I’ve been planning to write this review for weeks now, and I just didn’t seem to be able to find the right time -with the pandemic going on, and everything being so uncertain and changing around me, I haven’t been in the right head space to write. But I’m trying to get back to it, so here’s a short series review !
An ember in the ashes is a quartet of books written by author Sabaa Tahir, and the fourth installment of this series, A sky beyond the storm, is coming out on December 1st, 2020.
First book synopsis
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.
I’m not sure where to start. I’ve read all three of those books in the span of a few days, because my library holds finally came in and I was able to get all of them at roughly the same time, and… I wish I’d borrowed them in physical copies, because it would definitely have made it easier to organize my thoughts on this.
What I liked
These novels are written with alternating POVs, and while I’m not normally the biggest fan of those, I have to admit that they’re extremely well done in this case. Each new POV adds a layer of complexity and humanity to the characters, and with a story as axed on tension and suspense as this one, it’s incredibly useful.
The world-building is excellent. Politics, intrigue, war and magic all work together to create a lot of tension and suspense. The plot itself is complex, with multiple side-stories all coming together one after another, and it makes for a very entertaining read.
What I didn’t like
I was a bit confused at times in the third book, in which the characters seemed to move a lot between places without letting me understand properly where they were, and what they were doing there.
Some parts were a bit too dark for me, but it’s mostly because I’m not used to violence or cruelty in books – I don’t read horror or thrillers because of it, so it’s not a surprise that themes of torture or slavery come off as a bit too much for my taste.
I’m definitely hyped for the next installment in this series. I greatly enjoyed the first 3, and the ending promises to be as entertaining as the rest of it ! For readers who’d like to get even more of Tahir’s universe, a graphic novel is coming out this summer, and it features our two heroes, Elias and Helene, as young students at the blackwood academy !