Reviews | An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir and Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

A pair of interesting, promising series openers. 3/5 stars each.

An Ember in the Ashes book 1 by Sabaa Tahir and Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Blurbs at the bottom of this review. Or click on the individual book covers below to go to Goodreads.

I read these two books back-to-back and had pretty much the opposite experience with each.

An Ember in the Ashes book 1 by Sabaa TahirUntil the last movement, An Ember in the Ashes is more an endurance test than an enjoyable read. The world Tahir creates is brutal and unyielding. In case we’re ever in any doubt of this, when we’re not being shown violence taking place, oh my goodness are we told about it. Far too much telling us about cruelty and nastiness which we could have skipped. And I could also have done without the repeated casual references to rape to reinforce this point (rape is also used, unnecessarily, a few times as a plot device).

For me, An Ember in the Ashes only grabbed me in the last 20%, when the author must have decided she’d done enough to get over the point that her world is a nasty, harsh place, and allowed her the characters to finally act on their own initiative rather than be pushed about by others/fate. The upside to this is that the ending sets us up nicely for more exciting developments in the next installment of the series.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini TaylorIn contrast, I loved the first 50% of Daughter of Smoke & Bone, which was original, inventive and featured a feisty heroine with plenty of bravery and gumption. But I wasn’t as keen on the last 50%, when our heroine – Karou – lost a great deal of the personality which had endeared her to me as it became buried under the “transcendental Romeo and Juliet” plot strand. Shame.

Overall, my experience of both books was ok, and I will read the next books in the series, although I’ll wait and get them from the library rather than buying them.


An Ember in the Ashes (Ember in the Ashes #1): Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone (DoSandB Trilogy, Book 1): Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

 Claire Huston / Art and Soul

19 thoughts on “Reviews | An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir and Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

    • I think An Ember in the Ashes is the one I’m keenest to see what happens next. By the time we get to the end it’s left everything in a good place for the next book to be better – can’t wait to see what happens once we get outside the academy!


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    • It’s a shame too, because it just undermines some of the better points of the writing. I thought many of the references were unnecessary (we get it, he’s not a nice character – I understood that the first time he insinuated he’d like to rape one of the female characters), or an alternative was present (an assault can just be assault, particularly when then attacker is a warrior. Why does it have to be a sexual assault?). I just hope the sequel improves now that the characters will be outside the training academy.


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