So I just finished An Ember in the Ashes yesterday and I wanted to spew out my thoughts. I will be posting up my non-spoiler review very soon if you haven’t read the book. But for now, long story short, I gave it a four out of five stars so I really enjoyed it. Spoilers from here on out!
The Masks and the masks
First off, I still don’t get what the masks actually look like…like it would have to be thin I’m assuming because how else would it meld into your skin??
The Precious Cinnamon Rolls aka our main characters
I really liked all of our main protagonists. I have a soft spot for Elias (add him to my list of book boyfriends) but I really liked Laia too. I feel really bad for all the shit she had to go through at Blackcliff but her character development was beautiful. You know, not always believing what people tell her and finding out the true meaning of courage and sacrifice (I sound like a Hallmark card). Helene was understandably frustrating. I mean she has grown up in a world where loyalty to the Empire is a must. I mean you have to remember that the way she thinks about slaves and scholars came from the empire teaching that to her so I can’t really be expected to like her way of thinking. I’m super happy about getting her point of view in the sequel and I almost wish she wasn’t blood shrike because I would want to be at least a 20 mile radius away from Marcus.
The Not So Precious Cinnamon Rolls
I really liked the Commandant’s character and how she showed absolutely no mercy because usually there’s some small chink in the armor with these types of characters or some really tragic backstory but there isn’t with her character and the fact that Tahir was brave enough to push the boundaries on the violence (that “k” scene tho..) really amped up the tension and suspense because I was actually scared when Laia would go off and spy for the Resistance thinking she was going to be caught at any moment. Heck, I was even scared whenever she was talking about basically anything to Izzi.
I also kept thinking something bad was gonna happen to Izzi but nothing happened so that was good..*knock on wood*
The drama! The romance!
I also have mixed feelings about this love square that we’ve got going on or more like two love triangles..I liked that there was a love triangle with a male character but I felt like it wasn’t necessary. Because romantically, there’s nothing really to explore with Helene’s character. I don’t think there was any way it could have worked because Elias doesn’t want anything to do with the Empire but Helene wants everything to do with the Empire. I feel like even if they were good friends, Helene would have still done the deal because that’s how loyal she is. On the other hand, I felt like the love triangle with Laia, Keenan, and Elias was more warranted because Laia feels that Keenan understands her predicament whereas Elias understands her as a person. But I got annoyed with Keenan, mostly because I ship Elias and Laia.. The moon festival scene was so cute *_* and who can forget the scene after the Third Trial..
Also, I low-key ship Keenan and Izzi..
Also, it sounds really harsh but I was kind of annoyed with Darin for going to jail!!!! (jk) But Laia was sacrificing everything for her brother. I just feel like I needed more development and interaction between Laia and her brother for me to be invested in their relationship.
Oh No You Didn’t
I knew that the Test of Loyalty was definitely fighting Helene but I didn’t quite believe it because that is just cruel. Fighting your best friend to the death?? But I think it’s interesting that one of them would have killed the other and there weren’t any real hard feelings after that from Helene. Like ok, you almost killed me!! But that’s ok because you were just doing your job!! ha. ha. ha. I thought one of them would have backed down and say no but I liked that Tahir pushed the characters to their limits (almost).
For the literary critic in me
I have noticed a recurring trend in YA. It’s ok if there’s extreme violence in your book but the romance always has to chaste..like what..it doesn’t fit..
One thing that did really bother me throughout the book was the use of sexual assault. Not in the way it’s used necessarily (although the scene with Marcus and Laia felt a little gratuitous to me), but the concept surrounding it. The Commandant mentions that it would have been better if Laia had been scarred because then she would have been ugly and not be raped. This sentiment is consistently mentioned and it bothered me because beauty does not enter into the rape equation. Being beautiful does not give you a higher chance of being raped. That’s essentially like saying if your clothes are too revealing, you have a higher chance of being raped or vice versa. Rape is about power no matter who it is.
I realized I had a lot to say so kudos to you if you stuck till the end. If you did, comment moon cake below and let me know your thoughts! 😉