An Ember in the Ashes is a dystopian YA story told from the POV of two characters; Laia and Elias. Laia is a scholar, a lower class citizen who lives in fear of the Empire that controls her country. Elias is a student training to work for the Empire, who secretly despises what he has to do. He trains at Blackcliff Academy, a school that turns children into ruthless killers. When Laia’s brother is taken by the Empire, she is forced to work as a slave in Blackcliff to spy for the Resistance, a rebel group trying to give power back to the scholars.
I saw this book in my local library and randomly decided to pick it up. I had never heard of the book or the author but the pretty cover persuaded me (I’m shallow). I put the book to the side and kind of forgot about it, until I started seeing it literally everywhere. I went on Goodreads and saw so many amazing reviews, so I had really high expectations going into it. I started and finished it yesterday and really enjoyed it.
The writing is really good and you get immediately sucked into the world and story. A lot of the time I’m disappointed by the dystopian worlds in YA, I feel like they’re only used to make the blurb sound interesting and are then is promptly forgotten. The Empire is genuinely terrifying though. The scholars live in fear of being killed or arrested, whilst the students in Blackcliff are constantly beaten and severely punished for the smallest mistakes. Rape is also discussed heavily throughout the book, the female slaves are frequently assaulted and the one female student (my fave Helene) is constantly threatened by male students. This was really off putting for me but I understand it’s demonstrating how awful the society is. Blackcliff Academy was a great setting and I’d love to read more about it’s history etc.
As I mentioned, the story is told from both Laia and Elias’ POV. I actually preferred the chapters featuring Elias, which surprised me as I normally find it much harder to relate to male main characters. His chapters were much more interesting to me as the trials he undertook were exciting and added the most to the plot. I was actually disappointed by Laia’s story when I finished the book. At the start I really liked that she was different to the typical YA heroine, she’s terrified and only helping the resistance to save her brother. However, since she was too scared to really do anything I don’t think her chapters added anything to the overall plot. I would have much preferred if the book was from Elias and Helene’s POV instead.
My favourite character was Elias’ best friend, Helene. She’s the only female student in the Academy and is a total badass. Her character was the most sympathetic, even though she was an amazing fighter she was also vulnerable and caring. I hated how Elias treated her and how disrespectful he was when he found out that she liked him. From reading other reviews on Goodreads I can see I’m not the only one who loved Helene and wanted more from her.
The thing that annoyed me the most about An Ember in the Ashes was the love square between Helene/Elias/Laia/Keenan. There were two love triangles! Keenan was barely a character so I didn’t care about what happened to him and Elias and Laia had annoying insta love so I didn’t care about that either. I only really liked Helene and Elias together. Personally I find it easier to root for two people who’ve been best friends for years and have slowly developed feelings for each other, than two people who meet once and fall in love because they have nice eyes.
Overall, An Ember in the Ashes was exciting, addictive and has the potential to be a great series. I’ve just checked on Goodreads and the sequel is out the 30th of this month which is amazing as I normally read a book and have to wait forever for the next in the series. From the blurb it also seems like there’s going to be chapters from Helene’s POV yay!
I really need someone to discuss Helene with so if you’ve read an Ember in the Ashes please let me know below!