't entirely make sense to me. BUT her character does make up for this a little with a serious dose of courage and will-power. Girl is a little reckless and it makes for some entertaining reading.
On the opposite end, Elias, our resident over-lord in training, was far more interesting because, while Laia is already at the bottom and the only place her character can go is up, Elias's story had the options of being buried under blood and guilt, breaking free, or choosing a number of different wrong or right paths. The opportunity for surprise and character growth was just stronger with Elias, so those were the parts of the book that I anticipated the most. Where I was let down a bit with his story though was The Trials (don't worry I won't spoil it for anyone). There wasn't enough detail and it didn't feel elaborate enough for the magnitude of what The Trials actually are for (still not spoiling anything!).
So it all ended up just being middle of the road for me. Entertaining but not overly compelling. I still want to read the next book but I'm also not jumping right into it.