An Ember in the Ashes Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 54 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of An Ember in the Ashes.
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An Ember in the Ashes Summary & Study Guide Description

An Ember in the Ashes Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

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NOTE: This study guide specifically refers to the following version of this book: Tahir, Sabaa. Ember In the Ashes. Razorbill/Penguin Random House, 2015. Paperback Edition.

An Ember in the Ashes is a young adult fantasy novel by Sabaa Tahir, that recounts the struggles of 17-year-old Laia to save her older brother from the clutches of the Empire, while Aspirant to become Emperor, Elias Verturius, struggles to find a way to leave the Empire. When the novel begins, Laia and her sole surviving sibling, Darin, live with their grandparents, for their parents and their sister have long ago been killed. Laia knows her parents were members of the Resistance, and knows they were betrayed to the Empire. She wants to avoid Darin suffering a similar fate, because she knows he has been sneaking out at night for unknown reasons. The Empire stages a raid on the house, killing Laia’s grandparents and capturing Darin. Darin tells Laia to run, which she does.

Laia seeks out the Resistance in the catacombs beneath the City of Serra, where she uses her family history to gain an audience with Mazen, leader of the Resistance, and some of his best fighters, including Keenan and Sana. Mazen agrees to help Laia free Darin if Laia will spy on the Commandant of Blackcliff Military Academy, and provide crucial information for the Resistance. Laia agrees, and goes undercover as the Commandant’s personal slave. There, Laia learns the Commandant has a bastard son named Elias, who is preparing to graduate from Blackcliff and become a full-fledged Mask. Elias, as it turns out, wants nothing to do with the Empire, and plans to desert after graduation. However, it is announced by the holy men of the Empire, the Augurs, that a new Emperor must be named as the current Emperor has no heir. Four Aspirants are to be selected from Blackcliff to participate in the Trials to select a new Emperor. Elias, his best friend Helene, and their enemies, the cruel brothers Marcus and Zak, are selected for the competition.

As the Trials unfold, Laia does her best to spy, but no matter what she brings back for Mazen, it is not enough to prompt him to rescue Darin. The Cook at Blackcliff, formerly a member of the Resistance, tells Laia not to trust them, but Laia has no choice. She returns to spying, and has repeated encounters with Elias whom she begins to trust. Helene, who is in love with Elias, becomes jealous of this connection, but struggles on because she knows Marcus and Zak must both be defeated in the Trials. Meanwhile, the existing Emperor, having learned of the plans of the Augurs, heads south from the capital to attack with what forces remain loyal to him, and to keep his throne. When the final Trial arrives, the three surviving Aspirants – Elias, Helene, and Marcus – are tasked with killing Laia, whom the Commandant had discovered is working for the Resistance. Elias refuses to kill Laia, and is arrested and sentenced to be executed at dawn. Marcus attacks Laia, and believing he has killed her, is declared Emperor. Helena is named Blood Shrike, or second-in-command to the new Emperor.

The Augurs, however, have protected Laia, and now help her escape Blackcliff to join the Resistance. There, she learns the Resistance has killed the existing Emperor, meaning that there will now be no civil war and the Resistance will be easier to crush for Marcus. She also learns from Mazen that he never intended to help her. Keenan helps Laia escape from Mazen, and arranges to meet her in the city of Silas to help her save Darin. Laia, meanwhile, returns to Blackcliff to help Elias escape on the condition he helps her find Darin. In a bittersweet parting, Helene covers their escape, telling Elias that they will be enemies when next they meet.

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