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An Ember in the Ashes
Cover of An Ember in the Ashes
An Ember in the Ashes
Ember in the Ashes Series, Book 1
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From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Torch Against the Night
INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTELLER
AMAZON'S BEST YOUNG ADULT BOOK OF 2015
PEOPLE'S CHOICE AWARD WINNER - FAVORITE FANTASY
BUSTLE'S BEST YOUNG ADULT BOOK OF 2015

"This novel is a harrowing, haunting reminder of what it means to be human — and how hope might be kindled in the midst of oppression and fear."The Washington Post

"An Ember in the Ashes could launch Sabaa Tahir into JK Rowling territory...It has the addictive quality of The Hunger Games combined with the fantasy of Harry Potter and the brutality of Game of Thrones."—Public Radio International

"An Ember in the Ashes glows, burns, and smolders—as beautiful and radiant as it is searing."Huffington Post

"A worthy novel – and one as brave as its characters."The New York Times Book Review

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.


From the Hardcover edition.

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Torch Against the Night
INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTELLER
AMAZON'S BEST YOUNG ADULT BOOK OF 2015
PEOPLE'S CHOICE AWARD WINNER - FAVORITE FANTASY
BUSTLE'S BEST YOUNG ADULT BOOK OF 2015

"This novel is a harrowing, haunting reminder of what it means to be human — and how hope might be kindled in the midst of oppression and fear."The Washington Post

"An Ember in the Ashes could launch Sabaa Tahir into JK Rowling territory...It has the addictive quality of The Hunger Games combined with the fantasy of Harry Potter and the brutality of Game of Thrones."—Public Radio International

"An Ember in the Ashes glows, burns, and smolders—as beautiful and radiant as it is searing."Huffington Post

"A worthy novel – and one as brave as its characters."The New York Times Book Review

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.


From the Hardcover edition.
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  • Available:
    1
  • Library copies:
    1
Levels-
  • ATOS:
  • Lexile:
    680
  • Interest Level:
  • Text Difficulty:
    3

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Awards-
Excerpts-
  • From the book I. LAIA
    My big brother reaches home in the dark hours before dawn, when even ghosts take their rest. He smells of steel and coal and forge. He smells of the enemy.
    He folds his scarecrow body through the window, bare feet silent on the rushes. A hot desert wind blows in after him, rustling the limp curtains. His sketchbook falls to the floor, and he nudges it under his bunk with a quick foot, as if it's a snake.
    Where have you been, Darin? In my head, I have the courage to ask the question, and Darin trusts me enough to answer. Why do you keep disappearing? Why, when Pop and Nan need you? When I need you?
    Every night for almost two years, I've wanted to ask. Every night, I've lacked the courage. I have one sibling left. I don't want him to shut me out like he has everyone else.
    But tonight's different. I know what's in his sketchbook. I know what it means.
    "You shouldn't be awake." Darin's whisper jolts me from my thoughts. He has a cat's sense for traps—he got it from our mother. I sit up on the bunk as he lights the lamp. No use pretending to be asleep.
    "It's past curfew, and three patrols have gone by. I was worried."
    "I can avoid the soldiers, Laia. Lots of practice." He rests his chin on my bunk and smiles Mother's sweet, crooked smile. A familiar look—the one he gives me if I wake from a nightmare or we run out of grain. Everything will be fine, the look says.
    He picks up the book on my bed. "Gather in the Night," he reads the title. "Spooky. What's it about?"
    "I just started it. It's about a jinn—" I stop. Clever. Very clever. He likes hearing stories as much as I like telling them. "Forget that. Where were you? Pop had a dozen patients this morning."
    And I filled in for you because he can't do so much alone. Which left Nan to bottle the trader's jams by herself. Except she didn't finish. Now the trader won't pay us, and we'll starve this winter, and why in the skies don't you care?
    I say these things in my head. The smile's already dropped off Darin's face.
    "I'm not cut out for healing," he says. "Pop knows that."
    I want to back down, but I think of Pop's slumped shoulders this morning. I think of the sketchbook.
    "Pop and Nan depend on you. At least talk to them. It's been months."
    I wait for him to tell me that I don't understand. That I should leave him be. But he just shakes his head, drops down into his bunk, and closes his eyes like he can't be bothered to reply.
    "I saw your drawings." The words tumble out in a rush, and Darin's up in an instant, his face stony. "I wasn't spying," I say. "One of the pages was loose. I found it when I changed the rushes this morning."
    "Did you tell Nan and Pop? Did they see?"
    "No, but—"
    "Laia, listen." Ten hells, I don't want to hear this. I don't want to hear his excuses. "What you saw is dangerous," he says. "You can't tell anyone about it. Not ever. It's not just my life at risk. There are others—"
    "Are you working for the Empire, Darin? Are you working for the Martials?"
    He is silent. I think I see the answer in his eyes, and I feel ill. My brother is a traitor to his own people? My brother is siding with the Empire?
    If he hoarded grain, or sold books, or taught children to read, I'd understand. I'd be proud of him for doing the things I'm not brave enough to do. The Empire raids, jails, and kills for such "crimes," but teaching a six-year-old her letters isn't evil—not in the minds of my people, the Scholar people.
    But what Darin has done is sick. It's a betrayal.
    "The Empire killed our parents," I whisper. "Our sister."
    I want to shout at him, but I choke on the words. The Martials conquered Scholar lands...
Reviews-
  • DOGO Books Mrs. Hinrichs - Page turner with a twist. This novel is set in a harsh medieval world where brutality is a common form of punishment, Laia must enter into a world of ruthless warriors to save her brother.
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from February 2, 2015
    As one of the conquered Scholar people, Laia has grown wary of the ruthless Masks that enforce the Martial empire’s laws. But the lesson doesn’t hit home until Masks imprison her brother for aiding the Scholar Resistance. Desperate to save him, Laia agrees to spy for the rebels as a slave in Blackcliff, the hellish school where Masks are trained. Her mission becomes all the more dangerous when the empire’s prophetic Augurs announce that, for the first time in centuries, four newly graduated Masks will compete for the emperor’s throne. One of these “Aspirants,” Elias, had been on the verge of desertion before he was chosen, and he only stays to compete because of the Augurs’ warning that he will never know freedom unless he undergoes the Trials. Tahir’s deft, polished debut alternates between two very different perspectives on the same brutal world, deepening both in the contrast. In a tale brimming with political intrigue and haunted by supernatural forces, the true tension comes from watching Elias and Laia struggle to decide where their loyalties lie. Ages 14–up. Agent: Alexandra Machinist, Janklow & Nesbit.

  • Kirkus

    January 15, 2015
    A suddenly trendy trope-conflict and romance between members of conquering and enslaved races-enlivened by fantasy elements loosely drawn from Arabic tradition (another trend!). In an original, well-constructed fantasy world (barring some lazy naming), the Scholars have lived under Martial rule for 500 years, downtrodden and in many cases enslaved. Scholar Laia has spent a lifetime hiding her connection to the Resistance-her parents were its leaders-but when her grandparents are killed and her brother's captured by Masks, the eerie, silver-faced elite soldiers of the Martial Empire, Laia must go undercover as a slave to the terrifying Commandant of Blackcliff Military Academy, where Martials are trained for battle. Meanwhile, Elias, the Commandant's not-at-all-beloved son, wants to run away from Blackcliff, until he is named an Aspirant for the throne by the mysterious red-eyed Augurs. Predictably, action, intrigue, bloodshed and some pounding pulses follow; there's betrayal and a potential love triangle or two as well. Sometimes-lackluster prose and a slight overreliance on certain kinds of sexual violence as a threat only slightly diminish the appeal created by familiar (but not predictable) characters and a truly engaging if not fully fleshed-out fantasy world. Bound to be popular. (Fantasy. 13 & up)

    COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    January 1, 2015

    Gr 9 Up-This strong debut novel is set in the Martial Empire, a fantasy world based on ancient Rome. Elias Veturius is the scion of a proud Martial military family and an outstanding soldier, but he dreams of escaping Blackcliff Academy, the elite military academy where he has nearly completed his training as a Mask, and his inevitable future as a ruthless killer. Elias and three fellow students will be facing the Trials, dangerous and rigorous challenges that will determine the next emperor. Laia is a Scholar, one of many oppressed groups living under the rule of the Martials. When nearly all of Laia's family is killed and her brother is arrested for having a sketchbook depicting Martial weapons, she goes to the Resistance in desperation. The rebel leaders plant her as a spy at Blackcliff Academy, where she must pose as the personal slave of the Commandant, promising that in return they will rescue her brother. Elias and Laia become romantically involved as they face treachery and political machinations. Tahir's world-building is wonderfully detailed and the setting is an unusual one for fantasy novels. All of her characters, even minor ones, are fully realized. In particular, the Commandant is a genuinely evil and frightening villain. The author doesn't pull any punches; her descriptions of torture, punishment, and battle are graphic and brutal, and her realistic depictions of the treatment of slaves include rape and physical abuse. For fans of Game of Thrones and of Melina Marchetta's Finnikin of the Rock (Candlewick, 2010).-Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJ

    Copyright 2015 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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Sabaa Tahir
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