Laia and Elias escape from the Empire. From the bonds that supposedly entrap them as slaves.
The Empire is after them.
The Blood Shrike will not let them out of her sight.
It’s been so long since I’ve read An Ember in the Ashes and I thought I would have to scavenge for a copy in the library but I’m glad to say that this book picks up right where it left off. Like, literally, right where it left off.
I was pleasantly surprised to see Tahir re-immerse readers back into the world without too much explanation and stuff that I couldn’t remember wasn’t that important.
There were so many good things about this sequel:
- Action. Like things were happening. And with the multiple POVs, you were always in the middle of something and thrown back in the middle of something else. I never had time to calm my heart rate. Spare me, Book.
- Helene, Helene, Helene. I mentioned before how Helene was one of the most interesting characters in An Ember in the Ashes and that’s no exception in this book. She gets her own POV for crying out loud. And there’s so much depth and pain in every decision that she makes that you can’t help feeling for her. It was like every choice she made would be worse than the alternative. She could never win even though she is supposed to be the Blood Shrike. The added benefit of having her voice is that I completely forgot she was a Mask and the only time that I remembered was when it was mentioned that she was silver-faced.
- More magicky magic. There’s more fantasy elements incorporated in and I really liked that. To be honest, I kind of forgot this was a fantasy book until I read the word efrit. And powers are awakening. Yas, powers.
- Some nice character development. Especially from Elias. There are hints of character development from Laia but I feel that Elias had a much more obvious change.
- Not all families are bad families: the Commandant is absolutely terrible to everyone and Elias is no exception to her cruelty but I was so happy to see a nice-ish family in Helene’s parents and sister (bonus points to Helene).
- NO CLIFFHANGER. I REPEAT NO CLIFFHANGER.
- I hated Marcus in the first book but he was a really interesting character to read. The events in the first book obviously had a traumatic effect on him and it was good to see how that would influence his behaviour and decisions in this book.
- We get to see Elias’s family. Yay to Mamie Rila. How come no scenes of Elias’s brother? I wanted to see Elias’s and his brother’s interactions!
- Keenan’s characterization. He gets more interesting. More of a backstory. More things. More. I’m making so much sense right now. Good job, Hilary.
What I wasn’t so happy about:
- The characterizations of Laia and Elias. I feel like this probably just me. Don’t get me wrong, I still think Elias is an interesting character but I didn’t feel connected to either of them. They were figures I felt I had seen before in multiple YA books: the brooding male hero, the pretty heroine.
- A love triangle. Okay, granted, this was already well established in the first book but I was getting bored with Laia’s POV where she debates between the two boys. It just kind of bugged me when she moves from one boy to another when the other is MIA.
- Kauf: there is so much hubbub about how despicable being imprisoned in Kauf was and how inhuman the Warden was but in reality? I think my imagination was much more terrifying. Nothing really bad happened.
- The Commandant: obviously, she’s the Big Bad. But what other characterization is there that might make her more well-rounded? I didn’t feel like there was any. It was evil, underneath evil, underneath evil. Maybe her characterization will get more fleshed out as the series goes on.
Rating: 3-3.5 stars
There’s enough going on, in terms of plot, that will make me keep reading but fingers crossed for complex characterization.