POVone: The First Person Perspective

Rants and Reviews on Novels Written in the First Person Point of View

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Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Author: Sabaa Tahir
Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Genre: Fantasy
Publication Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Razorbill (Random House)
Number of Pages: 464
Narrators: Laia and Elias
Quality Rating: 87.98

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

What’s It About?

Laia is a “Scholar,” the oppressed class in a world divided between masters and slaves. When the remainder of her family is slain by her oppressors and her one remaining brother is taken captive, she goes out in search of the only people she believes can help–The Resistance. This ruthless band of rebels agrees to help free her brother with one condition: she must become a spy for them. Secretly working for the Resistance, Laia must become a personal servant of the most feared woman in existence–the cruel and merciless commander of the oppressive regime that slaughtered her family.

Meanwhile, Elias is graduating from the military academy to become a “Mask,” the murderous infantry of the ruling class that oppresses, exploits, harasses the slaves of the land. Elias hates the violence and despairs over the blood which will inevitably fall on his hands. Not only is he destined to become the very thing he despises, but he also has the misfortune of being the son of a mother who hates him–the commander of the army. Despite risking torture and execution, he plans to desert the empire before they can make him a muderer.

Just as he is about the leave, he is persuaded to stay by an Augur–the empire’s class of wisemen, in order to fulfill an obscure destiny. Shortly after deciding to remain, Elias and several of his classmates are selected to perform in the Trials–a prophesied and long awaited event whose victor becomes the next emperor and losers are promptly executed. As the Trials begin and Elias’s world becomes interwoven with Laia’s, both characters must fight to overcome their bleak circumstances and attain their own forms of freedom.

Should You Read It?

If you enjoy darker young adult, dystopian fantasy, you will probably love this book. It’s a lot like Red Queen and The Fire Sermon in terms of class divisions, but the divisions are less on genetic lines and more simply on political lines. Although there is a vague semblance of a love triangle, the attraction between characters is less composed of flighty romance and more composed of shared identity and purpose. The story is told in alternating narration between the two protagonists–giving the reader insight into what it’s like to be both the oppressor and the oppressed. Themes include the interplays of betrayal and friendship, slavery and freedom, cruelty and mercy, and death and survival. While classified as YA, the realities of an oppressive regime are not hidden–and the resulting tone is somewhat dismal. And, while there are certainly dystopian and fantasy elements, the writing is layered and somewhat complex–so it would also be appealing to those interested in more literary works. If this sounds appealing to you, I would definitely pick this book up.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Book Reviews: New York Times, Kirkus Reviews, Redeye Chicago

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Sabaa Tahir: An Ember in the Ashes is Sabaa Tahir’s debut novel.

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Book Review: The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig

Author: Francesca Haig
Title: The Fire Sermon
Genre: Science Fiction
Publication Date: March 10, 2015
Publisher: Gallery (Simon and Schuster)
Number of Pages: 384
Narrator: Cassandra

The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig

What’s It About?

Cassandra has been born into a post-apocalyptic world in which all people who procreate give birth to twins–one who is perfectly normal and another who is plagued with some sort of deformity. The parents keep the healthy offspring, called Alphas, and exile the unhealthy children, called Omegas to live in poverty and subjugation.

Omegas cannot procreate, but they do have one advantage that keeps the Alphas from getting rid of them altogether. The Omegas stay connected somehow to their Alpha counterparts such that when one twin dies, so does the other. The ruling party of the Alphas, called the Council, is on a perpetual search to understand how to exterminate Omegas without affecting their Alpha Twins.

Cassandra is an Omega–but a rare and special kind. Called a Seer, Cassandra receives premonitions about the future. Though her “deformity” gives her certain advantages, she is still cast out by the Alphas and even finds it difficult to be accepted among the Omegas. At the beginning of the novel, Cass is taken captive by her Alpha brother–who has risen to a position of influence in the Alpha Council.

After months in imprisonment , Cass finally receives the opportunity to escape. Freeing another prisoner as she flees, Cass ventures out in search of a fabled Island–in which Omegas are allowed to live in freedom and safety. As they travel from town to town, avoiding the Council, Cass and her companion begin to understand the political upheaval going on in the Council and the sinister role her brother is playing in the future of Alphas and Omegas.

Should You Read It?

If you are a fan of the post-apocalyptic dystopian genre, you will probably enjoy the book. The story takes place in the future after an alleged nuclear holocaust at some point in the distant past. In this dystopian future, people are divided into two classes–much like in the recent Red Queen. The storyline also has a genetic element–some akin to that of the movie Gattaca. The writing is straightforward, with a lot of movement and little introspection. If this sounds like an interesting read to you, I would try it out.

Links and References

Author Information: Author Page (Publisher), Goodreads, Twitter

Book Reviews: Kirkus Reviews, That’s Normal, Civilian Reader

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Francesca Haig: The Fire Sermon is Francesca Haig’s debut novel, but she has written a collection of poetry called Bodies of Water (2006).