OMG! I was so anticipating this book. I got a signed copy at BEA this year. I couldn’t wait to start reading this. AN EMBER IN THE ASHES was one of my favorite books of ever. This book features 3 POVS; Elias, Laia, and Helene.
The empire is in bad shape. Helene is left behind (and tortured) and becomes Blood Strike. Helene is the emperors right hand executioner, much to the dismay of the Commandant (aka Elias real mother). Helene has been tasked by the emperor to find and kill Elias as proof of her loyalty. Helene must decide if her loyalties are to the empire or her friendship(/love for) Elias.
Meanwhile, Elias and Laia are trying to escape the empire. Laia continues with her mission to rescue her brother, Darin. Elias and Laia learn that the Commandant is killing off all free scholars (like Laia) and enticing war with the tribes (like the good folks who actually raised Elias). Elias and Laia must free Darin as he holds sacred information which might liberate the scholars from slavery. Elias and Laia must face their demons and work together to liberate Darin.
Laia changes so much in this story. I would call it character growth, but with major emphasis on character. The author only had one “normal” in this book, Laia. Laia stole my heart in EMBER IN THE ASHES because she was so ordinary, without the special snowflake-itis that we see in so many YA Fantasy books. That, my friends, changes in this story. Laia does get to be a special snowflake. Did I enjoy the transition? Um, a bit. I think her specialness was well thought out. Albeit a little too convenient.
I still love Laia. She is just a “good” person. I loved her internal dialogue and I related to her struggle to do what is right. She makes some mistakes in this story, but it isn’t anything that I couldn’t see a “real” person doing. Because of Laia, Keenan, Izzi, and Cook play major roles in this story. They are all so loyal to her. No wonder Elias is smitten by her.
Elias goes from being a strong hero, to a wounded warrior in this story. After falling so hard for him in the first book, I just well, I don’t really like seeing him like that! Something quite shady happens to Elias and I found myself arguing with the author out loud that this just isn’t fair! (how could you do this to me) I understand that bad things sometimes happen to good people, this betrayal falls into this category.
Elias goes on a journey in this story, physically and mentally. He makes some interesting friends and even more interesting enemies (hint: efrits & jinns). I loved that Elias is all about sacrifice. He is still a tortured soul, but he does find motivation for himself somewhere in this story. I don’t know how to feel about where he ended up. Just, dammit! I have all these feelings and I can’t share them without spoilers!
Helene‘s story bored me to tears at first. Honestly, I didn’t like her in first book and my dislike continued until around the 50% mark in this story. Helene doesn’t have very many options in this story. She wanted so bad to be Blood Strike in the first book, but wanting it and doing it are not the same thing. Helene has so much to loose. No matter what she does, she will suffer. I grew to really empathize with her. She isn’t Elias’ first choice, and she doesn’t get any closer to him by hunting to kill him in this story.
One thing I will say about Helene is that she she has a soft underbelly. No matter what her heart wants, she makes some tough choices in this story. Helene rises above the bullshit. She shows that by being honest, she can gain the trust of those around her. Helene is going to play a very important part in the next part of this story. I want to follow along and make sure she gets happiness and love, because she really deserves it.
Is there a romance between Elias and Laia? I would not dream of spoiling this for you, dear reader. If you are looking for me to spill something about a romance, don’t bother. I love you too much to ruin anything for you. I will say that things didn’t go the way I thought they would. Do they ever? This continues to be a majorly complicated thing in this series.
The world building is not as rich as I imagined it would be. Though I am still loving this series, even I can admit this story is not without flaws. They start off in the not very well described tunnels of Blackcliff academy and end up in the vividly horrific prison of Kauf. The don’t travel in a straight line to get to Kauf, but we get to see much more of the world then just the academy. The problem with the world building is that the terrain is not easy to see. We are so focused on dialogue and inner dialogue that we get from place to place without description. Especially for Helene. I was beginning to think she could fly for all her travel without hardships.
There is a paranormal element that needs more clarification. I don’t know squat about efrits or jinns so please tell me the rules for their power. This is not uncommon in fantasy, unfortunately. Too many authors assume we know about these sorts of creatures and allow imagination to fill in the blanks. I am really hoping the author will explore and explain these two species(?) in the next installment.
In conclusion: I am almost sad I read this book so early. This means that I will have even more of a wait for what happens next. You better believe I will be devouring whatever this author pens next. I will be eagerly awaiting the next installment to this series.
An Ember in the Ashes Series
Series: An Ember in the Ashes #2
Also in this series: An Ember in the Ashes
Published by Penguin on August 30th 2016
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy, General, Romance, Politics & Government, Young Adult, Fantasy & Magic, Love & Romance
Also by this author: An Ember in the Ashes
ARC provided by BEA 2016, Penguin
THE ASTONISHING SEQUEL TO THE INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER, AN EMBER IN THE ASHES
“[An] action-packed, breathlessly paced story.” —Booklist, starred review
"Even higher stakes than its predecessor… thrilling..." —Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Excellent." —Kirkus Reviews
"Most Spectacular Sequel" -- Entertainment Weekly Summer 2016 Must List
Elias and Laia are running for their lives.
Following the events of the Fourth Trial, an army led by Masks hunts the two fugitives as they escape the city of Serra and journey across the vast lands of the Martial Empire. Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—and save her brother, whose knowledge of Serric steel is the key to the Scholars' future. And Elias is determined to stay by Laia’s side...even if it means giving up his own chance at freedom. But Elias and Laia will have to fight every step of the way if they’re going to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.
Helene’s mission is horrifying, unwanted, and clear: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape...and kill them both.
Praise for An Ember in the Ashes:
“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
“[An Ember in the Ashes] thrusts its readers into a world marred by violence and oppression, yet does so with simple prose that can offer moments of loveliness in its clarity. This complexity makes Ember a worthy novel—and one as brave as its characters.” —The New York Times Book Review
From the Hardcover edition.