Have You Read “An Ember in the Ashes”?

Even though I’m a 36 year-old man, I’m a sucker for great YA dystopian fiction. You know, Red Rising, The Hunger Games, etc. It’s a pretty short list, unfortunately.

Just recently a friend introduced me to An Ember in the Ashesand I fell hard for it. The writing is excellent, the story is gripping, the world is fascinating, and the characters are memorable.

The plot follows two characters: a young woman who is chased from her family home by the ruling class and a young man who is finishing his education as an elite member of the ruling class. I can’t really say more than that without spoiling content past the first few chapters, but I’ll say in general that there’s a lot of really cool stuff in this world. It walks the line that Harry Potter did so well: It’s familiar, but it’s also otherworldly in a number of ways.

I want to highlight one technique the author, Sabaa Tahir, uses really well. Each chapter shifts in perspective between the two main characters. I’ve seen other authors use this as a gimmick, a way to make you keep reading so you can get back to the storyline you’re enjoying more.

That’s not how Tahir uses it. Rather, she uses it as a way to see the world from different viewpoints, both broadly and sometimes quite specifically. Again, I don’t want to spoil anything, but there are certain points where the perspectives shifts from one character to another at such a brilliantly perfect time that it elevates the story to new heights.

Have you seen this technique used well in other books? Have you read An Ember in the Ashes or the sequel, A Torch Against the Night, which I just finished? What did you think? What’s your favorite YA book or series?

Bonus: Sabaa Tahir chats with Patrick Rothfuss in this great video: