Author: Sabaa Tahir
Published: April 28th, 2015 by Listening Library
Length: 15 hours & 22 minutes
Narrators: Steve West & Fiona Hardingham
Genres: young adult // dystopian? historical? historical dystopian? // a smidge of fantasy
| GOODREADS |
If you couldn’t tell by the “length” hint, I listened to my first audiobook, ever! And I came across a book that I had been seeing everywhere, recently, so I thought I’d start my audio journey with An Ember in the Ashes! Though, no one warned me that once it’s over, it’s like you’ve lost a friend (or friends) telling you an awesome story… *draws in the sand, somberly* Like, when I reached the very end and Steve West read out the publisher stuff, I realized how comfortable I got with his voice! One downside, though, is not knowing how things are spelled! The characters are easy to find, considering they should be listed in the blurb, but I don’t know how to spell the town’s name, for example…
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.
My goodness, these two did wonderfully! This being my first audiobook, I was wary because I’ve heard snippets of other audiobooks with narrators that do terribly when acting out the opposite sex. Men will pitch their voices too high like a scared child, women will pitch their voices way too low and flat… Granted, I do find men do a little better when acting women’s voices than vice versa.
But these two did well! And I like it that they used various European accents to differentiate characters. That way they didn’t have to pick a bunch of different pitches and end up botching things.
Occasionally I did feel that, when expressing a certain emotion, a few times fell flat. I caught myself repeating the line in my own way I felt fit better. Sometimes there was even a word expressing what kind of emotion and get it was missed. But, really, nothing detrimental!
Sabaa Tahir has a very crisp, smooth writing style. But I did have some issues. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still liked it!
Let’s start with the (partial?) quips:
- The world building was slightly lacking… Like, I knew it was desert area, I knew there was an academy and a town, but I couldn’t picture them in my head… Also, is this dystopian? Is it a dystopian set in a past year? Very modern speech, but no modern or sci-fi technology, not even guns. More history?
- The romance. Is this a love square?? I get enough of triangles… It seems like it won’t be? Laia and Elias get pretty close. However, no matter the couple, it was difficult to feel any chemistry… I felt none between Keenan and Laia – they barely even saw each other! I definitely felt attraction between Helene and Elias – they could make a good couple. And I felt emotional bonds forming between Laia and Elias, but the chemistry isn’t quite there…yet? And this, thankfully, is not insta-love, but it is insta-attraction. And heavy attraction… Hopefully, this all leaves room for better development in the future books.
- The violence was maybe overdone for no apparent reason? Now, I like violence in my books. But I didn’t feel some of the disciplinary punishments were warranted to that degree, maybe? Made for one hell of a bitchy character, though! If Tahir planned to make you hate Keris, she did well! So I still liked the violence to a degree. VERY MIXED FEELINGS ON THE VIOLENCE. Because it does assist some with the building of relations and character development. That 3rd trial was brutal! Maybe the brutality wasn’t necessary either? You don’t want to diminish your number of students, do you?? But I’m a fan of unexpected brutality in books… Maybe I’m just sad. I’ll stop now. Bad at explaining myself. It was just trying a little too hard.
But I will say I liked the characters themselves! (More Helene, Elias, and Laia because I don’t know Keenan enough.)
Laia wasn’t afraid to admit that she had flaws. She wasn’t afraid to admit that she was weak. But she had reasons to become stronger, mainly saving her brother, and she realized that. I think this makes for good development because, even later in the book, she realizes that she may not be as strong as she can be, but she is stronger. The part where she starts hearing her own voice rather than Darin’s pushes that along. And she had to deal with some tough shit!
“Once, I’d have wanted that. I’d have wanted someone to tell me what to do, to fix everything. Once, I’d have wanted to be saved.”
Elias is already strong, but he’s terrified of what he could become. This makes him caring and rather thoughtful, yet within a guarded personality. I really like his personality. Also, the first trial is my favorite because I like psychological things like that. And you can see that it eats at him and he wants to get out. He struggles figuring out how to do it, since the school is so strict and he has strange, immortal humans(?) telling him to stay because that’s the way to escape. I just found him intriguing.
“There are two kinds of guilt. The kind that’s a burden and the kind that gives you purpose. Let your guilt be your fuel. Let it remind you of who you want to be. Draw a line in your mind. Never cross it again. You have a soul. It’s damaged but it’s there. Don’t let them take it from you.”
As for Helene, I didn’t know if I should hate her or like her throughout the book! I felt like there was more to her that wasn’t being said, yet she said and did things that I didn’t want… She definitely helped in moving this story along. She’s a very strong, capable woman, but has humanly (and womanly) fears much like anyone else.
I can’t say much about Keenan… He didn’t appear enough for me to make any thoughts… I’m hoping he’ll pop up more in the next book. I don’t know if there is more to him or not (or if it’ll be interesting).
THE COMMANDANT’S A BITCH.
Bless Cook and Izzy’s souls.
And the story itself is great! It takes a little time for all the details to fall together in understanding. I loved the Mask concept – that’s cool. I’ve always loved scimitars as weapons. I think they’re quite elegant. The whole set up with the Martials and Scholars works well, but could use more background! One hope I have, however, is that the fantasy beings appear more in the next installment. I’d like to know more about the races in their abilities and maybe there will be a big showdown finale with our characters and The Nightbringer?? We shall see!
“Life is made of so many moments that mean nothing. Then one day, a single moment comes along to define every second that comes after. Such moments are tests of courage, of strength.”
I THREW SO MANY WORDS AT YOU, I’M SORRY. I RAMBLE SO MUCH, IT’S A DISEASE. One day I will be an eloquent writer…this is not that day.
My rating: (may be bumped up to 4 – dunno yet)
Ta-ta for now, worms!
Did you read this book? What did you think of the development? Comment below! (Careful of spoilers, though)
~Cover photo from Goodreads~