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An Ember in the Ashes Paperback – February 9, 2016 by Sabaa Tahir (Author)

***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. ***I wasnt going to read this book. Id seen some varied reviews from friends and thought that it probably was going to have some of those YA trope in it that havent been working for me lately. But then I saw that Steve West was the narrator and I have a huge crush on that mans voice so I broke down and gave it a try. The Good- There is the obvious benefit of Steve West being a fantastic narrator and audiobook performer. Fiona Hardingham also does a beautiful job but Im not dreaming of having her read me stories before bed like I do with Steve Im not stalking him I promisemostly- Dual PoV switching between Elias and Laia. It made the story progress a little better than it could have and was able to show two very separate and distinctive classes within the society. Also I didnt really like most of Laias early chapters so it was nice to shift out of her story- The competition to become Emperor. Yes competition tropes in YA are EVERYWHERE and I love them. There is a reason why The Goblet of Fire was my favorite Harry Potter book. But it really worked well in Eliass story line. ***Only the greatest of our graduates are worthy, the strongest. Only four. Of these four Aspirants, one will be named the Foretold. One will swear fealty and serve as the Blood Shrike. The others will be lost, as leaves on the wind. This, too, we have seen. ***He and best friend Helene are set to compete against each other and two of the meanest, deadliest soldiers to come out of their class. – The Jinn mythology. It isnt overused in YA yet and was a different and interesting addition of magic and potential mayhem to the story. There wasnt a lot of it, but Im hoping that in the next book we will see more of the jinn and efrits, ghuls and wraiths. – The Commandantwe always need a bad guy/girl and she plays the part well if not a little crazily. She is the only female Mask and she is definitely the most deadly foe out there. ***Shell punish me. Maybe kill me. I know. But she might do that anyway if I forget to dust her room or if I look her in the eye. Living with the Commandant is like living with the Reaper***- The Semi/Love Square I know you are saying But Robin you hate love triangles and you are right I do. But this is the thing I liked about this particular set up. All the characters are pretty young. They are in some perilous situations and it isnt like anyone is declaring undying devotion to anyone. Mostly it is flirting sorta feeling out your hormones and options. That click when you see someone you are attracted to and you end up looking at them or looking for them in the crowd. When it is all just possibility still and you are feeling out your options. There is only one person IN LOVE and it is a bit believable as she has been his friend most of her life. How do you know that the kiss you shared with one boy was the end all be all of kisses IF youve never kissed anyone else to compare it to? Had it been a better written romance where I felt like two of the people were destined to be together it might have bugged mebut as it was I liked how all the sides of the square worked out in the end. (view spoiler)- IZZI she was my favorite side character besides the kick butt Helene. Izzi has lived as a slave most of her life and has a missing eye from one of the Commandants punishments. But she is still a kind soul in a horrible place and I just wanted to hug her and keep her safe. I was so happy that she has a secret friendship with Laia. She was really just adorable. I loved that with all she has been through she is still such a loving person. ***Izzi. I touch her arm. Im sorry. If Id known about the raid, I neverAre you joking? Izzi says. Her eye darts to Veturius standing behind me, and she smiles, a blaze of white that startles me with its beauty. I wouldnt have traded this for anything. ***The Bad- Oh Laia I hated you for ~ 2/3rds of the book. She is a bit whiny, a victim and extremely nave. I do get that her character had the most to grow and go through but she really didnt grow on me for a long time. – The rapey and brutal culture of living with the Commandant or even in the school. I get it that in the culture it would be seen as nothing to beat or rape the servant girls. Still Im not a huge fan when this is overused in YA and honestly if I had a child under the age of 15-16 I wouldnt necessarily want them to read it. It was brought up a lot and everyone just acted okay with it. Even Helene thought it was a normal part of life for her classmates to sometimes rape the help. – Marcus is flat as a villain. How do we make him horrible? We make him say nasty rapey things to all the women and be a cheat looking for an easy way to kill off the competition. He was pretty two dimensional and it made him just the bad guy. But not the bad guy with his own motivations besides being bad. At least the Commandant was a little more complex. You werent quite sure why she hates her son so much (view spoiler) but I think she has some complex reasons. And she disfigures the attractive girls that work for her but I couldnt decide if she thought she was helping them by being less attractive to the male students and less likely to be raped or just because she is crazystill hard to say. – The first half really dragged. Seriously, if I were to base my rating on the first half of the book it would most likely be a 1. 5 stars. Laia made all kinds of mistakes and kept telling me how useless she was. Well yes I believed her. Im glad she toughened up by the second half. – I really wanted just a little more magic or stuff with the tribes to be introduced since to me that was one of the more interesting aspects to the story. Hopefully the next book will have a little more of that included. OverallBy the end An Ember in the Ashes had a lot of potential going into the next book of the series, it just took a while to get there. There are some standard YA tropes but Im giving a pass to most. If you have a younger reader some of the material in this is maybe to adult for the 12-14 ranges. The last quarter of the book was very good and I hope the next book can pick up and maintain that momentum. Check it out!

Amazon.com Review An Amazon Best Book of May 2015: If the test of a good novel is how badly you want to drop everything to finish it, then Sabaa Tahir’s debut An Ember in the Ashes gets an A+. The world she creates is rich in fantasy, coupled with echoes of a historical saga, all vividly rendered on the page. Tyrannical leaders and a building rebellion set the stage for dual narrators, Elias, one of the elite, trained from a young age to become a skilled assassin for the Commandant at Blackcliff Military Academy, and Laia, one of the oppressed, forced into the role of spy and saboteur in order to save her only remaining family member. Though diametrically opposed within their society, both Laia and Elias are wracked by internal conflict and driven to great lengths by shame and a desire to escape the bonds of their present lives. A complex relationship between them ensues, and while there is a romantic thread to the story, it is ancillary to the larger forces of political power, crippling deceit, and an undistinguished hope that endures in even the darkest corners of their brutal world. Potent action and liquid language whisk the chapters along all too quickly and while this has not been released as part of a series (yet), there can only be great things in store for author Sabaa Tahir, her Martial Empire, and her readers. — Seira Wilson –This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


An Ember in the Ashes Paperback – February 9, 2016 by Sabaa Tahir (Author) Review

I was excited about this book for the first 50 pages. The plot was intriguing, the writing polished, the characters interesting. Then I started to hit patches where the writing felt clumsy and typical YA. The dialogue was bland and expected, nothing clever or surprising. The romantic triangle (more of a square, actually) was particularly disappointing. They were attracted to one another at once for physical beauty with little else behind it. The threat of rape and disfigurement got tiresome (and unpleasant). The ending climax felt particularly flat and rushed — a good ending idea that was written rather mechanically (as opposed to the beginning, which was well written). And yet, there were also moments of very wonderful plotting and writing — obviously a talented writer. If she had spent another six months polishing it up, I think it could have been amazing. -Read Reviews-

I liked this book. It wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever read but it was enjoyable. The writing was skilled and to the point although not what I would call beautiful or poetic. There are a lot of action sequences and events to keep anyone interested. Some moments you don’t want to stop reading until you’ve gotten through them but then there are others where you won’t mind putting the book down. I don’t remember having a hard time getting into it and considering it’s written in first person and switches POVs between two characters (something I usually hate) that’s quite the feat. I think that although I liked the story I never really felt emotionally invested in any of the characters and that’s what was holding me back from truly becoming engrossed in the tale. I also anticipated almost every turn the book took which I’m going to blame on the less than subtle foreshadowing. Again, I liked this book but the thing that bothered me more than anything else was the supposed romance(s). There are basically two love triangles and I didn’t believe or really root for any of the three potential relationships (main female character w the main male character, main female character w the side male character, or main male character with the side female character). I usually love romances in fantasy epic tales (as long as they don’t take over the story) but that wasn’t the case with this book. I actually think it would have been better without romance at all. Minor thing: the ending didn’t exactly feel like an ending. It kinda abruptly stopped in my opinion but there is another book so I figure that’s technically allowed. In conclusion: In the beginning of writing this review I thought I’d be giving An Ember in the Ashes a higher rating but after putting my thoughts together I think I enjoyed it a little less than I originally believed. However, I would recommend it because it truly was an eventful read. With that said I’m rating this 3. 5/5 stars. **on another note: I ended up having to return this book due to one-click settings being attached to the wrong payment method. So I guess I’ll never be able to read this again. Really upset because I ordered 3 books on a family member’s card before noticing the error and couldn’t return the rest**

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