* * * B
“An Ember in the Ashes” by Sabaa Tahir is a romantic fantasy novel revolving around a girl from an enslaved culture, the Scholars, and a boy from the ruling culture, the oppressive Martials. She becomes a spy for the resistance to save her brother. He unwillingly becomes an aspirant to the throne of the Martial empire. Their paths cross when she becomes the slave of the commandant of his school, who happens to be his own ruthless and unloving mother.
The writing is solid, the characters sound, and the plot engaging. Fantasy elements, drawn from Arab mythology, add to the interesting imagined culture, and slowly, the shape of this alternate reality is revealed. This is the first novel in a series, yet it comes to a satisfying climax. I recommend it if you like genre, and plan to read the sequel when it’s available.