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Editorial Reviews

Editors Select, April 2015 - Violence and secrecy allow for a startling and gripping start to Sabaa Tahir's debut novel An Ember in the Ashes. Tahir's YA epic fantasy tale has been receiving a lot of incredible advanced praise from some pretty impressive authors (such as Brandon Sanderson), I just had to see if it lived up to the hype. I was not disappointed. Tahir's original world-building matches the talent of seasoned authors, and the higher-stakes Romeo and Juliet narrative at the core of her book is heart-wrenching and captivating. Told from the alternating perspectives of Laia, an orphan on the run, and Elias, a soldier, An Ember in the Ashes fills a void in the YA fantasy canon we didn't know we had. —Katie, Audible Editor

Publisher's Summary

Set in a terrifyingly brutal Rome-like world, An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy debut about an orphan fighting for her family and a soldier fighting for his freedom. It's a story that's literally burning to be told.

Laia is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire's greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim they will help to save her brother from execution.

Elias is the academy's finest soldier - and secretly its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he's ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.

When Laia and Elias' paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.

©2015 Sabaa Tahir (P)2015 Listening Library

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Story

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A fabulous listen!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. With most audio books I listen to, I find I usually have to slog through the first quarter of the book before I really get hooked. I was hooked from the opening lines of this book all the way through to the end, with hardly a dull moment.

The writing was excellent and well thought out and executed. The story was engaging and interesting. The production of the audio book and the narration were superb. The two narrators are two of my new favorites.

My only complaint about this book is that there are, that I know of, no official plans for a sequel, which is particularly bothersome as some pretty big plot points are not resolved at the end.

I thoroughly recommend this book!

26 of 28 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Brian
  • Milwaukee, WI, United States
  • 05-01-15

Not That Impressed.

I don't mean to be too hard on this audiobook, especially considering I (being 38) am not the target audience, but I just wasn't that impressed. I was expecting something different, but it had all the familiar aspects of young adult novels lately. Like Hunger Games Trilogy and Divergent Trilogy. The oppressed population, the love story, and the trials just seemed like the same story in a different setting.

The narration was handled by two people, one for each of the main characters. I thought the male narration was fine or better. The female narrator really started grating on my nerves. I thought she used an overly wrought and quavery voice for the main character and "cook". I get that she is being put through a lot of tough things, but it seemed way too dramatic to me.

I did like the world she created and some of the supernatural elements.

So, if it still sounds good to you, I'd say go for it.

50 of 56 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Part Hunger Games, Part GoT, Part 300 = 100% AMAZ

What did you love best about An Ember in the Ashes?

This book completely took over my life for a weekend. I was listening it on a short road trip with my parents on the way to my best friend's wedding weekend, but by the time we made it to Johnson City, I was hooked. I listened every single second I wasn't either IN the wedding, AT the reception, or having a meal. I slept for like two hours a night. I then bought the e-book and reread half of it as soon as I finished. This book put me in the worst book hangover I've had since Mockingjay, and I have to wait almost a YEAR for the sequel?!

What other book might you compare An Ember in the Ashes to and why?

Reminiscent of YA epics like The Hunger Games and Delirium, but this one is reminiscent of Ancient Rome, not the post-apocalyptic future. Also reminiscent of Game of Thrones without the super excessive violence and sexuality.

Have you listened to any of Fiona Hardingham and Steve West ’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Never heard them before but the performance was GRIPPING. Enchanting.

Any additional comments?

You MUST read this book. You MUST.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Loved the narrators

I loved having a male and female narrator. It helped the story flow well. I definitely will be getting another book by this author. Characters were believable, deep and interesting. I really cared about them. Overall a super great story.

16 of 18 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Emma
  • Massachusetts
  • 09-21-16

Too many good ingredients = Over-seasoned story

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

Eh. Not so much. Mildly enjoyable time? Yes. But so is watching season 5 of scandal, even though NOTHING surprising, informative or important is happening there.

This was listening fluff to me. I tuned out for twenty, thirty minutes at a time and every time I checked back in, I thought "yeah, doesn't seem like I missed anything important". When a story is 15 hours long and literally JAM-PACKED with plot, that's not a good sign.

When there is too much action, adventure, love triangles, supernatural villains, big empire evil, torture, espionage, trials, rape, and so on... then the bar is set too high in the beginning for the stakes to be raised any further. There's a catastrophe or a giant twist in every chapter. I just lost interest after a while.

What other book might you compare An Ember in the Ashes to and why?

This book felt like a song mashup remix of every classic fantasy series (game of thrones, wheel of time, etc) with every chosen- one-coming-of-age-in-the-face-of-great-trials YA book (hunger games, ender's game, etc)

That's the main problem I had with this story, though. With all these great ingredients, I kept thinking "I should really be loving this!" But it just never added up for me. It felt like the author was cutting and pasting elements from genres I love, but there were too many of them, and they never formed a cohesive theme or a plot that felt genuine.

Would you be willing to try another one of Fiona Hardingham and Steve West ’s performances?

Dear lord, not likely. This reading was Melodramatic with a capital M. Especially Hardingham's reading. I think if I'd read the print version, I might have given this an extra star or two. The female character is already a weak protagonist. Adding the narrator's super high, over the top voice, CONSTANTLY quivering with fear or worry or whatever, it just made me want to fast forward through her chapters after a while, and even convinced me that this would have been a stronger book if it had been told only through Elias' point of view.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

Probably, yes! This actually might be one of those rare instances where the movie would be better than the book.The text itself is missing some drive. The same amount of weight is granted to relatively small scenes and epic adventure scenes alike. The performance of narrators didn't help with that, as they read all scenes with the same level of exaggerated affectation.

I think a visual representation would help with one of my primary complaints, which is this: simply mentioning otherworldly supernatural beings by name, or mentioning a characters fear of them in passing, does nothing but get the reader hoping for something that is never delivered. I'd rather there have been ONE great evil/villain in this story, whether it was the empire or a ragtag bunch of ghouls, than to have evil sprouting from every corner of the story without ever being fleshed out. At least in a movie, the augurs and ghouls and all the rest would be fleshed out enough to differentiate one from the others.

Any additional comments?

I didn't hate this book, because at least the style of writing was enjoyable on an aesthetic level. I appreciated the prose more than the story, though.

This book had too many things going on to allow me to feel engaged or attached to any part of it. The way that the author wove together common threads from so many other contemporary and popular stories felt very forced to me, as if the choices characters were making or the events that came to pass were all devices used with the intention of fooling the reader into thinking they would like the book. It reminded me of being with a very pushy salesperson grasping at straws... every time I was ready to give up on it, she'd come at me like: "What if I told you there's also.... demons! Eh?" "How about another love triangle? Everyone likes those!"

None of these things felt genuine, like the actual, logical next step in the story. It was like a writing exercise that spiraled out of control.

The split protagonist concept seemed very cool to me at first, but as soon as the two characters became one of each other's love interests in their weird love hexagon (rhombus with a line down the center maybe? two triangles interwoven) I found myself gagging frequently. Their two points of view didn't match up. In a book like Game of Thrones, this kind of discrepancy can shed light on the characters, etc. But with just the 2 points of view going back and forth, it only makes him seem like a potential rapist and her like a weak, frightened mouse.

I just couldn't find a part of this story that grabbed me. Contemporary best-seller formula only works when the story eventually finds its own feet and runs with them. To sum up: I love tacos, and sushi, and ice cream, and coffee. They're all my favorites. But throw them all in one blender and mash it up? Not so appealing anymore. This story was like that smoothie.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Great Characters Save An Average Plot

Where does An Ember in the Ashes rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

It is definitely up there with the best but it's not an ultimate favourite.

What was one of the most memorable moments of An Ember in the Ashes?

Without spoiling much, it was near the end, and it involved a bit of fire.

Which character – as performed by Fiona Hardingham and Steve West – was your favorite?

If I'm to be honest, the narrators were nothing special. Fiona Hardingham sounds as if she's on the verge of tears at all times, and Steve West, while good, was a bit unremarkable. Where she was too emotional, he wasn't emotional enough (or, perhaps, he was but the contrast was too great, and I'm judging him unfairly).
Anyway, onto the actual question. I liked Hardingham's interpretation of Keenan, and West's Keris Veturia (the Commandant).

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Not at first; so much so that I stopped listening for days but, once I picked it up again, it gripped my attention, and I finished it all in one sitting.

Any additional comments?

I didn't think the book was particularly special plot wise but the characters are complex (even if infuriatingly naive, at times) and it's worth it for the relationships. I was especially fascinated by Helene in the last scene of the book.
If it feels like the book's a bit boring in the beginning, give it a couple more hours, and it might win you over, as it did me.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Good story line, a bit much inner monologue

Any additional comments?

The story line in this book is quite good. The intrigue, and little reveals throughout the storyline make you want to go deeper into the novel. However, I would have liked to see a lot fewer inner monologues. This is especially true when you start hearing the same arguments and answers from one segment to the next. It drives an excellent storyline into the mud. I rated this story fairly high on my scale because of the storyline and color of the environment the author paints, but when put all together the overall effect is average. I honestly wish I could proof read subsequent books from Sabaa Tahir just to slice away more of the fluff. I do hope the author grows. I will be waiting with hopes for the future.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Love Love Love

Where does An Ember in the Ashes rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

It's one of the best. I absolutely adore this audiobook, and I've listened to it a number of times already.

Have you listened to any of Fiona Hardingham and Steve West ’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I haven't heard any of their other performances, but I absolutely loved them in this. They sound perfectly in-character. I adore Fiona Hardingham's accent and Steve West's voice is off the charts.

Any additional comments?

I cannot recommend this enough.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Tobi
  • Sandy, UT, USA
  • 09-23-15

Wonderful and exciting new series.

I loved this book. Could hardly stop listening. The readers were fabulous. I can hardly wait for the next book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Extraordinary !!!!

The narrators were amazing they brought the story to life. I felt every moment from the beginning to end! Been a long time since I read a story that keeps me captivated at every single word.

Laia and Elias are characters that will stay with you forever. Only regret is that it leaves you wanting more !

8 of 10 people found this review helpful