Author: Sabaa Tahir
Series: An Ember in the Ashes
In a world built in the image of ancient Rome, no one challenges the Martial Empire. The penalty for such is death, most likely after a period of torture. The Scholars have been forced in to poverty and/or slavery after the Empire overtook them. Martial parents look forward to the day when their children have the chance to be accepted in to Blackcliff, the school which trains them to become Masks, the enforcers and assassins.
Laia is a Scholar girl, living with her grandparents after her parents (who were Scholar Resistance leaders) were caught and killed by the Masks. They live a peaceful existence, even though they are in poverty, by caring for the ill and making jam. That is until the Masks show up at their house to arrest her brother for treason. They kill her grandparents, arrest her brother, and burn their house down. With her whole family gone, Laia turns to the Resistance to help her rescue her brother before he is killed. Their price: she must go undercover as a slave to the Martial Empire to get information for them. Once inside, she meets Elias- the most skilled soldier in Blackcliff. Although highly trained and skilled, all Elias wants is to be free. He has no desire to be a Mask for the Empire. After a series of harrowing events, Laia and Elias find that they must depend on each other if they are to survive.
An Ember in the Ashes is a wonderful and engaging high fantasy that will leave the reader hungry to know what happens next. The world building is top notch, and the character development continues to grow throughout the story. Each of the characters, even the secondary ones, are like slowly peeling an onion. Each layer becomes stronger as you find out more about them. As the first in the series (thankfully there are more to come!), this novel will leave the reader hungry to find out what happens next!