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I’m usually pretty indifferent when it comes to YA fantasy. The genre is over-saturated and usually far too full of belabored love triangles and incompetent parents for me. I bought An Ember In The Ashes not knowing that it was young adult fiction–once I realized, I instantly lowered my expectations. However, there was no need for my snobbishness because…⠀
THIS BOOK IS GOOD! It’s one of the most entertaining things I’ve read this year. It’s not deep, it’s not emotionally transporting or socially incisive but it does suck you in and drag you from front cover to back cover with your eyes wide open and your heart in your throat. Sabaa Tahir knows the right way to use YA tropes and conventions to tell a fast-moving, action packed story and I’ll definitely be reading the rest of the series. ⠀
So what’s it about? Shy, scholarly peasant girl Laia is pressed into service as a spy for the Resistance after tragedy befalls her family. Elias is a military trainee in the elite Masks, only a few days away from graduating into full service. After an unexpected announcement, he finds himself in a brutal competition to be the next Emperor while he and Laia orbit around each other mysteriously. ⠀
Emperor of what? Resistance against who? Mysterious orbit? What does that even mean? Who cares? If you’ve ever read fantasy before there’s nothing foundationally new here. Ember is billed as a take on the Roman Empire, and in some ways it is, but the magic and mystery are far more North African and South Asian in origin. Our heroes go up against djinns, efrits and ghuls, and the story sometimes has a folkloric ring to it. It’s all done very well, even when the plot dips into old YA saws to gain momentum. There are love triangles and clueless adults galore, but there are also heart-in-your-mouth action scenes, terrifying villains, and genuinely sweet romances that capture all the confusion and newness of teenage feelings in a way that feels authentic to the story. My only quibble is that even though it’s fun to get there, the ending is WAY too convenient. Still planning to read the next book, though.😁⠀
4.5 stars and a war cry to An Ember In The Ashes.
(Thanks for reading as always, beautiful people. This blog has an affiliate relationship with Bookshop, so any clicks and purchases you make result in commission being earned. Peace!)