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An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir Audiobook {3 Stars}

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir is an interesting addition to the YA fantasy scene with its Roman-inspired dominant culture and use of lesser seen fantasy elements such as jinn and ifrit and crazy living metal masks. An Ember in the Ashes takes advantage of its dual PoV for the audiobook with two strong narrators to tell each side of the story. I know that a lot of people have loved An Ember in the Ashes, and a lot of you will, but it focused on the aspects I am less interested in and ignored the cool fantasy elements sadly.

Note: I received an audiobook copy of An Ember in the Ashes from the publisher. Listening to a book strongly influences my reading experience.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir Audiobook {3 Stars}

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Narrated by Fiona Hardingham, Steve West

Published by Del Rey on April 28th, 2015
Genres: Dark Fantasy, YA
Page Length: 443 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
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AN EMBER IN THE ASHES is a thought-provoking, heart-wrenching and pulse-pounding read. Set in a rich, high-fantasy world with echoes of ancient Rome, it tells the story of a slave fighting for her family and a young soldier fighting for his freedom.

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.

3 Stars


  • An Ember in the Ashes is a great book to listen to on audio. The narrators are both solid and capable of doing voices of the opposite sex fortunately. This was a recording where the choices the narrators made definitely influenced my idea of the characters and gave them an added dimension.
  • The world of An Ember in the Ashes is full of awesome potential. There are jinn and ifrit in the desert carrying some serious grudges, the masks that the elite soldiers wear seem to be parasitic and bond to their faces, there is a whole lot of cool magic going on behind the scenes, and the cultures portrayed are different than the typical and therefore exciting to explore.
  • There is a plethora of physically strong heroines in fantasy, especially YA, so it was nice to see characters with a more balanced array of strengths. Laia repeatedly thinks about how she is not physically strong, but shows that loyalty and determination go a long way towards making up for lack of physical strength.
  • The plot of An Ember in the Ashes will keep you hooked. There are really no moments of downtime since every second Laia could be found out, or just killed because she looked at someone the wrong way. If you like your plots intense, An Ember in the Ashes is the book for you.
  • I was pleasantly surprised at the twists that An Ember in the Ashes includes. Normally some of them would annoy me, but An Ember in the Ashes was able to pull them off and surprise me with Tahir’s daring in the process.


  • First thing that will probably annoy some readers: there are overlapping love shapes of some indeterminate number of edges. I felt like I had whiplash from the number of directions the romantic plotl ines seem to be going.
  • An Ember in the Ashes is pretty darn depressing and I just wasn’t in the mood for that tone unfortunately. Horrible things happen left and right and I kind of just wanted to throw in the towel because there wasn’t a light at the end of the tunnel.
  • Despite a couple of plot twists that I was unsure which was they’d go, An Ember in the Ashes ended up being pretty predictable and I got to a point of just wanted to get to the end because I could already see how it go.
  • Remember those cool masks I mentioned that are made of living, parasitic metal? Or the jinn and ifrit freaking out in the desert? An Ember in the Ashes doesn’t delve into the magical elements of the world really at all. There were a couple of reveals about the jinn, but no answers about those masks and most of what we found out about the jinn and ifrit was from information being flung at us through storytelling. I need magic to be a focus in my fantasy!
  • By the end of An Ember in the Ashes, I was left with a sense of “what was the point?” I can intellectually tell you the events that took place, but so much of what happened ended up not really mattering at all, which frustrates me as a reader.


An Ember in the Ashes is a thrilling YA fantasy with an emphasis on the horrors of evil people and lusting after everyone in sight. An Ember in the Ashes will appeal to readers that like a bit of fantasy thrown into their action and romance plots, but if you are looking to find out lots about awesome magic, you might be disappointed. Also, I had thought that An Ember in the Ashes was going to be a standalone, but it pretty much requires a second book.

Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings

Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?
– Anya


 An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

© 2015, Anya. All rights reserved.


  1. Lusting after everyone in sight and super depressing? Yeah, I think I’ll pass. Thanks for the review! :)
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  2. I recently added this to my list of books I am no longer interested in reading. I have seen a lot of readers say that the magic was not explained in the detail that was needed for a fantasy novel, and THAT right there is one of my biggest pet peeves ever.
    Lyn Kaye recently posted…Book Review: Black IrisMy Profile

  3. I gave this book a pass when I first heard about it. Not really sure why – it seemed to hit most of the right notes for me, but anytime something is described as a ‘brutal’ story, especially fantasy, I gracefully leave. So, I am so happy to read your review because it seems like I made the right decision. Don’t like depressing, romance-y fantasy. Well, I mean I never like depressing fantasy and I don’t usually like romance-y fantasy. Thanks so much for the review!
    Amy @ Pages of Starlight recently posted…Feeling FeyMy Profile

    • Yeah, brutal needs to be a veto word for me I think since it generally means sexual violence which is bleck. I’m glad the review helped!

  4. I have been super excited to read this since I saw the cover but it seems like my excitement dies a little with each review I read. I was also hoping for standalone – boo! I am glad you enjoyed it overall though! Great review. :)
    Tonya recently posted…Let’s Talk: Blogger to Blogger | Blog DesignMy Profile

  5. Ah boo. This was definitely overhyped, but I still bought it anyways and it’s sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. I also like it if my magic is explained, or at least described a little, so I’m hoping that doesn’t bother me too much. And love shapes? What?
    Valerie recently posted…The Translation of Books: Worth It Or No?My Profile

  6. “Martial Empire”. Ooh. Heavy-handed much?

    Partially from the Roman Empire connection, it makes me think of Thomas Harlan’s Oath of Empire series. It’s an alternate-magical-history world where the Western Empire has survived into the 7th century, and the magical reason for this provides a lot of the plot. Sadly, after the first book, the likable characters get attritioned away to nothing.
    Rindis recently posted…Siege Warfare in the Roman WorldMy Profile

  7. Nice review, Anya. I’ve heard back-and-forth raving praise and mixed opinions on EMBER. So I’m not quite sure what I’ll think of it when I finally read it…

    • Definitely depends on how you like your fantasy I’d say, but I hope you enjoy it when you get to it!

  8. You did so much better than me! I could NOT get into the narration of the book at all. Every time I heard one of them say “Laia”, all I could imagine was Harry Potter screaming “liar” at Voldemort in The Sorcerer’s Stone movie. Every. Time. Put that all on top of not much going on in the beginning…

    I do have an ebook copy of the book, too, and my co-blogger said that it’s worth trying again. I might, since I wasted $3 and an Audible credit on the mess. *sigh*
    Kayla Beck recently posted…Review: Owl and the Japanese Circus by Kristi CharishMy Profile

    • HAHA! I clearly haven’t seen HP enough ;-) Maybe if you’re in the mood for dark and gritty it’ll work better?

  9. I am hearing pleas for a sequel based on how this one ends! That seems to be a deciding factor with the reviews I’ve read. It sounds like it will be an intriguing read, but bummed to hear that the magical elements aren’t really delved into. I love those parts in my fantasy reads as well. Still plan to read this one though. Glad to hear you were able to enjoy parts of it though! Nice review!
    Jessica @ a GREAT read recently posted…Random ThursdayMy Profile

  10. I was not impressed by An Ember In The Ashes. I definitely had the “what was the point?” feeling at the end. I was even almost hoping Elias would die, because I couldn’t care enough to hope he stayed alive, and at least that would have been entertaining. The ambiguous love shape was annoying, there was WAY too much sexual violence that didn’t add to the story, and, as you said, the magic and fantasy elements weren’t explored at all. I probably would have DNF-ed it if I hadn’t been listening to the audiobook. This book was so hyped, and I know a ton of people loved it, but it did not work for me.

    • I’m so glad I’m not the only one! Haha, I definitely hoped he would die too since then it would be a bit different than every other YA out there. I’m also not sure I would have finished if I hadn’t been listening to the audio, it’s so easy to just keep listening haha

  11. I noticed my library got has the audiobook for this and placed a hold. So glad to hear it worked well as an audiobook, because some books are just much better suited for it than others. I also don’t mind low magic, so am looking forward to checking it out (when the library tells me its my turn! :) )
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  12. It’s a shame that this one didn’t delve into the fantasy aspects a bit more…or a LOT more. That is ALWAYS where the focus should lay, if you ask me. But then again, as a fellow fantasy-freak, I’m probably biased LOL. It sucks too when you’re just not feeling the tone all that much. I’ll keep that in mind and only get into this one when I’m in the mood for a dark, gritty and intense read. Thanks for the insight! x
    Micheline @ Lunar Rainbows Reviews recently posted…Review: Cruel BeautyMy Profile

  13. Thanks for the depressing warning. I’ve wanted to read this book, but I need upbeat at the moment. The magic sounds so cool! It’s a shame more wasn’t done with it. As always, nice review!

  14. Hmm I still think I want to give it a try. I’ve seen positive and negative reviews but I’ll keep my mind open just in case :) Thanks for sharing!

    • Go for it! It’ll definitely appeal to readers that look for something a little different than I do ;-)

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