By Sabaa Tahir
Series: An Ember in the Ashes #2
Publication Date: August 30, 2016
My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ✰ ( 4 out of 5 Stars )
Elias and Laia are running for their lives. After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.
Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.
But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.
Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own—one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both.
Helene plays a huge part in this book with a few chapters from her point of view. I wasn't a big fan of her character, but I understand why she was a larger part of the sequel. Her character definitely improved closer towards the end, when she was able to stand up to the Emperor and the commandant in her own way. I cannot wait to see how this broken, hollow new Helene will, in time, screw over the new Emperor.
On the other hand, Elias's character disintegrates rapidly. The poison running through his body seriously turns him into an asshole. An asshole potion. Fabulous. He constantly pushed Laia away, stuck in a never ending cycle of battling his own inner demons. And he seriously just dips out on the only person he should be protecting. Ugh. I cringed repeatedly from the parallels of Elias and William Turner in At World's End.
Marcus is still a sociopath. Big shocker there. Although I am starting to see him in a different light. I don't know what it was about his character in this book, but I found myself almost rooting for him against the evil bitch herself. The commandant. Probably my least favorite character. Of any book. Ever. Her need for blood and violence is horrifying and disgusting. And Keenan. Jesus. Was that necessary? I had a feeling from the very beginning of this series, but when Laia and him were in the basement of the safe house... I just. Ahh. I wasn't ready. The warden is a new bad guy, sadistic and intense. I cannot wait to see what will happen with him in the future.
As I sit here, writing this review, I realize that this book is full of sadistic psychopaths. I am constantly questioning my character analysis with each chapter. Who to trust? I don't trust my own judgement, and there are precious few books that I have found with this admirable quality. Aside from the pace and that awful ending.. I enjoyed this book and found it very hard to put down. Miss Tahir managed to keep me in suspense while boring me to tears at the same time. Kudos to you, and I am dreading/cannot wait for the third book to be released in 2018! Muah!
“But you, Helene Aquilla, are no swift-burning spark. You are a torch against the night - if you dare to let yourself burn.”
“Failure doesn't define you. It's what you do after you fail that determines whether you are a leader or a waste of perfectly good air.”
“Don't lock yourself away from those who care about you because you think you'll hurt them or they'll hurt you. What point is there in being human if you don't let yourself feel anything?”
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