This is a new series I want to start doing. I do tend to re-read books, whether it’s to refresh my mind on a series, just because I want to or it’s been a very long time. In this case today, I went down memory lane to prepare for A Reaper at the Gates. It’s been just over 2 years since I listened to the first book so I figured a refresher wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Title: An Ember in the Ashes (Ember Quartet #1)
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: April 28th 2015
Narrators: Steve West and Fiona Hardingham
Listening Time: 15 hours, 22 mins
Original Listen: April 25th to May 2nd 2016
2018 Listen: May 24th to June 7th
Rating: 5 stars (both times)
Original Thoughts (from 2016): My original thoughts after listening to this was that I couldn’t believe that this was a debut novel. I had found out that Tahir took 6 years writing this book and I could tell by how well Elias and Laia were written. I also appreciated that Elias and Laia took the time to talk and understand other (given the opportunity) because I felt that too many YA books just went for the heavily romantic stuff instead and then talk later. The book focused on the harsh reality of the trials and darkness in all people without making the romance a central plot line.
2018 Thoughts: Now that it’s been some time after first listening to this book, my thoughts are mostly the same. My original review on GR was actually kinda short and didn’t talk about other major aspects: how shocked I was, other favorite characters, etc. But now having known how the story plays out in the first two books, I just loved seeing Laia’s progression from being a terrified girl to a girl who realizes her strength and takes hold of it. We don’t see characters like this in YA; mainly they’re reckless girls who don’t think or know any better or have any other emotion. The author has taken her real life fears from childhood and put them into Laia, which is one reason why her character is so riveting.
Another interesting thought is that Cook is one of my top favorite characters now, after Elias and Laia. Her mysterious past and bitter perspective is so fascinating and I really hope she’s more of a player in book three. I forgot she told Laia a few tales that could be possible foreshadowing for the future.
Another thought is how fast paced this book is. Every chapter fluidly moves from Elias to Laia and I felt like I kept flying through the story by the end. While it wasn’t noted in my original review, I did notice it more this time. This story never felt like it was out of the author’s control; it’s an awesome situation where a controlled environment made the story flourish.
Next, I still love both these narrators. While I do actually think Steve West does a little bit better of a job as far as giving you the full emotional spectrum, I picture both these voice actors as the title characters. Fiona Hardingham shines when she voices Cook and Izzy especially. Their wonderful voices make the journey even more compelling.
One final thought, and this is something that’s been bothering me for a while: THERE IS NO LOVE SQUARE IN THIS BOOK! All the Booktubers keep referencing how “annoying” this love square is. But sorry, it’s not there. While there is kind of a love triangle between Elias falling for both girls, that’s the main romantic thread. While it seems Keenan is another love interest for Laia, remember that he doesn’t count. *IF YOU’VE READ BOOK TWO, THINK ABOUT THAT FOR A MINUTE* The events surrounding Keenan do not make him a love interest. He wanted to help Laia since Mazin is a douche bag and she appreciates his help. She may feel a tiny crush on him, but she has NEVER had an actual relationship with a guy before the story starts. NONE of them have. Helene and Elias had to survive harsh cruelty and environments together and that’s what makes their bond strong. While they have feelings for each other, they don’t know how to talk about it, since Black Cliff doesn’t touch subjects like that. They are raised to be killers for the Empire, not human beings. So with all this crap going on, their feelings are emerging and their confused by them. That problem continues in book two. The author writes these thoughts of theirs as romantic thoughts but also with a bit of angst in them because: there’s no time to talk them and again, they’re confused on how to approach it. (If any of you want to see a discussion on a topic like this, let me know if you feel the same) But I feel like the small romantic plot line in this series is blown way out of proportion.
Anyways, to wrap this all up, I loved this book even more the second time. The themes of: trying to forgive yourself, finding your inner strength, love for family and fighting for what you believe in are so potent and emotional. I also noticed a few small scenes that could have bigger impact later, but we shall see what the rest of the series brings 🙂
Have you read this series? What are your thoughts on it? Who’s your favorite character? What are some of your non-spoiler thoughts?