An Ember in the Ashes
Summary from Goodreads:
Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.
A Torch Against the Night
Summary from Goodreads:
Elias and Laia are running for their lives. After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.
Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.
But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.
Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own—one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both.
Words just can’t describe how I feel about these books. They are written just so eloquently that every sentence is a gift. If you haven’t read them yet, you must put them at the top of your TBR list right now!
So besides the writing what makes these such great books? The characters are amazing and well written. In the first book we get two points of view one from Laia and one from Elias. Hearing the inner most thoughts of both of these characters really makes you realize how honorable and brave both of them are. You also get the insight of how they feel about what is going on around them and the horrors that make up their lives. The second book added Helene Aquilla’s voice as well. She is Elias’s best friend from Blackcliff Academy and is now the Blood Shrike of the Emperor, basically the Emperor’s assasin. At first I was a little put off that a third voice was added, but as I got to know Helene, I realized how important her character was to the story and she was the insider to what was going on in the Empire’s inner workings. The one character in both books that I would love to learn more about is the Commandant of Blackcliff. She is also Elias’s mother. She is quite the most evil character in a book I have come across in awhile. I would love to learn more of her backstory and why she is the way she is. There are many minor characters, that are not so minor and are equally well written as the main three although we don’t hear from their points of view. One of my favorites is Laia’s friend Izzi. Her character goes through many changes in the book and she becomes one of Laia’s closest friend and ally. Keenan, a rebel spy, has a deep, dark secret that is quite shocking when it is finally revealed.
Next thing I love is that the plot just keeps you on the edge of your seat. The first book is a little bit like Romeo and Juliet. Laia and Elias come from totally different worlds, and their love is pretty much forbidden. But hey, the heart wants what the heart wants right? Both of their lives are in so much danger throughout the two books that you keep thinking that things can’t possibly get any worse and then they do. Also the addition of some creatures from middle eastern mythology gives the story a touch of mysticism. I think this part of the story will become more prominent as the series continues.
And speaking of continuing. It was announced a couple of week ago that Penguin publishers has bought the rights to the next two books in the series, so YEAH! Here is a video interview done this summer at BookCon with Sabaa that is awesome. She talks about where her idea for the books came from and how long she took to write the first one. It’s about 12 minutes long, but so worth it.
Final note, sometime when I love a book series, I will listen to the previous books on audio before the next one comes out to help me remember the finer points of the plot. I did this with An Ember in the Ashes, and I have to comment on the suburb job done by the narrators. Fiona Hardingham is Laia’s voice and Steve West is Elias’s voice. I really like it when the audio books use distinct voices for the narrations. Fiona does a wonderful job conveying Laia’s innocence and naiveté. Steve’s voice is just what I imagined Elias’s would sound like ( I think I’m a little in love with his voice, too). Katherine McEwan will be joining them in the audio version of A Torch Against the Night. I have listened to her before on other audio books and she will make a great addition to the cast. If you like audio books you will love this one, and if you’ve never tried an audiobook before, this would be a good one to start with.