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Cover image for An ember in the ashes : a novel
An ember in the ashes : a novel
Publication Information:
New York : Listening Library ; Prince Frederick, MD : Distributed by Recorded Books, ℗2015.
Physical Description:
12 audio discs (15 hr., 30 min.) : digital ; 4 3/4 in.
General Note:
Title from container.

Compact disc.

In container (17 cm.).
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 that they will help to save her brother from execution.


Call Number
TEEN CD Tahir, S.
TEEN CD Tahir, S.

On Order



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 that 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's 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.

Author Notes

Sabaa Tahir grew up in California's Mojave Desert at her family's 18-room motel. After graduating from UCLA, she worked at The Washington Post for five years. She is the author of the An Ember in the Ashes series. The first book in the series, An Ember in the Ashes, made the New York Times Bestseller list in 2016.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 6

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up-Fiona Hardingham and Steve West bring a full and excellent repertoire of voices to this gripping production. Elias is a soldier under the Commandant's command. The Commandant is exceedingly ruthless and cruel; she also happens to be Elias's mother. Laia is enslaved to the Commandant after her brother is taken prisoner, the rest of her family killed, and their house burned 2down by agents of the Commandant. Laia's goal is to find and free her brother, no matter the cost. Elias yearns to complete his military training and escape to freedom. In this world, extreme secrecy and courage are needed just to get through a day. Torture is routine. Cruelty is acclaimed. Betrayal and corruption are everywhere. Friendship is nearly impossible, since any attachment or affection could be exploited to coerce a person to do the Commandant's bidding. But Laia and Elias meet, make a connection, and end up helping each other-with drastic punishments endured along the way. West and Hardingham bring the dystopian world to life and provide an engaging experience for the listener. VERDICT Fans of adventure, dystopias, and romance will enjoy this audiobook.-Cynthia Ortiz, Hackensack High School Library, NJ © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

This is not the first time Hardingham and West have worked together to bring a YA novel to life: the two previously teamed up on Maggie Stiefvater's hit The Scorpio Races, and they both have a wealth of audiobook experience as solo narrators. Hardingham narrates the part of Laia, a young woman whose life is turned upside down after most of her family is killed by the Empire (Tahir's nod to ancient Rome). Hardingham portrays Laia's fear convincingly through the novel's first half, when she is roped into spying as a slave inside the household of the Empire's sadistic military commander-who also happens to be the mother of Elias, the character voiced by West. Elias is a top student at the military academy but longs for freedom and a nonviolent life; West does a fine job depicting Elias's struggle to remain honorable in a society that rewards only cruelty. Both narrators also voice other characters; for West, one standout is his sage treatment of an ancient soothsayer named Cain, and for Hardingham, it is the raspy narration of a jaded rebel turned-slave whom Laia meets while undercover. Engaging vocal performances and a fast-paced story line will keep listeners riveted. Ages 14-Up. A Razorbill hardcover. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

This epic debut, set in a fantasy empire with nods to ancient Rome and Egypt, relates the intersecting struggles of Elias, an elite enforcer, and Laia, a Resistance spy. Nuanced, multileveled world-building provides a dynamic backdrop for an often brutal exploration of moral ambiguity and the power of empathy. A compelling emergent romance is only one reason among many to anticipate the sequel. (c) Copyright 2015. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

A suddenly trendy tropeconflict and romance between members of conquering and enslaved racesenlivened by fantasy elements loosely drawn from Arabic tradition (another trend!). In an original, well-constructed fantasy world (barring some lazy naming), the Scholars have lived under Martial rule for 500 years, downtrodden and in many cases enslaved. Scholar Laia has spent a lifetime hiding her connection to the Resistanceher parents were its leadersbut when her grandparents are killed and her brother's captured by Masks, the eerie, silver-faced elite soldiers of the Martial Empire, Laia must go undercover as a slave to the terrifying Commandant of Blackcliff Military Academy, where Martials are trained for battle. Meanwhile, Elias, the Commandant's not-at-all-beloved son, wants to run away from Blackcliff, until he is named an Aspirant for the throne by the mysterious red-eyed Augurs. Predictably, action, intrigue, bloodshed and some pounding pulses follow; there's betrayal and a potential love triangle or two as well. Sometimes-lackluster prose and a slight overreliance on certain kinds of sexual violence as a threat only slightly diminish the appeal created by familiar (but not predictable) characters and a truly engaging if not fully fleshed-out fantasy world. Bound to be popular. (Fantasy. 13 up) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Laia's adventures begin after her brother is taken captive by the reigning, warlike Martials, who have subjugated her people, the Scholars. In an attempt to save him, she enters into a dangerous agreement with the Resistance to spy on the fiendish commandant of the Martial's military academy. In the meantime, the commandant's son, Elias, the finest soldier at the academy, is undergoing a series of trials that will determine the next emperor of the Martial Empire, which loosely recalls the Roman Empire, though this one is no stranger to magic and the supernatural. Though born enemies, Laia's and Elias' lives will come together with unpredictable results that involve a love triangle of sorts. First-time novelist Tahir has written an ambitious sword-and-sand adventure story that is notable for its suspense and scope. There are flaws: the diction is sometimes not as fresh as it might be, and some incidents defy credulity, especially those propelling the ending, which, not surprisingly, is inconclusive enough to promise a sequel. Many readers drawn in by the action and romance will doubtless look forward to it. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: With 19 international markets already sold, as well as an option to Paramount Pictures, this debut has already earned its upcoming author tour, multimedia ad campaign, and more.--Cart, Michael Copyright 2015 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

"AN EMBER IN THE ASHES" presents a vicious empire that has subjugated several cultures, including the once learned Scholars. "Usually, the Empire raids in the heat of the day," we are told. "The soldiers want Scholar mothers and children to watch. They want fathers and brothers to see another man's family enslaved." One Scholar, Laia, is so desperate to free her imprisoned brother that she becomes a slave and a spy at Blackcliff, an imperial academy where young men (and one other young woman, Helene) train to become the Empire's soldiers. We also meet Elias, the son of the school's commander. Appalled by the Empire's rule, he wants to run away, but the announcement of a competition changes his plans. If Elias wins, he will become emperor. And only if he competes, the imperial magicians tell him, will he attain a true moral freedom. In her debut novel, Sabaa Tahir sets out to show how a society is poisoned by slavery, and how in an oppressive regime, all ties of affection fall under threat. Tahir doesn't flinch from portraying violence. The school's commander (Elias's estranged mother and Laia's mistress) is likely to gouge out the eye of a child for another slave's offense. In one scene, she burns her initial into Laia's chest. Even more chilling is the nonchalance with which Laia is objectified. The threat of rape looms large. Her beauty belongs to her mistress, who hopes to use it for her own interests. But Tahir is careful to show that the members of the Empire are also victims. Students are whipped and subjected to psychological terror. While the repetition of violence runs the risk of inuring readers to it, "An Ember in the Ashes" is a richer book for showing that none of its characters are truly free or safe. Romance weaves through the plot, not always compellingly. Two connected love triangles are in play. Laia has a tendresse for a member of the resistance as well as an attraction to Elias, who returns it in an inherently problematic way. "She has no idea how pretty she is," he thinks, "or what kind of problems her beauty will cause for her at a place like Blackcliff. The wind pulls at her hair again, and I catch her scent - like fruit and sugar." But this comes after he sees her walk gingerly and realizes that she has been whipped. Even the description of how she smells - edible - portrays her as something to be consumed, and Tahir chooses well to keep the romantic flame between Laia and Elias turned down low. Meanwhile, the fledgling affection between Laia and Keenan, the resistance fighter, exists largely to forward the plot. The complicated relationship between Elias and Helene burns most brightly. "Loving you," she tells him, is "worse than the Commandant's whippings, worse than the Trials. It's torture." In a different book, Helene's unwilling attraction would be mere adolescent angst. In the context of this novel's focus on subjugation, it's an opportunity to consider emotion's dominion. Tahir's exploration of the many ways in which we fall prey to one another, and to ourselves, strengthens the fiber of this action-driven book. So, too, does Tahir's world building. Soldiers wear silver masks that bond to their faces. The Empire possesses weapons called scims, able to slice through several bodies at once. Its cultures are detailed and distinct. In one vivid scene, Elias disguises himself as a Tribesman - but it is also not a disguise, since he was raised as a Tribal boy before being forced to attend Blackcliff. As Elias dances with a Tribal woman, speaks her language and recalls his childhood, a whole society springs to life. "It was deep night then," the Commandant says as she describes Elias's birth. "The time of night that doesn't feel quite real. The time of night that's like a dream." There's a duality at work in "An Ember in the Ashes": The novel thrusts its readers into a world marred by violence and oppression, yet does so with simple prose that can offer moments of loveliness in its clarity. This complexity makes "Ember" a worthy novel - and one as brave as its characters. MARIE RUTKOSKI is a professor of English literature at Brooklyn College and the author of six books for young readers, including "The Winner's Curse."