Publication Date: April 28th, 2015
Genre(s): Fantasy, YA, Dystopian
Series Status: An Ember in the Ashes #1
Format and Source: Hardback, Bought
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
This to me was a typical YA Fantasy novel, with the clichés, and the romance, and the female protagonist going from nothing to a strong heroine. I could practically call how this was going to go from the beginning.
I will give this novel credit where credit is due though. For one thing I did enjoy the world building. It was really good and created this dystopian setting well. It reminded of The Red Queen a bit, due to the strict divide between the Scholars and the Martials, and the outright poverty and slavery portrayed because of that.
I also appreciated the characters and the character development. Not only were the characters quite individual and easy to remember and recognise, the way they changed suited the story. For example in the beginning of the book Laia was quite a weak character who was scared at the slightest sign of trouble, but because of unfortunate circumstances she was thrust into dangerous situations in which she has to stay calm to survive. She did not develop in leaps in bounds into this strong character that spits in the face of danger. Instead she slowly developed into it, first putting on a thin mask of confidence until that mask wasn’t a mask anymore.
I also really liked the portrayal of Elias’ struggles between his personal beliefs and the beliefs that have been thrust upon him due to his circumstance. It added a great element to the book, as it was interesting to read how Elias fought with himself everyday.
Unfortunately I was let down by the fantasy aspect of the book. It was too unpolished and messy for me, and it made certain situations seem downright stupid. I didn’t like the strange supernatural creatures, which I don’t even remember the names of! If the fantasy aspect of a book is barely memorable then it has obviously failed.
I am also really not sure about the love triangle/square thing going on. Why did Elias have to be attracted to both girls? And the attractions seemed almost too physical to be even called love. It was definitely more lust, but I think it may have just overcomplicated the already complicated situation.
This was just a decent, though quite predictable, YA Fantasy book to me. I might read the sequel, if I can be bothered that is.