I have made an exciting discovery, ladies and gentlemen! I have finally found a duel point of view novel where I actually like both characters! And, I didn't mind when the POV switched. And, this story is amazingly complex and wonderfully entertaining. I feel like I’ve struck gold here, people!
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir is a new adult fantasy novel that takes place in what I think is a middle eastern country that has been under a Romanesque tyrannical rule for at least a century. Laia is a seventeen year old girl whose parents and sister were killed because the local authorities, known as Masks, believe the family was apart of the Resistance, whose entire purpose is to overthrow the Empire. When Laia’s grandparents are murdered by the Masks right in front of her, and her brother is taken captive on Resistance suspicion charges, Laia makes contact with the Resistance for the first time to ask for their help in retrieving her brother from prison before he is executed.
The other point of view character is Elias, a twenty year old soldier who has been raised in a sadistic military school known as Blackcliff Military Academy. Elias is training to become a Mask, the elite military force whose job is to keep the populace in line. After watching the brutal beating and subsequent death of a ten year old student whose crime was attempted desertion, Elias’ own decision to escape is cemented. If he is caught, the penalty is death.
It was a relief and an encouragement to read a novel where the author had two distinct characters who sound, act, think, and move independently from each other. Laia and Elias’s voices were so different that the reader never becomes confused as to who is speaking at a given moment. I loved that Tahir wrote each chapter so that the story flowed seamlessly, and as a reader, I never felt jerked out of the story when there was a POV change. My favorite part of the storytelling was when the author would, in the midst of an intense part of the story, finish that character’s point of view and then go back and write the same event that had just happened from the other character's perspective. As a reader, you were never left wondering what the other character’s thoughts were in the situation. I simply loved the way this story was told.
My one complaint is that the story did not end where I thought it should. With how thick this novel is, and based on the above synopsis, you would think that the story would be Elias’ escape, Laia rescuing her brother, then they meet somehow, and it's done. Nope. Nowhere even close. There is so much more that takes place in between the two covers. This is definitely one of those novels where the reader is left thinking, “You ended it there?! This can't be done yet! What the?! Argh!!!”
An Ember in the Ashes is a mix of The Hunger Games’ competition, Harry Potter’s magic and creepy creatures, a healthy dose of the “bring down an oppressive government” theme. Lucky for the reader, the sequel, A Torch Against the Night, is due out . Thank goodness!
Random books from the library make Emily's days so much more fulfilling. And they result in awesome recommendations for the readers of this blog. Thank goodness for her voracious appetite!