Under the harsh rule of the Martial Empire, there are those who are subject to the Emperor's will, and there are those who enforce it. When Laia's brother is taken prisoner by the Martials, she must infiltrate Blackcliff, the Empire's military academy, in order to save him. There she meets Elias, one of the academy's most skilled soldiers--but one with a secret desire to escape Blackcliff and the brutal future that awaits him there.
Told from both characters' perspectives, An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy with the perfect balance of story and scope. Sabaa Tahir has created a world that feels so real that it's almost easy to forget that it's set in a fantasy realm. Were it not for the masks that fuse to soldier's faces, or the occasional mystical shadowy figure, one might think Ember was set in ancient Rome. Perhaps it's the fact that the story was inspired by true events encountered by Tahir during her time at The Washington Post that gives her novel such a feel of authenticity and immediacy. More likely, the story vibrates with truth because at its core, it reflects the reality of our world: one that is riddled with violence, but also full of hope. For every sadistic military leader who tears families apart, there is someone brave enough to risk his or her own life to save another's.
Ember's narrators are certainly courageous, but it's their vulnerability and their moments of weakness that make them so compelling. From the first chapter, the characters seem so fully realized that they might walk off the page and shake your hand. Even more than the effortlessly crafted world and the well-paced plot, it's the characters that propel the story forward, begging the reader to turn just one more page. True to its title, An Ember in the Ashes glows, burns, and smolders--as beautiful and radiant as it is searing.