An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes #1) by Sabaa Tahir

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Life is made of so many moments that mean nothing. Then one day, a single moment comes along to define every second that comes after.  


For Laia, this moment comes after her older brother Darin is kidnapped by the Empire, and her grandparents are killed.

Laia lives in a world where the Empire rules all, and those who attempt to disobey, flee, or resist are killed, no questions asked. The book opens with Laia finding a notebook that her brother kept that had a lot of drawings of weapons. This is against the rules, and is something he can get killed for. Sure enough, the Masks come and haul Darin away, and kill her grandparents in the process. This leaves Laia completely alone, as her parents have already been killed by the Empire.

Laia’s only hope of finding her brother is to ask The Resistance for help. The Resistance offers to help break her brother out of prison, only if Laia goes to Blackcliff, the central training location for new Masks and Soldiers, in order to spy on the Commandant. Basically, it’s a death sentence, but also her only hope of finding her brother.

In Blackcliff, she meets the Commandant’s son, and future Mask, Elias, who was planning to desert and run away from The Resistance. She also meets Keenan, her Resistance handler. Sparks start flying in both directions, but I’ll leave it there for now so I don’t spoil anything and you can read the rest!

Other main characters include Izzi and Cook, the friends Laia makes as a slave, Helene, Elias’ best friend who seems to have feelings for him, and Markus and Zak – twin brothers who support the Resistance. Elias, Helene, Markus, and Zak are all chosen to compete in the rare Trials, with the winner being the Emperor.

Overall, I loved the book. I will say that it starts slowly. I’d heard so many amazing things about this book from friends on Goodreads as well as Bookstagram, and for a while I was wondering what the hype was. It wasn’t bad, don’t get me wrong, it was just slow. It took about halfway through for the book to pick up. Once it did though, boy did it! It was a constant swirl of wondering who Laia can trust, and emotions during Elias’ chapters.

I really felt for Elias, because he was stuck in this horrible position where he has to fight his best friend and choose his life or hers, or worse, her life or Laia’s.

I also felt for Laia, because she was not only trying to hold on to the hope that she’d save her brother, constantly reminding herself of words her grandfather used to say “where there is life, there is hope”, but she also has to figure out who to trust. As different pieces of information come in she has to make her own decisions.

Can she trust The Resistance? Can she trust Elias? You’ll find out by the end of the book.

I’m so excited to read book two. I have so many unanswered questions and I can’t wait to find out what happens next!

Overall, a great read with a slow start! I ended up staying awake until 4am to finish the book, which speaks for itself!

Which couples are you rooting for? Elias/Laia? Elias/Helene? Laia/Keenan?

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