Friday KidLit Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes

Welcome back to my Summer Friday series, where I feature a KidLit book I've recently read and enjoyed. 

Today I review Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, A Young Adult fantasy adventure set in a world inspired by ancient Rome, where hope, grit and love go up against a culture of brutality and oppression.

As A Reader: This was a major page turner. It was one of those books that you'll read obsessively and snap at your family when they interrupt you. The world and setting is pure fantasy, yet inspired by ancient Rome and the author's experiences as a newspaper editor, which give it just enough realism to make it shudderingly compelling. I enjoyed the characters in this story, which is told from dual perspectives. One is an underdog character who doesn't believe in herself but goes on to defy the odds and do great things that surprise everyone. The other is a member of the powerful ruling class who has a heart and principles that enable him to defy his culture and upbringing and set in motion events that promise to change the world they live in forever. These are familiar themes, but here they are delivered in a creative and riveting way that will have you staying up late at night to see what happens.

As A Mom: Most of the books I've been reading and reviewing in my Friday series are classified as "Middle Grade" stories. This one is decidedly Young Adult. I have let my 10 year old daughter read certain YA books, usually after much begging (ex: Hunger Games and Divergent), because she is a pretty mature and savvy reader for her age. This one, however, I am not comfortable giving to her, as it's got some references to rape, violence against women, and sexual behavior that is not conducted in a loving context (to put it mildly). I think it would bring up questions and fears that I'd like to have her protected from for a few more years.

As A Writer: I have done a lot of reading (in my craft books) about the importance of having an "object of desire" to provide a through-line for the book, and about stakes which must be constantly escalating. This book is a case study in these two techniques. The main character is trying to save her brother from execution, a storyline that starts in the first chapter and drives her actions throughout the novel, while the stakes get progressively more complicated and severe as her journey draws in other characters and becomes emeshed in the politics of her world. Well done, Sabaa Tahir!

My Daughter's Perspective: As mentioned above, I think my daughter (10, almost 11) is too young for this one and I will not be giving to her for another few years.

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