My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
An Ember in the Ashes follows Laia’s attempt to rescue her brother after he has been taken in the middle of the night and her grandparents murdered. She stumbles into some rebels and manages to convince their leader to promise to help her – at a cost. Laia must become a spy, infiltrating the Commandant’s place and reporting to the rebels. If she gives them good information they say that they will risk the manpower to rescue her brother. Not only is he important to Laia, but he is the only Scholar who knows the secret of martial steel. Martial steel is superior and no weapons can match it, which is why the scholars have never successfully rebelled.
Martials are the ruling people who came to the and many years ago as conquerors. They enslaved the Scholars and treated the others in the land as second class citizens. The Martials even have a place they send their children to train and become Masks, some of the most feared warriors and killers in the land. Elias and Helene are two of those future Masks – training, top of their class and about to graduate.
Each character has their own secrets and motivations. Elias hates being a Mask and doesn’t want to turn into his mother, the vicious Commandant. Helene is in love with Elias and despite her commitment to the Masks, is hesitant to call Elias’ out on his commitment. Laia is scared, but can’t abandon her brother again. Each must go on a journey of self-discovery and find out what truly matters to them – and what they will sacrifice to make it happen.
The world is full of unique places and characters. More interestingly, there is magic and creatures like djinn and efrits. Those are some of the supernatural creatures that are not as frequently portrayed in novels, thus make this even more intriguing. This is a beautifully written book and highly recommended to young adult/teen readers that like fantasy, books with good characters, world building, magic and supernatural creatures.