An Ember in the Ashes is the first part in the young adult, fantasy ‘The Ember Quartet’, and although it’s been all over bookstagram and blogs for the last few years, it was my husband’s recommendation that prompted me to finally read it. The story switches between two protagonists, Elias, a Martial soldier competing in trials to become the new Emperor, and Laia, a girl from the oppressed Scholars whose family were murdered by Martials. In desperation Laia agrees to spy on the ruthless Martial Commandant for the Scholar resistance in exchange for their help in rescuing her brother who has been captured and imprisoned by Martials.
While I found Laia the more sympathetic of the two protagonists, Elias faces the more interesting moral dilemmas as a soldier in training. The Martial Empire is one so brutal and bloody that the lives of their own student soldiers are worth little more than those of the slaves they keep. There are Martials who revel in their power and superiority over others, while some may not agree with everything the Empire does but accept life as it is, and Elias recognises the injustices and brutality but feels trapped and powerless to change anything.
I’ve always been drawn to stories about underdogs standing up to oppression and tyranny, but I really liked that Laia isn’t a daring, devoted resistance fighter, she’s a frightened young woman desperately trying to survive long enough in a brutal environment to save her brother.
An Ember in the Ashes was full of suspense, kept me hooked and wanting to read just one more page, then another, up to the heart-pounding end, and I’m really looking forward to reading the next part in the quartet. Have a lovely week. X
I’d planned to share a post about some of our recent travels now that restrictions have been lifted, but sharing an update about our cat Mara instead. It’s been a stressful week in our household as Mara suddenly became unwell last weekend and had to spend a couple of nights at the vet’s while they tried to find the cause of her fever and bring her temperature back down to normal.
One of the benefits of keeping a house-cat is that we’re really familiar with all of Mara’s routines and we’re always able to tell when she goes off her food, starts becoming lethargic or anti-social – all clear sights that she’s feeling unwell – and we’re quick to react when something’s not right, which I’m pretty sure has saved her life on more than one occasion.
This is unfortunately her second mystery illness in less than twelve months. All the x-rays, scans, blood and urine tests have come back normal, which should be good news but doesn’t feel like it when we can’t figure out what’s wrong with her. The sad reality is that most of us will outlive our pets, and there are never any guarantees about how long they will live. My husband and I are both cat people, having grown up with them as family pets, but my husband had just one cat adopted as a kitten who passed away one month before her 22nd birthday, while my family had three rescued kittens who lived until two, four and sixteen years respectively. We always knew that adopting an adult cat meant that Mara might not be with us for very long, and yet she has been such a lovely companion that I feel so grateful for every moment we’ve spent together.
After a week of nursing her back to health, she seems to be recovering well, and the vet is happy with all her vitals. I don’t know how many of her nine lives Mara has left but I’m relieved and thankful that she’s still with us. Take care, and have a lovely week. X
The Republic of Thieves is the third book in the Gentleman Bastards series, set soon after Red Seas Under Red Skies (reviewed here), and unlike the previous books this one didn’t have a slow build-up but hooked me from the start. Locke has been poisoned by his previous employer and is dying, but he’s offered a cure from the most unlikley source, the mother of the Bondsmage he defeated in the first book, The Lies of Locke Lamora, (reviewed here) in exchange for rigging an election.
Locke’s old flame, Sebetha, finally makes her appearence, and it was so fun to see her working for the opposition in the election campaign. I really love Lynch’s female characters from the spymaster in The Lies of Locke Lamora to the pirates Ezri and Captain Drakasha in Red Seas Under Red Skies, and Sebetha is no exception. Locke’s love interest absolutely refuses to be defined as such, as she’s very much his equal and rival, often outwitting him in politics and reducing him to a lovesick fool.
The plot switches between two timelines, the election campaign in the present, and the other following the Gentleman Bastards as youths performing a play over a summer as they hone their thieving, fighting and con-artist skills. It’s a clever contrast with the Gentleman Bastards learning to work together (and falling in love) in one timeline, but being forced to work against each other despite their personal feelings in the other.
I love fantasy heists and the thing that always keeps me interested is how the characters have to improvise when their carefully laid plans fall apart, they’re betrayed and outmanoeuvred by their rivals and enemies, and this kept me guessing right to the end about which side would win the election and whether Locke and Sebetha would finally get together. Despite being over 700 pages long, I found this a really quick and absorbing read, full of humour, romance and clever twists. Have a lovely week. X