Review: An Ember In the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

I can understand why this is hyped. It just very much did not work for me. 

This book essentially does one thing right, and that's plotting. Ember In The Ashes is engaging enough, with easy-to-hate villains and decent pacing. I did quibble with the use of rape as a plot device. I kept hoping for the misogyny to lead to some kind of social commentary, but it never did. In fact, I finally DNFed because of the misogyny. There is a scene where it is stated that because Helene is a girl, her brain works differently and she's more romantic than Elias. This was around

For me, characters are what make a book. Without solid characterization, there's nothing for me to enjoy. And unfortunately, the characters here aren't even close to my standards for decent characters. Not only are the characters flat vehicles for the terrible love square ( / diamond / crisscross thingy), they are also actively annoying. 

—+ Laia is far too naive and desperate to do good. Maybe some readers will be able to handle this, but I can't stand the fact that she lives in a brutal world and still manages to be an idiot. I'm Laia's age and I don't live in a brutal world where rape is around every corner, so how exactly is she more naive than I am? Wouldn't she be more downtrodden and aware of how terrible her world is? 

—+ Elias had potential, but in the end, he turned out to be an idiot who treats his best friend terribly. Just like Laia, he seems incredibly naive and stupid, refusing to state his loyalty to the empire at a dinner table despite the fact that he could be killed for acting traitorous. He also treats Helene like crap, despite them being best friends since they were six. At one point, Helene risks her life to save someone she considers a romantic rival, someone who she barely knows. He responds to this by pushing her away and treating her terribly, assuming that she's done nothing to help Laia live. 

—+ On the topic of Helene deserving better: she deserves better if only because she's the one character who isn't a complete idiot. Yeah, she's not perfect, but she's interesting enough, despite not being a POV character. Helene and Elias' friendship / possible relationship is written surprisingly well. Unfortunately, it's on the losing side of a love triangle and as mentioned before, Elias is a dick. 

—+ The love square is completely terrible, obviously. As stated, Helene and Elias are the only two characters with any good buildup whatsoever. Keenan is essentially an obstacle for Elias and Laia's true wuv. Elias and Laia... have a serious case of instalove. Or maybe just instalust; their relationship seems entirely built on sexual attraction. Their dynamic also has a touch of that master/slave relationship dynamic that I find so offputting. There's a scene in this book where the male romantic lead pretends that he's been raping the female romantic lead. It really left a bad taste in my mouth. 

Ember In The Ashes had a lot of potential, but this book ended up being a huge disappointment. Not recommended. 


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