This book series had so much potential. The Ember quartet is a fairly typical YA fantasy at its core. Interesting world building and a focus on a few ‘chosen’ characters that have to save that world with a touch of romance and a huge splattering of violence. The book series started out a little slow to me in the first one but by half way through I was invested. By the second book I was in love! And by the third book I was…bored. The drop in quality from book to book had me struggling to get through and get back to the feelings I had during the first two. It never happened.
I wrote up individual reviews for each book which I will share but overall just a disappointing second half to a series full of potential. I wrote these reviews as I finished them over on my goodreads so you can probably see my hopes and dreams get dashed as they go. Its actually kind of funny.
An Ember in the Ashes
The book follows Laia and Elias. Laia joins a resistance group as a spy after her brother is taken by the oppressing Empire. Elias, who is a being trained as an elite soldier of the Empire has doubts about his position and is put into a battle for his own future. Their fights are slowly intertwined.
This book took a little bit for me to get into, it took awhile to establish the world and characters as well as create action that actually pulled me in. However, once that happened….well, I’m already half way through the second book of the series.
I tend to have trouble with mutli-POV stories, which did happen here in the beginning. I find it often interrupts the flow of the action and distracts me. However, once the action in the story started picking up and the stories were more overlapped instead of distantly related this became less of a problem. My other problem with multi-POV tends to be that the character voices aren’t distinguished enough, that’s not evident here. Elias and Laia are two different characters and I can tell who is who when I pick a random chapter.
Heads up, there is threats of sexual violence. It can be a bit excessive but it honestly feels realistic in a patriarchal and slavery focused society but do be warned.
Overall though, this is a fun read and a great addition if you love YA fantasy. Stick it out for awhile if you struggle like I did.
A Torch Against the Night
The journey continues! Ok I’m in love with the series now. If I didn’t have due library books that I have to read first I would probably be already done with the rest of the series because I want to read more!
So in this second we again join Laia and Elias as they team up on the joint venture to save Laia’s brother from prison. We also get a new POV from Helene who is adjusting to her new position in the Empire. (I think that was vague enough summary to be fairly non-spoilery! Good job me!)
This book picks up almost immediately where we left off and from there pretty much go, go, goes! The action here is much more steady then in the first one which makes sense since we’ve already established the world and characters. From running from the Martials, to breaking into prison, to deaths and deceits, it’s an action-packed adventure that I very much enjoyed.
I mentioned in my review of the first one that I am not always a fan of multi-POV books so the addition of a third voice could have bothered me. In this case, however, I think Tahir did a great job and Helene was a welcome addition and voice to the story. Helene’s character is a great introduction to the world of Martials in a way that Elias wasn’t. Elias was so open-hearted and kind in almost an improbable way for how he grew up. It would be unrealistic for Helene to be the same way and its super interesting to see that she isn’t. Helene is clearly shaped by the world around her making her darker and crueler. Its actually a great character study to see someone struggle with their ideals being challenged and I look forward to her growth more than Elias’s who had already started with his heart of gold.
Laia picks up a few skills in this book as well and I think that improved the over-victimization that I think the first book struggled with a bit. She also grows less fearful and more sure of herself so her inner voice is stronger and more confident which is more enjoyable to read and cheer for.
Elias’s character journey was also very interesting and I’m super intrigued to see how it plays out in the next book.
Overall, great follow up in the series!
A Reaper at the Gates
Oh boy. Apologies to some of my fellow reviewers who I can see rated this higher and have nicer things to say then I do.
This book has awful second book syndrome and its SO LONG. It is a book entirely of set up and has very very little of actual consequence. Because the characters can’t actually proceed in the plot they are left spinning and failing over and over and over again. I can’t even give a really proper review because even though I read this like three whole days ago, I do not remember what even happened for 70% of the middle part.
How many times can we really be like “But Keris would never?” before revealing that “Keris WOULD so ever”. The characters were all super separated and on their own almost completely disconnected journeys and because their interactions are some of the strongest, it weakens the story. The characters all felt like they had to be dumb in order for the plot to proceed which is never a good look.
This book could have been 300 pages and still would have been a set up book but at least not nearly as dense.
Some positives because there definitely were some (just a disappointing amount compared to the last book that I loved): The beginning and ending were actually pretty good. Musa is a fun new character. Helene continues to be the best character and really if this book was brave enough they would kill off Elias and have the real actual enemy to lovers be Helene/Laia. The book continued to be an easy read and was not terrible in any way, just tedious and rather forgettable for a large portion.
So an example of the character being dumb – Why didn’t Laia just tell Helene not to give anything to the Nightbringer? Like literally just say hey don’t give something because he is just trying to kill everybody. Even if Helene DOESN’T agree or trust Laia, she would still WONDER and not fully TRUST that the Nightbringer isn’t just doing it for what Laia said, so it automatically wouldn’t work.
The Sky Beyond the Storm
I don’t know where to start with this. It took me awhile to even process if I liked this or not and I think I fell somewhere in…kind of?
This is the fourth and final book of the Ember series. We follow Elias, Helene, and Laia on their last hurrah to beat the bad guys and save the world or whatever (seriously how do you summarize last books without spoiling? I’m not good at this part)
I thought this book was much better paced than the last one. The action had a clear forward momentum that rarely let up. The characters are all together for most of the book which I thought was a weakness of the last one as well and it did feel improved here. There are some absolutely great character interactions.
I think my main problem is with the ending. Being as vague as possible it felt a little like Helene and Laia must be competing for the trauma Olympics while Elias could windwalk away unscathed. It made the ending itself feel trite and not enough to actually feel settled down or even realistic character wise. There’s a twist involving a character that I really didn’t care that much about so the twist was rather ineffective in softening any blow.
There was also a lot of focus on the villain of the story and I think honestly that the humanization of him was a little overdone. The man committed genocides, can we not sing kumbaya songs about him just cause he was sad first?
Keris, who up to this point had been an amazing and ruthless villain was completely undone. Her backstory too felt like it was writing one giant excuse for, again, GENOCIDE. Her ending was absolutely unworthy of her and felt kind of silly.
Overall, this was a pretty disappointing end for me for a very promising series to start. I did read it in a day though so it was easily consumed and kept me at least interested. I know I’m mostly by myself here in being disappointed, sorry!
If you made it this far the unimpressed cats are Archer and Evie. 🙂