I definitely enjoyed reading Sabaa Tahir's An Ember in the Ashes. This young adult fantasy is a quick, compelling read with two narrators. Laia is a slave from the conquered Scholars tribe. Elias is a Mask, a soldier from the dominant (conquering) Martials tribe. The chapters alternate points of view. Which is good and bad. Good in that both narrators have action-packed stories that sometimes happen to collide. Bad in that the action is interrupted oh-so-often. And when you're all caught up in the moment, the last thing you want to do is switch narrators! Even if you know that in just a page or two you'll be swept right back up again. But at least both stories are fast-paced and action-packed. It could be a lot worse.
So. The world building is interesting. And the world-building is gradual in a way. You keep learning more about the world as the plot unfolds. It is never so unsettling that you're completely confused. But you know that the world is unique from the start.
So what is this one about? Laia turns to the rebel resistance when her brother is arrested and put in prison. She has no spy-skills to speak of, but, she's determined to do whatever it takes, no matter how hard, no matter how risky, to free him. She's placed as a spy within Blackcliff, the soldier-school, and her mistress is cruel. (She's also the Commandant.)
Elias is planning an escape of his own. He may have trained as a soldier--as a mask--but he's never bonded with his mask. He doesn't see himself as a cruel, heartless soldier who rapes and kills and follows orders. But he hesitates at the last minute, and decides to become an Aspirant instead. There were four named. Two will die. One will be the new emperor. One will take an oath to serve the new emperor until death. And the four trials will be more challenging, more risky, than anything he's ever faced before.
Both Elias and Laia are absolutely miserable and are facing huge challenges daily...
I liked it because sometimes you just need an intense, compelling read.
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews