An Ember in the Ashes


Title: An Ember in the Ashes

Author: Sabaa Tahir

ISBN: 9781595148032

Publisher: Razorbill

Copyright Date: 2015

Plot Summary:

An Ember in the Ashes follows the story of Laia, a slave, and Marcus, a soldier. Both are chained to duty, and both dream of freedom. When Laia’s grandparents are murdered and her brother arrested, Laia must turn to an underground rebel force to save her brother from certain death. They agree to help her, on the condition she becomes a spy in the home of an enemy. Laia’s new mistress is cruel and clever, and Laia soon discovers that she will be lucky if she can escape with her life.

Her mistress’ son, Marcus, is being trained as an elite soldier. His mother despises him because he was born out of wedlock and is her greatest shame. Marcus plans his escape from the training compound, but unforeseen events land him in the heart of danger.

Laia and Marcus cross paths, and it soon becomes clear that their destinies are intertwined.

Critical Evaluation:

A rather impressive debut novel, this book leaves the reader both satisfied and wanting more. The open ended conclusion implies that it may turn into a series, but there is no information about whether that will indeed be the case. This book would be great as a movie adaptation, so it will be interesting to see if that will eventually occur.

This book has a wonderful balance between romance, action, and intrigue. The romance elements are subtle, and the reader is privy to the convoluted feelings of the characters. Romance is by no means the focus of the novel and acts more as an undercurrent driving the plot. There is a good deal of action throughout the novel and the main characters are often faced with difficult moral dilemmas. The intrigue of the story keeps the reader on the edge of their seat. Although it is clear who the “bad guys” are, the plot itself is not entirely predictable.

Reader’s Annotation: A slave and a solider joined by destiny. Both imprisoned by bonds they feel they cannot break.

About the Author:

According to the book jacket of her debut novel, “Sabaa Tahir was born in London but grew up in California’s Mojave Desert at her family’s 18-room motel. After graduating from UCLA, Sabaa became an editor on the foreign desk at The Washington Post. Three summers later, she came up with the concept for her debut novel, An Ember in the Ashes. Sabaa currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family.”

Although she claims that An Ember in the Ashes is currently a standalone novel, it has the potential to become a series. In answer to a reader’s inquiry, she writes, “…I have my characters whole lives planned out, so I could write them forever.”

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Describe Laia’s feelings when she sees Marcus without a mask for the first time.
  • Talk about fears, and relate them to Marcus’ trials.

Reading Level/Interest Age: Grades 9-12, Ages 14-18

Challenge Issues: strong sensuality, violence, torture, references to rape

Defense File:

Violence in the Media: A Joint Statement: 2000-2001 CD #19.3

Chapter 5 of Youth, Pornography, and the Internet (2002)

Justification of Selection: This is an incredibly engaging book that could appeal to both male and female readers. There is both action and romance, and the book is divided pretty evenly between the male and female protagonists.


Tahir, S. (2015). An ember in the ashes. NewYork, NY: Razorbill.

Tahir, S. (2015). Book. Sabaa Tahir. Retrieved from

An Ember in the Ashes

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