Monday, September 19, 2016

An Ember in the Ashes

An Ember in the Ashes, Sabaa Tahir

This young adult fiction is a great read. It’s action and drama are based in the fictional world of The Empire. The Martials rule this land, with the elite-trained Masks carrying out all their commands. The Scholars live in fear and slavery, subjugated but with a small band of Resistance fighters trying to change the balance of power. There are echoes of ancient Rome throughout with similar levels of violence, absolute obedience to the Empire and even quite Latin based names.

Laia, child of Scholars, left on her own is desperate to try to rescue her brother from the clutches of the Empire. Elias, trained as a Mask and in the direct line of power is trying to escape the brutality of the solder’s life, knowing in his heart that what they are called to do is wrong.

As their lives slowly become interwoven, both come to see that they are part of a larger picture and sacrificing their own desires may be the way forward. There’s an oblique reference in the acknowledgements suggesting Tahir may be Christian. Whatever her belief system, this book raises the issue of when you choose to stand up for what is wrong, even though it may you cost you your freedom and perhaps even your life.  

I would recommend it for anyone who likes young adult fiction, and these days that is definitely me!   They are quicker, more direct and as well written as adult fiction. I might wait a few years before recommending it to Mr 13. It is reasonably violent with a lot of implied potential sexual violence, which has a menacing feel over the whole book. Also, we love a series and it’s clear this will be a series, and possibly a long one.  The second A Torch against the Night has just been released, and Tahir is planning books 3 & 4 as well. May as well wait a bit longer and read them all in one go! 

(NB. From 2018 - now with Mr 15 I am still hesitant to recommend them to him yet, the threat of violence to women is very strong throughout.)

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