Home / Book Review / Rome-Style Epic Fantasy | Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Rome-Style Epic Fantasy | Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy you won’t want to miss!

Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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an ember in the ashes sabaa tahir book review

Title & Author: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Genre: Young Adult – High Fantasy

Release Date: April 28, 2015

Series: Standalone (Waiting for sequel to be announced)

Publisher: Penguin

How I Got the Book: ARC via the publisher


“Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself. ”

Intense and Epic

Right away, I appreciated and loved the multiple points of view throughout An Ember in the Ashes. This is typically something that is done well or is done jarringly. There are so many key players in the story that the book really needed these valuable insights.

Then there’s the set up. An Ember in the Ashes is set in a Rome-like time and place. They’re in the dessert and there are those in charge (the Martials) and those that got overtaken (the Scholars). I saw this as a Sparta vs the Enlightened type of situation.

Elias is part of an elite group of Martials who are about to compete in the Trials, which are neither a huge focus or like any other large-scale battle we’ve read of before (i.e Hunger Games). But, it serves as the catalyst for Elisa to meet Laia and to start wondering what the prophesies and schemes tangled around this life really mean…

What makes this novel a standout read is that it’s truly a large-scale, big-scope story that has so many key players that make it great and epic.

Although Laia and Elias are the main characters – and you root for them so much along the way – you’ll start scanning the pages to make sure some of the secondary characters are faring all right. (Helene, you smart, devious thing, I’m looking at YOU.)

I also appreciated that certain plans have been set in place that the reader doesn’t know yet what they mean and how they’ll play out. There’s so much potential for surprise and for a great emotional pay-out in future books (if there’s a green light for a sequel). This was done so well.

As for things I didn’t like – there is a RIDICULOUS love triangle situation. It’s like a love hexagon, really. I found it unnecessary when there is so much other great storyline going on.

Although An Ember in the Ashes is certainly unique for its setting and characters, several elements of the story (like prophesies and trials) have been done before and I’m not quite sure this book really gave it a unique spin on them.


An Ember in the Ashes is an overall enjoyable and well-written book. While I found some aspects silly (a love hexagon) and not wholly original, I don’t think anyone will contest that this book is highly entertaining and epic in its execution of the story. An Ember in the Ashes is a book I think high fantasy lovers will definitely enjoy.

About Lisa Parkin

I'm a hardcore lover of young adult fiction and have been reviewing books since 2011. Other interests include Downton Abbey, heat lightning storms, Harry Potter land and (begrudingly) one orange tabby.
  • A love hexagon? Wow! I have to say I have never heard of that one. This sounds like a great book (minus the love hexagon. I’m more of an action junkie, but I suppose a love hexagon could be interesting too.) I love the cover as well. I will definitely be picking this one up. Thanks for the share Lisa!

  • Great review. I am really looking forward to reading this one. Not sure how I feel about a love hexagon though . . .