Book Review 44 - An Amber in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Pages: 464 
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: April 28th, 2015
Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

My Thoughts:

Before I start, I need to state that my enjoyment of this book was more than 3 stars. At least in the beginning. I liked the concept, I liked the world, I liked the story. Despite some flaws in world building and some dislikable characters, the book was pretty good.

My issues that caused me to lose interest and stop reading are two separate problems that sort of link together. There may be spoilers to specifics scenes so if you want to read the book really don't read this.

The first reason: The author's lack of commitment. She introduced many many situations where the plot was going to GREAT situations, the climax was at a peak, and then she just let go. One prime example, and kind of the one that got me to stop reading in the end, was the third trial. Elias and Helene were to fight to the death, the winner moves on in the trials to the last one. After the disappointment I had been faced, I was excited. Something FINALLY would happen. Elias would have to kill Helene. But no, the moment it is about to happen, Helene conveniently happens to be wearing armour illegal in this trial. It was so disappointing. I didn't want Helene to die, not at all in fact since she is the only character left that I like, but I wanted the author to commit to something. Commit to a scene, commit to something she introduced. Helene could have still lived wearing the armour fighting Marcus, that would have been fine. But have Elias fight and kill Zak. Have something happen. You can't have a fight to the death and then let the other person live. It's a cop out. And it brings me to my second problem.....

Which was the fact that I can see the outline of the book. This is hard to explain so it will take time. Brace yourselves. Often times when I read a book, I see something happen and I'm like WOW. Or I see something coming and I am like "yeah I knew that would happen." This book isn't predictable but it's not plot twisty either. My problem is that I can SEE why the author wrote the book the way she did. I can SEE why she included the fight to the death, she wanted Helene and Elias to fight and to show that Elias was a tough character not willing to back down, but she didn't actually want Helene to die because it didn't fit the plot, so she included the armour. I DO NOT like to be able to see why the author wrote scenes the way she did. 
Another example of this is the scene when Laia almost gets raped by Marcus (again, I didn't want Laia or ANYONE to get raped, but if you're going to include things you have to go all the way with them). I could see why it happened where it happened. It happened near the secret entrance so that someone would realize she saw it and close it up, therefore ruining her plans. It happened in the middle of Helene and Elias' fight/kiss so the tension could build and so Elias could go and "rescue" her and be the knight in shining armour, it happened so it would give Elias and Helene another reason to fight, therefore spurring on the fight to the death. I just read the scene and instantly knew every reason the author chose to include the scene and I do not like this experience and this is the first time it's ever happened to me. I normally can predict things and maybe see them coming, but I do not like to know this basic foundation of the plot. I feel like I'm cheating and I know things I don't know. 

So there you have it, in the grand scheme I DO like this book. It's interesting, I want to know how it finishes and all that and even maybe read the sequel, but because of those 2 previous things, my actual reading experience has been really dampened and I am not enjoying myself.


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