Ember in the Ashes Review: Searing Political Fantasy

 

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An Ember in the Ashes

By Sabaa Tahir

Published April 28th, 2015 by Razorbill, and imprint of Penguin Random House

446 Pages

Read February 19th – 25th, 2018

 

Ember in the Ashes has been at the top of my to-read list for YA series, so I was thrilled to impulsively snag it at my local bookstore. I wasn’t disappointed. It was a wild ride! The action erupted in the beginning and it. Did. No. Let. Up. The double love triangle (or love square, as people have taken to calling it), was really complex, and Ms Sabaa Tahir did a masterful job of keeping me wondering who matched up better with who. Also, I found the character development really satisfying, with real growth in mind and soul in characters.

CHARACTERS

Laia

Laia started off really passive, without having much conviction for any cause (outside of saving her brother). She accepted what fed to her (by the Resistance) and was too trusting, naïve, gullible. She fell into the Black-And-White thinking of Resistance = Good and Mask = Bad, without critically thinking of underlying motives people might have. The only thing propelling her forward was her need to save her brother, without putting much thought into the greater ideals her brother was fighting for. I was so gratified when, by the end of the book, she wizened up to the Resistance’s corruption – fighting against the “Establishment” – realized the “bigger picture” (such as freeing someone like Izzi, which righted an injustice bigger than herself or her brother, and became an active player, saving herself and thinking for herself.

Elias

Elias’s soul was always in the right place. He simply needed the courage and the fortitude to follow through on his convictions and stand up to the “Establishment” that was the Blackliff Industrial Complex. He knew he wanted to be better than what they wanted to manufacture him into at Blackliff Academy. He could never be a mindless robot in their Machine. Yet, he felt trapped in the “System”. What I loved about his story is that he only became “free” when he took a stand for what he knew was Right. In the end, he did not follow along with other people’s interests, as he had been doing throughout the novel. He became bold in what he believed in. His soul became unshackled, and his body became so, too. Most importantly, he was <u>honest</u> about how he truly felt. That took Bravery.

Helene

Helene was my favorite! She deserves to be a POV character, especially after all that she went through – so I am so glad that I get to read her POV in “Torch Against the Night”! What I loved about Helene was how steadfast she was in what she believed in, and how unwavering she was in her faith in what she was doing. Although she subscribed to Martial ideals, I found it really admirable how she focused on her goals, and how driven and tenacious she was in “going for gold”. She knew what she wanted, and she kept her eye on the prize. She did not let anyone underestimate her, and she possessed a keen sense of self. Her character is inspirational. The best part is, she is capable of strategic thinking for the Greater Good. She truly wants what is best for her people and the Empire, and she was selfless in her pursuit of that. I’m glad that she wasn’t brainwashed by Blackliff in the end, and even though she had been a stringent rule follower the whole book, she broke the rules to aid Elias in Doing the Right Thing.

RELATIONSHIPS

The love square was intense! I shipped ALL of them! I genuinely had no clue who was “meant to be” and who wasn’t. Usually, it’s a little obvious who the “destined” couple are, but Sabaa Tahir pleasantly surprised me by making it more complicated – and messy! – than usual.

Laia and Keenan had that whole cute “can she melt his cold exterior” thing going on, which is always adorable. His hard edges started softening more and more around her, which was adorable.

Elias and Laia had that “insta-love”, “forbidden love”, and “opposing sides” thing happening, and it is always heartwarming to see characters that are trained to distance themselves from each other be ineffably drawn to each other, and discover their similar ideals through all the haze of exterior forces designed to keep them apart.

Helene and Elias made me so emotional! I usually am not all that into the whole “friends to lovers” thing, but they flipped that on its head! I adored their simultaneous realizations that they were Everything to each other, their need to be there for each other, and how they were such an equal match. Helene was “The Brain” and Elias was “The Heart”. The will-they-won’t-they feeling in the air had me swooning. Plus, I’m so into the whole fight-each other-but-really-love-each other thing. The fact that Helene is physically matched with Elias makes me so happy. I love when they have each other’s backs, but also adore the scene where they were sparring. That was beautiful.

My heart breaks for Helene! But Elias didn’t want to let her go in the end.  A true Tragedy.

BOOKENDS

I liked how the framing of the book showed the ending as a fulfillment of what the characters had been lacking in the beginning. Elias finally achieved the freedom he had sought for, while Laia finally had the courage to save herself – and her brother – on her own terms.

THEMES

The major themes I discovered were: overcoming fear, freedom, the soul, and the Spirit.

HISTORY/CULTURE

I found it cool how Sabaa Tahir modeled the culture of the Martials after the Ancient Romans, while modeling the culture of the Scholars after Ancient Arabs. She certainly did her research – it felt very “real”. I suspect that the Tribesmen were modeled after North African nomads, and I expect to learn more about them in “Torch Against the Night” (as well as the Mariners).

WORLD BUILDING

I’m so, so happy that the “intellectual” group, the Scholars, are the heroes and the protagonists in this series, and not the antagonists (like the Erudite in “Divergent”) nor the sidekicks (like the Ravenclaws in “Harry Potter”). Meanwhile, the “brawny” group, the Martials, are antagonistic, instead 0f heroic, for once, in contrast to the Dauntless and the Gryffindors. I appreciate that.

FAVE QUOTES

“There are two kinds of guilt, girl: the kind that drowns you until you’re useless, and the kind that fires your soul to purpose.” – Spiro Teluman

“Laia is the wild dance of a Tribal campfire, while Helene is the cold blue of an alchemist’s flame.” – Elias Veturius

“Even still, there is an animal freedom to how he moves, a controlled chaos that makes the air around him blaze. So different from Keenan, with his restrained solemnity and cool interest.” – Laia

“Fear can be good, Laia. It can keep you alive. But don’t let it control you. Don’t let it sow doubts within you. When the fear takes over, use the only thing more powerful, more indestructible, to fight it: your spirit. your heart.” – Spiro Teluman

“That’s who Helene is: Her faith is steadfast. Her loyalty. Her strength. They always underestimate me. I’d underestimated her more than anyone.” – Elias Veturius

RATING

5/5

CONCLUSION

Ember in the Ashes delighted, shocked, and moved me. I’m rushing into “Torch Against the Night”!

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Movie Review: Divergent

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Release Date: March 21, 2014 (USA)

Watched: March 23, 2014

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So, I just watched Divergent yesterday with my friend Christine. I didn’t exactly have super high expectations for the film, because even though I really loved the book (it’s one of my top ten favorites), book-to-movie adaptations tend to disappoint.

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I was pleasantly surprised! The movie far surpassed my expectations. I was on a thrill-ride from start to finish, just like when I was reading the book over a year ago.

The movie began by explaining the faction system, and I was really happy about how they were presented. They were just how I imagined them! It was really interesting seeing them in just distinctly different modes and colors of dress, as well as environments.

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Shailene Woodley as Tris didn’t disappoint. She portrayed her character so accurately, with her transformation from the beginning as a ‘weak’ Abnegation girl at the beginning to a ‘strong’ Dauntless girl at the end.

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Her family was on point, and Ansel Elgort as Caleb was pretty good at being a conflicted Abnegation-turned-Erudite.Maggie Q as Tori was perfect. She was flawlessly tough and unwilling to get involved at the beginning, to Tris’s adviser on concealing her divergence later. Zoe Kravitz was brilliant at being the quick-tongued Christina, her first friend in Dauntless.

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Theo James was the perfect Four. He played him better than I could have ever imagined. He oozed strength, leadership, mysteriousness, and enigma from every pore. He was also ridiculously hot and incurably swoon-able.

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I was incredibly delighted by the initiation. It was just so accurate to the books, and I really enjoyed following Tris on the roller coaster that was the dauntless initiation experience, as well as watch her start off as the ‘weakest link’ to grow into a ‘fearless’, brave person of her own right. There were so many intense moments that I got such a thrill from watching, as I remembered from reading the book.

I think that Tris and Four’s romance developed as well as it was in the book, and I fangirled watching him slowly fall for her. I think that that was really well done.

I am so ecstatic that every single character  was portrayed to the core. Christina was both wonderfully and infuriatingly honest and candid, Will was humorously intelligent, Jeanine was creepily cold and logical, Eric was downright hateable, Peter was simply a douchebag, and so on.

I thoroughly relished Tris’ badassness in the fear sequences, as well as her bravery and intelligence that was revealed by her running after the train even when Eric said that she was done, and climbing up the top of the ferris wheel, and capturing the flag during capture the flag.

The last part was hard to watch, and I was amazed by how emotionally profound it was. It was extremely cool watching Tris and her mom fight side by side as a strong mother-daughter duo. I was hit deeply with emotion when Tris killed Will, when her mom died, when her dad died, and when Four almost killed Tris under the serum. I was blown away by Shailene’s incredible acting in all those scenes that were so tough for her character.

I relished in Tris and Four’s defeat of Jeanine’s serum even more than in the books. Just a million thumbs up for Shailene and Theo!!!

The ending was perectly just like in the book, so I was intensely glad about that. It started well and it ended better.

Now my only complaints about the movie:

They didn’t show Will and Christina being a couple!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What the flying !@#$%? How is Tris going to be racked with guilt in the next movie for not only killing her friend, but her good friend’s love? How is Christina supposed to fall out with Tris in the next movie? Will and Christina being a couple was IMPORTANT!!!

Ansel Elgort as Caleb. It was really hard to properly watch him be Tris’s brother because all I was thinking was, “Ewwwww. You two are going to be making out in your next movie, The Fault in Our Stars. Just, no.” *shudder*

No Edward and Myra. What were they thinking??????? Peter was supposed to stab Edward in the eye and make him become factionless for two reasons: We could see how horrible Peter really was, instead of just a harmless douchebag, and because it would be pivotal in the second book with Edward’s character and his involvement with the revolution.

The absence of Four’s advice to Tris after Al and the others almost threw down the ravine along the lines of this: “Keep safe, but when you get the chance, destroy them.” I was waiting for that. That was one of my best lines by Four in the book.

But all in all, I was so enthralled by the Divergent Movie that I’ll still give it a 9/10. I adored the ordinary and extraordinary acts of bravery that Tris exhibited, from being the first to jump, to speaking out against Eric’s cruelty with the knife throwing. I also fell completely in love with the landscape. The Chicago wasteland was the perfect scenery. My favorite scene was the ‘flying scene’. It was waaaaay better than I imagined it, and it was such an amazing joyride for Tris. I felt Tris’s charge of adrenaline. It was exhilarating and entrancing, and kept me (figuratively) at the edge of my seat!!!

Favorite Quotes

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