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If you’re in the market for a gripping audiobook full of rebellion, resilience, and adventure, look no further than Sabaa Tahir’s “An Ember in the Ashes”. In this audiobook review, we’ll examine the various elements that make this story so captivating and impactful, from its characters and themes to its world-building and action-packed plot. Whether you’re a fan of YA novels or looking to explore a new genre, “An Ember in the Ashes” is sure to be an exciting ride.

Overview of “An Ember in the Ashes”

“An Ember in the Ashes” by Sabaa Tahir is a gripping story of determination and rebellion. The plot centers around Laia, a young girl, and Elias, a military student, living in a world ruled by the corrupt Martial Empire. When Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, she seeks the help of the Resistance, a rebel group fighting against the Empire, in exchange for serving as their spy within the Empire’s military academy. Meanwhile, Elias struggles with his duty to serve the Empire, questioning its oppressive and brutal practices. As their paths cross, Laia and Elias must navigate complex allegiances, dangerous obstacles, and their growing feelings for each other.

The novel is set in a dystopian fantasy world, where magic and myth intertwine with political power and rebellion. The story is fast-paced, with thrilling action scenes and intense moments of suspense. Tahir’s writing style is vivid and evocative, immersing the reader in the intricate details of the Empire’s world and characters.

Character Analysis

One of the notable aspects of “An Ember in the Ashes” is its well-defined and complex main characters. Each character is uniquely crafted, with a distinct personality, backstory, and motivations that contribute to the story’s development.

The protagonist, Laia, is a young woman who lives in a world controlled by the Martial Empire. She is initially portrayed as fearful, timid, and powerless, but as the story progresses, she undergoes significant character growth and transforms into a brave and resilient rebel fighter.

The antagonist, The Commandant, is a ruthless and cruel leader of the Martial Empire’s military academy. Her character is menacing and formidable, posing a significant threat to Laia and her allies.


Elias, the son of The Commandant and a skilled fighter in the military academy, is a complex and conflicted character. Despite his allegiance to the Empire, he harbors a secret desire for rebellion and struggles to reconcile his duty with his conscience.

Throughout the story, Elias undergoes significant character development, with his beliefs and values being challenged by his interactions with Laia and his own personal struggles.

Character Description
Laia Timid and fearful initially; grows brave and resilient with character development
The Commandant Ruthless and cruel antagonist in control of the Martial Empire
Elias Son of The Commandant, skilled fighter in military academy, conflicted character undergoing significant development

Overall, the main characters in “An Ember in the Ashes” are well-developed and memorable, with each contributing significantly to the story’s progression. The complex interactions and relationships between the characters provide a compelling backdrop to the book’s central themes of resistance and rebellion.

Writing Style and Narration

Sabaa Tahir’s writing in “An Ember in the Ashes” is exceptional, delivering a gripping, well-crafted story with vivid imagery and compelling characters that captivate readers from start to finish. Tahir’s prose is direct and driven, yet full of depth and emotional resonance that enriches the narrative.

In terms of narration, Fiona Hardingham and Steve West’s performance in the audiobook version of the book is outstanding. Their voices complement each other seamlessly, portraying the multiple perspectives of the story with skill and nuance. Hardingham’s rendition of the female protagonist, Laia, is particularly noteworthy, capturing both the character’s vulnerability and inner strength with remarkable authenticity.

The audiobook narration is a perfect complement to Tahir’s writing quality and author style, bringing the story to life in a way that is fully immersive and enjoyable for listeners.

Themes and Symbolism

In “An Ember in the Ashes,” Sabaa Tahir explores central themes of oppression, rebellion, and the cost of freedom. The story presents a dystopian society divided by class and power, where the ruling elite holds its authority through violence and fear. The struggles and sacrifices of the protagonists embody the spirit of resistance against unjust systems and the hope for a better future.

Symbolism plays a crucial role in the book, highlighting important themes and motifs. The title itself, “An Ember in the Ashes,” refers to the idea of hope and resistance in the face of overwhelming odds. The symbols of the Augurs and the Masks represent the struggle between truth and deception, faith and cynicism, and the power of belief in shaping destiny.

The Importance of Symbolism

“An Ember in the Ashes” uses symbolism to convey its central themes and deeper meaning. Through the use of symbols, Tahir is able to communicate complex ideas and emotions more effectively, providing a richer and more rewarding reading experience for her audience.

Symbolism and Character Development

Symbolism plays a significant role in the development of the main characters in “An Ember in the Ashes.” Laia, for example, is initially presented as a timid and powerless character, but her growth and transformation throughout the story are closely connected to the use of the Nightbringer symbol. As she begins to embrace her role in the resistance movement, Laia takes on the power and strength that the symbol represents.

The Masks and the Augurs also serve as symbols for the character arcs of Elias and Helene, respectively. The conflict between their beliefs and duties drives their decisions and actions, leading to important choices and sacrifices along the way.

The Deeper Meaning

Beyond its plot and characters, “An Ember in the Ashes” offers thought-provoking insights into the nature of power, resistance, and humanity. The symbols present in the story embody powerful ideas that resonate with readers, motivating them to reflect on their own beliefs and actions in the face of adversity. As a result, “An Ember in the Ashes” transcends its genre, becoming a meaningful and impactful work of literature.

Pacing and Structure

The pacing and structure of “An Ember in the Ashes” by Sabaa Tahir are two vital components that contribute significantly to the overall quality of the book. Tahir’s mastery of narrative structure enables her to build a story that progresses smoothly and keeps the reader engaged from the first page to the last. The plot progression is carefully crafted, ensuring it remains exciting and dynamic throughout the book.

The pacing of the book is another notable aspect that contributes to its success. Tahir employs a balanced mix of action and introspection, ensuring the book doesn’t feel monotonous or slow. The pacing allows the reader to get to know the characters and the world without sacrificing the excitement and unpredictability that makes a story memorable.

In terms of structure, the book is divided into four parts, each with a specific purpose and tone. The first part introduces the reader to the world and the characters, the second and third parts build tension and conflict, and the fourth part serves as the climax and resolution. The structure is well-designed, contributing to the overall coherence and balance of the book.

Examples of Pacing and Structure

Pacing Structure
In the opening scene, the protagonist is thrown into conflict, instantly grabbing the reader’s attention. Each part of the book begins with a prologue written from a different character’s perspective, offering insights into their motivations and inner conflicts.
The action scenes are fast-paced and intense, but the quieter moments allow the reader to reflect on the character’s emotional journeys. The events of the story take place over a few short weeks, providing a sense of urgency and tension throughout the book.
The pacing quickens as the conflict reaches its climax, creating a sense of excitement and anticipation in the reader. The book’s structure builds upon itself, each section leading into the next, providing a satisfying resolution.

In conclusion, the pacing and structure of “An Ember in the Ashes” are well-crafted, contributing to the overall success and enjoyment of the book. Tahir’s expertise in constructing a compelling plot and maintaining a steady pace ensures that the reader is engaged from start to finish.

World-building and Setting

The world of “An Ember in the Ashes” is a richly-developed and immersive setting that transports readers to a world filled with danger, magic and rebellion. Sabaa Tahir expertly weaves together intricate details about the Martial Empire and the surrounding empires, painting a vivid picture of this fantasy world. Through her descriptions, the reader can visualize the streets of Blackcliff Academy, the haunting catacombs beneath the city, and the brutal landscape beyond its walls.

The setting and world-building are essential to understanding the story’s themes of power, oppression and resistance. Tahir’s attention to detail immerses readers in the story and brings the world of “An Ember in the Ashes” to life.

The Role of Setting in “An Ember in the Ashes”

“The setting in ‘An Ember in the Ashes’ is a character in and of itself, playing an integral role in the story’s themes and tone.” – Publishers Weekly

Action and Suspense

One of the standout features of “An Ember in the Ashes” is its gripping action scenes and suspenseful moments that keep readers on the edge of their seats. From thrilling arena battles to heart-pumping escapes, the action in this book is always intense and engaging. Each action scene is expertly crafted, building tension and excitement with every page.

The author’s use of suspenseful moments also adds depth to the story, creating a sense of urgency and danger that propels the narrative forward. Whether it’s a character attempting a risky plan or facing a dangerous adversary, these moments keep readers invested in the outcome of the story.

The combination of these elements makes for a truly thrilling reading experience, one that will leave readers eagerly turning pages to see what happens next.

Emotional Impact

One of the most remarkable aspects of “An Ember in the Ashes” is its emotional depth. The story takes readers on a harrowing journey through the lives of its main characters, who face incredible challenges and undergo significant growth as they strive to overcome the oppression that surrounds them.

The author, Sabaa Tahir, skillfully weaves together impactful moments that elicit a range of emotions from readers. From heart-wrenching tragedies to inspiring triumphs, the story is full of twists and turns that keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Moreover, the character arcs in “An Ember in the Ashes” are incredibly powerful, showcasing how far the characters come throughout the story. Laia, the protagonist, is a particularly compelling character, starting as a timid and fearful girl before transforming into a brave and fierce warrior determined to fight for what she believes in.

““Fear can be good, Laia. It can keep you alive. But don’t let it control you.” -Sabaa Tahir, An Ember in the Ashes

Overall, “An Ember in the Ashes” is a poignant and emotionally impactful novel that leaves a lasting impression on its readers.

emotional impact

Reception and Critiques:

Since its publication, “An Ember in the Ashes” has been met with critical acclaim and a largely positive reception from readers. Many have praised Sabaa Tahir’s impressive world-building and vivid characters, along with her ability to craft a gripping narrative. Popular opinion seems to be that the book is a must-read for fans of the fantasy genre.

However, some critiques have been raised, particularly regarding the pacing of the plot and the predictability of certain plot points. Some readers have also noted that the book includes graphic violence and may not be suitable for all audiences.

Overall, “An Ember in the Ashes” has garnered a strong following and remains a beloved addition to the genre of young adult fantasy literature.

Comparisons to Other Works

While “An Ember in the Ashes” stands out as a unique work, it shares similarities with other popular books in the same genre. One such notable comparison is with Leigh Bardugo’s “Grisha Trilogy,” which also features a struggle against an oppressive empire in a magical world.

However, “An Ember in the Ashes” distinguishes itself with its dual point of view narrative, providing a glimpse into both the protagonist and antagonist’s perspectives. This unique storytelling technique sets it apart from other books in the same vein and adds depth and complexity to its plot.

Furthermore, Sabaa Tahir’s writing style is often compared to that of young adult author Sarah J. Maas. Both employ a fast-paced, action-driven narrative that keeps readers engaged from start to finish. However, Tahir’s use of symbolism and exploration of deeper themes adds a layer of literary sophistication often missing in other works in the same genre.

“An Ember in the Ashes is a masterpiece of epic proportions. A must-read for any fantasy lover!”

Genre Analysis

Book Title Author Similarities to “An Ember in the Ashes” Differences from “An Ember in the Ashes”
“The Hunger Games” Suzanne Collins Oppressive government, strong female protagonist Surreal world, emphasis on survival rather than rebellion
“Red Rising” Pierce Brown Military academy training, struggle against powerful ruling class Science fiction setting, adult protagonist
“Throne of Glass” Sarah J. Maas Action-driven narrative, focus on female protagonist’s strength and resilience No dual point of view, less emphasis on overarching political conflict

While “An Ember in the Ashes” shares similarities with other works in the same genre, its unique narrative structure and exploration of deeper themes set it apart and make it a standout in its own right.

Impact and Influence

After its release in 2015, “An Ember in the Ashes” quickly became a sensation and earned critical acclaim for its captivating story and rich world-building. The book has since achieved significant cultural impact, with its themes of social injustice, resistance, and the power of hope resonating with readers from diverse backgrounds.

Sabaa Tahir’s debut novel has also contributed to the growth and evolution of the young adult fantasy genre, inspiring numerous works that employ similar themes and storytelling techniques. “An Ember in the Ashes” has influenced the way authors approach world-building, character development, and plot progression, setting a new standard for the genre’s future.

The legacy of “An Ember in the Ashes” extends beyond its impact on the literary landscape. Tahir’s work has also inspired readers and fans to explore issues of social justice and activism in their own communities, applying the lessons and themes of the book to real-world situations.

Impact and Influence

Impact Influence Legacy
Cultural significance Contributed to the growth and evolution of young adult fantasy genre Inspired readers to explore issues of social justice and activism
Resonated with readers from diverse backgrounds Set a new standard for world-building, character development, and plot progression N/A
Earned critical acclaim Inspired numerous works with similar themes and storytelling techniques N/A

Overall, “An Ember in the Ashes” has made a significant impact on the literary world and beyond, cementing itself as a beloved novel that will continue to influence and inspire generations to come.


Overall, we highly recommend the audiobook version of “An Ember in the Ashes” for both fans of the book and newcomers to the series. The narration by Fiona Hardingham and Steve West is top-notch, bringing the story and characters to life with nuance and emotion. The audiobook format also enhances the immersive quality of the world-building and action scenes, making for a thrilling listening experience.

If you enjoy exciting, character-driven stories with themes of resilience and rebellion, then this audiobook is definitely worth your time. Whether you’re commuting to work, relaxing at home, or on a long road trip, “An Ember in the Ashes” will keep you engaged and entertained from start to finish.

audiobook recommendation


Overall, “An Ember in the Ashes” by Sabaa Tahir is a captivating and thrilling story of resilience and rebellion. The audiobook adaptation, narrated by Fiona Hardingham and Steve West, does an excellent job of bringing the story to life and immersing the listener in the world of the book.

The characters are well-developed, and their motivations and actions feel realistic and impactful. The writing style is engaging and descriptive, and the pacing and structure of the book keep the reader hooked until the very end.

The central themes and symbolism add an extra layer of depth to the story, making it more than just a standard fantasy adventure. The action and suspense elements are also well-done, contributing to the overall thrilling experience of the book.

While there may be some critiques of certain aspects of the book, such as the portrayal of certain characters, the overall critical reception of “An Ember in the Ashes” has been overwhelmingly positive.

For those who enjoy young adult fantasy and dystopian fiction, “An Ember in the Ashes” is a must-read, or in this case, a must-listen. The audiobook version is highly recommended for those who enjoy immersive and engaging storytelling.

Overall, our audiobook verdict for “An Ember in the Ashes” is a resounding recommendation. This book is a fantastic addition to the genre and a thrilling and emotional journey for the reader or listener alike.

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