An Ember in the Ashes
ISBN: 9780007593279
Published: 2015
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.

The novel begins with a country/territory suffering because they’ve been invaded and enslaved. Laia is living in poverty with her brother and grandparents, surviving by selling jam and healing people.

When tragedy strikes, Laia jumps at the opportunity to try and save them, even if it means putting her life on the line. We also meet Elias, who is a ‘mask’, training to be one of the invading empire’s elite forces, and trying to escape the regime.

I particularly liked the mysteries and that it revealed some shocking things at the very end. I also
really liked the way the author brought the climax right to the last few chapters. The characterisation was a winding journey discovering who they were, their traits, and whether they were willing to fight for the greater good.

The main aspect I disliked was how some of the themes discussed real world problems but they
were introduced too quickly. I feel the border between fantasy and reality wasn’t always clear. In some instances they fitted in with the puzzle nicely, however others were more confronting.

I would recommend this to any readers who love suspense and a magical reality that has a bit of a dystopian vibe to it. It was well written, intriguing and left me wondering whether there’s a sequel. I really hope so. It was a pleasure to find this book on the library shelves.

Reviewed by Ada M., Year 8, Ivanhoe Grammar School