If you're looking for a fast-paced, suspenseful, fantasy, love-story that combines game of thrones(for the family drama) with the hunger games(for one of the best female warriors since katniss) you've found your novel. that this is a first time novel speaks volumes for the career of sabaa tahir(a name that's cool and fun to say). my only criticism is that she hasn't released the sequel to this amazing story. fantasy but not a story that couldn't be our own history shrouded in the mists of time, an ember in the ashes is a very human story. the world is divided into groups of people who are labeled by what they do. one of the main female characters, laia, is a scholar, the group of people who are basically slaves to the martials, which are the military group who enslaved the scholars and trade with the other groups. the main male character(elias) in the novel is with the martials, a deadly warrior who wears a quicksilver makes that molds to his face giving him an emotionless aura of death. laia lives with her grandparents and her older brother, until the masks come one night, kill her grandparents and take her brother prisoner. laia joins the resistance to rescue her brother. sounds like a straight up novel, except that the tahir takes her characters to the next level by making them complex to the point that even they don't know what motivates them sometimes, but find out as the story moves along, along with the reader. the action is non-stop, the danger is real and anyone can die, and no one is all-good or all-bad, but shades of grey. each has a story to tell, with the villains being the most complex of all. even after 400+ pages, i still barely understand all of the motivations of the characters, but i love them and want to follow them on their journey so i can find out the secrets that mold them into who and what they've become. built into the story are decisions that the characters must make that have no clear answers. tests of loyalty, strength of mind, and body, and tests of love coupled with morality, fill the pages as the story moves between laia and elias at breakneck speed. i would recommend this book highly to young adults, and to older adults of which i am. i saw this book recommended by amazon as one of the best young adult novels of the year and i totally agree. i loved it and can't wait to read the sequel which i've already ordered.