Publisher: Listening Library
Narrators: Steve West and Fiona Hardingham
Edition: Audiobook, 15 hours and 22 mins
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy Dystopian
Purchase: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository *
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Rating: 4/5 Stars
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 took me forever to finish…mostly because I didn’t finish it before it had to go back to the library and then I had to wait patiently for a month before I was next on the holds list. Needless to say I was checking constantly to see if I was any closer to getting it because the first half of the book was fantastic.
In this we have two point of views: Laia who is a Scholar and a slave, and Elias who is an elite solider known as a Mask and longs for his own freedom. Two very different people from opposite backgrounds who have a lot in common. I loved both Laia and Elias, and the internal journey they both have to go through . Laia starts out the book very meek and unsure, she’s terrified of what could happen if she does anything wrong and she only wants to avoid the trouble, but with each new challenge she faces while trying to save her brother makes her stronger. She doesn’t go from tiny to larger than life in one book either and that makes me love her more, because she’s still herself…the person who doesn’t want to harm anyone but she’s also learning what it takes to survive on her own in a cut throat world. For Elias his journey isn’t about finding strength, he already has that…instead it’s about finding purpose. I loved that when attraction came into play he was completely logical about it, but in being so “there is no time for this right now” he ends up internalizing it and making it much more pronounced. To top it off he doesn’t follow a mindset just because it’s what he’s been taught, and that doesn’t change despite learning his best friend has an opposing mindset. I will say I wasn’t overly fond of the love…square? But while it does play a part in the story I didn’t find it stifling…only annoying, because when I ship someone I don’t want these extra people hanging about.
The world building and imagery is wonderful! A book automatically gets points when there is back story, not just for the main characters before the actual events that have happened. Bring on the fictional history lessons, because this girl loves it! The little glimpses of the fantasy elements here and there were just enough to add some mystery to a rather guarded and forbidden past, and make me want Laia and Elisa to dig up all the info they can in the next book. The pacing was also excellent and there were very few scenes that didn’t feel important to the overall story, which is a huge plus in a fantasy novel.
I did listen to this one on audio and I really recommend it! Both Fiona Hardingham and Steve West have swoony voices that are utterly perfect for reading to people, and their voice/accent range was great. They definitely brought these characters to life. I particularly liked Fiona’s reading of Cook, who has a quavery voice and gets really worked up at times.
I can’t wait for book two! Though I’m torn between buying the hardcovers for the book map, and the audiobook because I need to hear these two read to me again.