Review of Ember In The Ashes

A review of the first Ember in the Ashes books.


Credits to Shane Rebenschied maker of the art for the books.

Josh Murphy, Staff writer

Ember in the Ashes is the first book in a series by Sabba Tahir, published in 2015. The book tells the story of Elias and Laia in a fictional land known only by the name The Empire.  The author switches first person point of view between the main characters, usually chapter by chapter.  This style of writing helps develop the story better rather than just hearing one character‘s thoughts, feelings and opinions throughout the tale.

Five hundred years before our story begins, it is foretold by the Augurs, a group of wise, future-seeing-beings, that Taius conquers all to become emperor and create The Empire.  The Augurs see that the death of the current emperor, Taius XII, will end Taius’ bloodline for reigning The Empire. The Augurs plan four trials to decide who will be the next Emperor, engaging the best students from The Empire‘s military school Black Cliff four the contests.

The story begins with the events the Augur’s foresaw already in motion. One of the main characters, Laia, is thrown into the story when Darin, her brother, is taken prisoner by the Empire and she vows to get him back. She goes to the only people she knows who can help: the Rebels. The Rebels say they will help rescue him if she will become a spy at Black Cliff in order to learn information about the trials.  With the help of the Rebels, she enters Black Cliff as a slave to the Commandant of the school where she will serve as a spy with nearly a direct link to the information needed to get her brother out.  The Commandant is a cruel and unforgiving woman who has eyes and ears all over the school, making Laia’s job almost impossible.

At the same time, Elias is being trained at Black Cliff, but just wants to be free from the Empire. He is training to become a Mask: the most elite and dangerous rank of The Empire army.  He cannot flee The Empire because he is chosen to be one of the four contestants in the ‘Four Trials’ to ultimately rule The Empire.  The other three participants are Marcus, Zak who is Marcuses twin brother, and Helene: a rare female student who has feelings for Elias and consideres him to be the embodiment of what the next emperor needs to be.

The heart of the book’s story is both the challenges Elias must go through in the trials and those Laia faces in her quest to free her brother.  As the story progresses, Elias and Laia meet, and find an attraction in each other.  Meanwhile the reader is also thrown into the twists and turns of how all these characters, both major and minor, are connected: Elias to the Commandant to Laia to the cook to the Rebels, and on and on.

Sabba Tahir is a New York Times best selling author for her book series Ember in the Ashes.  She uses the changing of the point of view in chapters to weave a web of suspense and draw you into the characters.  Her ability to connect even the most minor character to the large, unfolding story keeps the reader engaged and wanting more.  As the reader moves through the story, Tahir provides growth to the characters and understanding of where the characters belong in the evolving history of the empire. Her pace is slow and methodical, verging on irritating at times, but leads to an amazing payoff.  She brings the reader into the story much like J. K. Rowling does for her fans.  If you are a fan of Harry Potter, then you will enjoy this series.

Book two, Torch Against the Night and book three, “Reaper at the Gates are already out and will be reviewed later in the semester.  The fourth book in this series, “A Sky Beyond the Storm“, is scheduled to come out in December 2020.  I cannot wait for books four to release because Tahir’s work has kept me on the edge of my seat.