An Ember in The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (5 out of 5)

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Why the hell did it take me so long to read this book? Holly gave it to me months ago after I begged her for it. Then it sat..in the pile on the table in my living room. For months. The problem, as I say several times daily, is that I have too many books and not nearly enough time to read them all. However, the ones I’m real excited about are the ones I read first. For a reason that I cannot fathom, I put this one near the bottom of the pile. WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. This was the best YA I have read so far this year. Hands down, no question. I zipped through it last night when I was waiting for non-existent fireworks to be let off in Countryside. Thankfully, many wonderful people online were posting their firework videos, so I was lucky to enjoy it vicariously through their videos. Anyhow, if you haven’t read this, DON’T ignore the hype- READ IT.

Laia is a slave living with her grandparents and her brother under the rule of the Martian Empire. It’s a harsh, brutal world where defiance of any kind is met with execution and death of all that is held dear. You’re not supposed to question, nor defy any direct orders or way of living in the Empire; if you do, you risk paying the ultimate price. Laia and her family do their best and fly free of the radar, but all of that changes when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason. Suddenly, all of those worst case scenarios are hardcore reality. Laia’s not going to sit around and watch that unfold. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to get her brother out, she will be their spy inside the Empire’s military academy. Once on the inside, she meet Elias, who is the Empire’s best soldier, and also quietly unhappy about that fact. He strikes up an alliance with Laia- and here’s what I really like about this book- if it were a TYPICAL young adult survival story, they would fall madly in love, join forces, etc, etc. Happily, it doesn’t work that way. Most of Tahir’s saga here is original in every way. I haven’t read a lot of young adult books that didn’t ring familiar in someone else’s pages. This one? Didn’t remind me in any way or any other book. I REALLY loved that, because with the exception of the recent Sophie Kinsella young adult book, there haven’t been a lot of them that I read that didn’t echo similarities with other books currently out there on the market. Laia and Elias do dance around in each other’s heads, yes, but their individual situations do not make it possible for them to be more than allies in their shared mission to somehow defy the Empire and make it out alive. There were parts that seemed like I had read them somewhere else, until I realized that what I was thinking was that this is how I wanted the book to play out. And for the most part, it did. I feel like there’s more of Laia and Elias’ connection and backstory that needs to play out in the next book, so hopefully we get a little more of that. Overall, I can’t find much here that I didn’t absolutely love.

In terms of action, it doesn’t lag at all. It was ridiculously easy to read this and get through it quickly. Laia and Elias are written so well, you immediately form a kinship with the characters and want to see how it all works out. Definitely NOT the case with the last two books I started and put down halfway through because I didn’t give a rat’s ass! This was a welcome departure. This is truly a book of survival and the love of family; because Laia will stop at nothing to save her brother from death for something he didn’t do. I will warn you, though, that if your teen has an aversion to bloodshed and oft violence scenes, you may want to think twice before letting them read it. There are no shortage of realistic scenes, in way of the bloody regime that is the Empire. There is a lot of talk of rape addressed. So- this is not a book for the teen who spends her afternoons having tea parties with her creepy teddy bears and Barbie. None of this bothered me, but I’m a 42 year old who appreciates reality, even harsh and violent retellings of it. A 13 year old? May not so much.

There was a lot of internal monologue with characters throughout the book. That threw me a little bit, because there were no indicators that it was going in that direction, it just sort of happens in a number of places, and I had to go back several times and go “What the fuck? Who is he/she talking to?” before I realized they were arguing with themselves. And for someone who does that all day long, well, it was a bit much in the book- meaning it happens quite a bit. So that was a tad annoying, because it took the focus off of the action and put it on the inner dialogues of those involved. Don’t discuss it with your Id and your SuperEgo, just do it. Other than those small quibbles, I really don’t have much that I can complain about in regards to this book. I hope that the next one is released quickly, although I know how publishers work, so that’s not very likely, but I can hope. Give it a whirl, I think you’ll love it.

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~ by generationgbooks on July 6, 2015.

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