An Ember in the Ashes

Reviewed by Erica

Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Penguin/Random House
Publication Date:
Genre: Young Adult
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Ember in the Ashes

     It has been a long time since I have read a Young Adult book that has had a unique and diverse story. I’m not saying that recent YA novels haven’t been fantastic and fresh, because they have been, but Tahir made me feel like I had never experienced anything like her world before.


“What’s your name?” I ask, as I wipe my face.

But instead of answering, he goes still, his head cocked as if he’s listening for something. When I speak, he puts a finger to my lips. A moment later, his face hardens.

“We have to go,” he says. If he didn’t look so dead serious, I’d think he was trying to get me to come with him to his camp. “A raid-a Martial raid.”

Around us, dancers spin on obliviously. None of them has heard the boy. Drums thump, children scamper and giggle. All seems well.

Then he shouts it, loud enough that everyone can hear. “Raid! Run!” His deep voice echoes across the dance stages, as commanding as a soldier’s. The fiddlers stop mid-note, the drums cease. “Martial raid! Get out! Go!”

A burst of light shatters the silence-one of the sky lamps has exploded-and another-and another. Arrows zing through the air-the Martials are shooting out the lights, hoping to leave the festival-goers in darkness so they can herd us easily.

“Laia!” Izzi is beside me, eye wide with panic. “What’s happening?”


     While the story is full of adrenaline and anticipation, it also addresses social issues such as rape and sexism. Tahir does a beautiful job of portraying strong women. She allows her characters to be fragile, self-conscious, and warmhearted while also being incredibly strong-willed and kick-ass. There is love, but in many different forms. Rather than paint a story with simple relationships, Tahir shows familial bonds, the love between friends, and the confusion of love in general. Love is far from being the main theme in this novel, but Tahir does a fantastic job of not cutting it out completely, and keeping just enough love story in there to make it intriguing. As a reader I think it is the easiest thing in the world to try to guess the possible outcomes of a story. With this book, it was impossible. Also, the characters developed so beautifully. It was like pulling layer after layer away from both the story and each and every character. Without giving anything away, I’ll tell you that this story is pure magic. And if you loved Harry Potter and the Eragon series, you’ll absolutely love this book.


     The sequel, which is highly anticipated, is set to release later this year.


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