If you haven’t heard about this series, allow me to introduce to you this incredible YA high fantasy series: An Ember in the Ashes is a fantasy that follows Laia, a girl who agrees to spy for the rebellion in exchange for their help to free her brother, and Elias, a soldier of the Martial Empire who wants nothing more than to be free from the tyranny he’s been trained to enforce. Together, their destinies will collide, setting course for a whirlwind of a journey and challenges they would have never imagined.
I love this series immensely, and I have enjoyed every single book in this quartet, with each instalment getting better and better. If you have been waiting for a sign to read this book, here are my five signs to you: here are five reasons why you should read this series.
1. An unforgettable story that will, yes, cause you pain
Confession: I am notoriously bad at reading book series, and much prefer standalone stories. However, An Ember in the Ashes is one of those YA fantasy series that just gets better and better with each story. Why? Because it has one of the most compelling, interesting, and most fun stories that I’ve read in YA fantasy. Supported by its great cast, interesting themes, and wonderfully-realised setting, the story of An Ember in the Ashes is the kind of series where each book takes it to new and terrifying heights. Starting the first book, I never imagined that the story would end up how the third book ended – and I mean that as high praise! The story is carefully plotted, the developments exciting, and will take you for an incredible ride. Also? Once you get attached to the characters, I can’t promise you’ll emerge from A Reaper at the Gates (book #3) unscathed.
2. Characters that grow and develop in ways you don’t expect
I think one of the most delightful (and torturous, in a good way) things about this series are its incredible characters. In particular, you’ll come to love Laia and Elias and become helplessly invested as they overcome challenge after challenge, learn about themselves and their past, and find their place in the world and realise their destinies. And what they go through isn’t joy and sunshine; their journey is painful, filled with heartbreak, and will find themselves broken time and time again, but will become one step closer to fulfilling their goals and, maybe, find what is worth fighting for amidst the chaos and tyranny.
3. Set in a world inspired by Ancient Rome and Middle-East mythology
Admittedly, even though I loved An Ember of the Ashes (the first book), it is probably my least favourite of the three books I have read so far. Not because it’s bad; it’s actually a great start to the series! Rather, this series is the kind that gets better and better as the characters develop and the world grows more immersive and grows roots as you discover the history and mythology of the story’s world. The world of An Ember in the Ashes is a mix of ancient Rome and Middle-Eastern mythology and folklore; the latter, as the story is also filled with djinn and wrights and ghouls. Though the first book takes place in the Empire’s military academy, later books will branch out and explore different parts of the world and their cultures and histories, breathing life and depth into the world. The worldbuilding is so immersive, and returning to this world is always lots of fun and such a pleasure.
4. Critical themes of imperialism and the generational effects of violence
The first book, An Ember in the Ashes, delves very deeply into themes about imperialism and oppression, particularly through the eyes of Laia, who is a Scholar, people who have been enslaved by the ruling military class called the Martials. It explores how the Scholars were enslaved and oppressed through military conquest and invasion, and how their poverty and class divisions between Scholar and Martials are maintained by the military regime and authoritarian. Tahir delves into the complexities brilliantly and explores the nuances through one character’s perspective (that later become a POV character in the second and third book), particularly how her narrative may be perceived as ‘empowering’ but is also an excellent example of how people can use their positions of power to perpetuate further violence.
5. The fourth and final book releases in April 2020 and we need to form a support group
Listen, I know this isn’t really a good reason but… it’s also a good reason. A Reaper at the Gates, the third and latest instalment of this series, ends on such a high note. The futures of the characters and their lives are uncertain and tenuous. Betrayal is imminent. Alliances between enemies have been forged. Everything is coming together for the final battles. And everything and everyone is at stake.
MY CONCLUSION: RECOMMENDED
And I kinda need all of you to read this so that, come April 2020, I’ll have plenty of people who I can scream to and will happily suffer with me as we see how the story will end.
Is this book for you?
Perfect for: Readers who love high fantasy; readers who like themes about war and rebellion; readers who love complex worldbuilding mixed in with mythology; readers who love being invested in characters.
Think twice if: You’re not a fan of high fantasy; you don’t want to read something heavy.
Genre: young adult, fantasy
I think about this series nearly every day and I just… don’t know if I’m going to survive An Ember in the Ashes #4? What does Sabaa know? What is she plotting? What pain does she have in stall for us? We shall find out in 2020. 😭
- Have you read the An Ember in the Ashes series? What did you think?
- Who is your favourite character, or which character intrigues you the most?
- Do you have any recommendations for YA high fantasy?