Monday, 8 June 2015

An Ember In The Ashes

An Ember In The Ashes
Rating: 5/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy buy BUY!
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher!

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free. 
The Scholars used to be an Empire all of their own, but their mistakes cost them dearly. The Martials invaded and ever since the Scholars have lived under their cruelty and brutality since. Defiance is met with death. Resistance is met with death. Anything less than loyalty to the Empire is met with death, or the death of their loved ones. 

Laia lives in this world with her grandparents and her brother. They eke out an existence as best they can, selling jams and healing others. They live in the impoverished backstreets of the Empire, and they do not challenge said Empire. They've seen what happens when you do first hand. 

But Laia's brother has been keeping secrets, secrets that result in their home being raided. Secrets that result in her brother being arrested for treason and Laia is desperate to get him back. So she goes hunting those supposed to aid her. 

The Resistance. Laia makes a deal, in exchange for the Resistance freeing her brother from prison, she will risk her life by spying for them from inside the Empire's greatest military academy. By spying on the most dangerous woman the Empire has. 

It's there that she meets Elias, the school's finest soldier-and secretly, it's most unwilling. Elias only wants to be free. But a prophecy is about to change his hard laid plans. Elias is thrust in to a brutal and cruel Trial, as the Emperor's reign is destined to come to an end. 

Laia and Elias's destines are intertwined, and their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself. But everyone is keeping secrets, some aren't who they seem, betrayal is everywhere and there's a darkness coming. 

Okay, so, I changed the synopsis a bit, to try and give you guys a better idea of what the book is about and what's going to go on without giving too much away because seriously this book is way too awesome. 

I was excited to read and review it, but at the same time I thought I knew what to expect. I kind of assumed that it would be about Elias and Laia falling in love and so on, and that'd be it, with some action but I was so very, very, delightfully wrong. I wasn't sure what this was categorised as but it wasn't YA like I was thinking. I have never been more glad to be wrong, because this? This is one of my favourite reads of 2015 so far, I need the next book, like, yesterday, and it's one of my favourite new series.

It's very rarely that I get hooked on a book to the point that I'm like "Oh's 4am...who needed sleep?" but it happened. I would have finished this in a matter of a day, maybe or two, but as I embarked on the book, there was a family tragedy type thing, and then there was no time to read and to be honest, I kind of just sat listlessly for a while doing nothing, but then I was always thinking about the book when I wasn't reading it, and it may have taken me a lot longer to pick up a book if I hadn't had this book and the characters stuck in my head, and it was like the book was a little demon thing, staring at me and going "read me, read me",  and so while it took me way longer than it normally would have, and while I was finding it really hard to put down, I was also kind of glad it took me so long to read because I was enjoying being totally lost in this vivid world. And now I'm back to my normal self so there we go. This book is magic. 

This book is kind of like crack to be honest. You're reading it, and you're saying "only a couple of chapters because it's really late and you should be asleep" so you read a couple of chapters, but then the chapter will end on a mini cliffhanger and you're like..."I can't sleep after that!? I'll be thinking about it all day, I'll probably even dream about" so you read a couple more and then it happens again, and it only gets worse as the book goes on. Towards the end I seriously couldn't be pried away from the book with a crowbar. I was trying to read as fast as I could to find out what was going to happen next, how it was going to end. 

This book surprised me at every turn. Not least in what actually happened, but in the plot. There were twists and turns everywhere, twists and turns that shocked you and hit you like a bomb. Ones you weren't expecting because this book is very difficult if not impossible to predict. It's a rollercoaster ride you're riding blind. I loved every minute of it. It's so rare for me to find books that I get lost in and have no idea what's going to happen, which is one of the many reasons I loved this book.

I was caught in the story from the first page. It's fast paced, the atmosphere is a physical thing you feel as you read, the tension ramps up and up, it's nail biting and edge of the seat. The prose is slick and concise. There's detail, plenty of detail, but rather than being pages and pages of information being dumped on you, you get all the background info from dialogue and the odd bit of narrative, and some of it you're finding out with the characters. 

I love a rich history, and this book has it. Rich background, rich history, a complex political system, and it has magic and the supernatural combined with the fighting and the more...non supernatural and magical elements. It's late and I can't find the words I'm looking for, sorry guys! ANYWAY. The richness of the history/background, combined with the characters and the world building to create this world that just comes to life as you read. It's vivid, you can picture everything, and the atmosphere, history/background and characters add more and more layers and dimensions to the world, bringing it more and more to life. Clearly it's an extensive one, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of it in the next book! 

As I was reading, I got some very strong Roman Empire vibes, as well as modern day issue vibes. Those were combined with the original world, characters and so on, to create such a unique and original and imaginative world. But don't get me wrong, this book is very blunt, there's blood and gore and violence and it's got a lot of brutality, and it was all combined to create this totally gripping read that keeps you hooked. But at the same time, there were bits that made me chuckle, mostly comments, and there were a good few lighter bits, it's a perfect balance. Although, having said that, the world is so horrific that you, or at least I, actually get pretty angry at it, the author has created it and the nastier characters so well, you actually want to crawl in to the book and kick their asses. 

The plot itself is very complex, you've got the politics going on, the Resistance and their plans and Laia and her dealings with them, Darin and what exactly he's been up to, Elias and his life and the Trials, then there's the whole Commandant thing and she's so shady it's unbelievable and who she's working with and what she has planned. There was a moment, when the Commandant reveals something to Laia and you realise how complex this plot is and everything that's going on and has gone in to it has created this plot you're reading one way, and then this bit of dialogue has blown it open and revealed a far darker upcoming plot, and has set up the next books very nicely while not taking away from this book, or rendering this as a set up book. Like, it is a set up, but it has it's own complex plot going on, and the setting up of the next book, much like the romance is very secondary and very subtle. 

Romance. Ah romance. How subtle you were, creeping up while I was occupied with the other happenings of the book, but being so very natural and so very perfectly done. I'm going to straight up say that while Keenan is okay, I'm fully on Elias's team okay. For a minute or two over the course of the books, I did think there was going to be some mad love square? Pentagon? But everything was handled very, very well, and it kept you guessing. If there were to still be an upcoming love triangle, and the elements of it in this book, although I'm not sure whether there actually was a love triangle, it's very well done. That's all I'm going to say, mostly because I'm still undecided if there was an actual love triangle, cos I was like "ELIAS OMG" and pretty much liked to ignore Keenans existence. Sorry Keenan. No offence. 

Anyway, there were lots of feelings, and you could understand both sides feelings, there was a best friend has feelings for me type situation and then an "I like both" moment, but then at the end I feel like it's mostly been solved and it's hopefully a matter of time until my ship is sailing. Either way, I enjoyed the subtle romance, while squeeing every time Elias was adorable. 

Elias really is adorable though, for a trained killer. He's such a complex character. All of the characters are complex, some you don't even realise quite how complex until much later like the Commandant, she's definitely complex and very interesting. Anyway, Elias is brilliantly created, he was believable and you could connect with him and feel for him and you were on his side the whole way through. He was so sweet to Laia, his conflicts were so natural and so very real. He had such intense chemistry with Laia, and with her you saw his softer side I think, the scene with the dancing? I can't even. He's had a different upbringing to the others at the school and I think that's one of the things that sets him apart from the others, not the others are all bad, his friends, Helene in particular, is also an interesting character to me, I wasn't sure whether I liked her, there were moments I did and moments I didn't, she has a lot going on and you don't realise how much until near the end. I'm intrigued to see where she goes. 

Laia is a character that some people might not like, in the beginning she could be described as weak, she runs away and so on. What makes her complex, is the drive she has to save her brother, her determination to save him is, frankly, admirable and inspiring and so very brave. What makes her complex, is all of her fears, the thoughts she has and the way she keeps pushing herself. Her character development over the book is a thing of beauty, and you connect with her and you're right there with her, cheering her on as she develops in to this badass who, well, you'll see at the end! I was rooting for her the entire time, and cheering her on and I was so proud at the end, of how far she'd come. 

The Commandant and Marcus. What a......well, there are no words to accurately describe how truly evil they are. Cersei Lannister looks practically saint like compared to the Commandant, and Marcus? Well, I've a mind to think him in the same category as the Mad King, but then I have this foreboding feeling that he's going to be so much worse. I'm willing to bet that he's worse than every character you have ever hated put together. I'm so ready for him to get what's coming to him, and Mazen. To quote Evie O'Connell, "nasty little men like you always get what they deserve", but then that's kind of an understatement. 

The book is told from both Elias and Laia's points of view, which also helps to fuel the "I need to pee, I haven't eaten in hours and I need sleep, BUT I CAN'T STOP READING" thing, because one would leave you on a cliffhanger and you'd have to get through the other, heart pounding and totally on edge before you could find out what happened! Both of them have different voices, and both of them had very engaging narratives. There were no scenes repeated word for word but from two points of view, the flowed smoothly, continuing the story, filling in the gaps so you had a complete view of events. 

I can ramble on and write as much as I want but I don't think there are enough words to describe how truly amazing this book is. I enjoyed every page, I loved the characters that weren't pure evil. I got so lost in this world that reality ceased to exist as long as I was reading, and this book pulled me out of a funk and a crappy time a lot faster than any other book would have. The world is imaginative and original, the plot complex. You won't be able to put the book down so I'd advise getting plenty of sleep to tide you over before you start! 

An Ember In The Ashes adds another unique voice and imaginative world to a genre I love with all my heart, and I have a feeling this series is going to fill a void left over when a few of my other series have ended. I only just finished the book but already I want to go back and read it again, and it's going to become a well loved book of mine, and most likely of yours as well when you pick it up! 

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