An Ember In The Ashes, Sabaa Tahir

A popular book that is famous thanks to the hype from Youtube and the rest of social media. This dystopian world is ruled by the Marshals who have enslaved the weaker group of people known as Scholars. The Marshals are obsessed with strength and power, while the Scholars – like their name suggests – are focused on knowledge. Now a Scholar and a Marshal will be drawn together.

But this dystopian novel is not what it first appears with little elements of magic leak through. Laia is a Scholar, struggling to survive under the Marshals’ discriminating rules. Meanwhile, Elias is a Marshal undergoing intensive training to become Mask, a high-level assassin, at Blackcliff but just as much a slave to his station as Laia. When Laia’s brother is arrested for treason and her grandparents’ murdered, Laia must venture into the most dangerous place in the empire; inside Blackcliff.

Elias is the best in his class, skilled in every method of murder. Yet he searches and plans to escape the nightmarish school, but if he’s caught it’ll mean death by whipping. The Marshals must be one hundred per cent dedicated to the Empire, ready to betray even their own family for it or face terrible consequences. He can’t trust anyone, not even his best friend, Helene. His story was excellent at showing how although they don’t agree, people can be forced to go along with terrible things purely to survive. Plus, he was an interesting character and it was intriguing watching him plan his one chance at escape.

I found Laia rather bland with obvious motivations and reasons to do each action. She was intelligent, resilient and naïve, something you’d expect from a young ‘Scholar’ girl raised in a dystopian world. She doesn’t agree with the structure of their society and will do anything to save her brother. Like I said she’s a bland character to me, though maybe I just find those kinds of characters dull.

Overall, I did enjoy this book but found it wildly overhyped (though if I’d read it while I was in high school I might have enjoyed it more and found it more original). Sure I did find the fantasy/ Middle Eastern mythology elements unique amongst the overflowing dystopian genre, this did not outweigh the standard dystopian style (one group enslaved everyone else with incredibly strict rules, two people that shouldn’t fall in love do, rebels struggle under the empire, etc). All of this made it an average book to me, so I give it 3/5. Perhaps if there wasn’t such hype I would have enjoyed it more.

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