cover image An Ember in the Ashes

An Ember in the Ashes

Sabaa Tahir, read by Fiona Hardingham and Steve West. Listening Library, unabridged, 12 CDs, 15.5 hrs., $60 ISBN 978-1-101-89075-2

This is not the first time Hardingham and West have worked together to bring a YA novel to life: the two previously teamed up on Maggie Stiefvater’s hit The Scorpio Races, and they both have a wealth of audiobook experience as solo narrators. Hardingham narrates the part of Laia, a young woman whose life is turned upside down after most of her family is killed by the Empire (Tahir’s nod to ancient Rome). Hardingham portrays Laia’s fear convincingly through the novel’s first half, when she is roped into spying as a slave inside the household of the Empire’s sadistic military commander—who also happens to be the mother of Elias, the character voiced by West. Elias is a top student at the military academy but longs for freedom and a nonviolent life; West does a fine job depicting Elias’s struggle to remain honorable in a society that rewards only cruelty. Both narrators also voice other characters; for West, one standout is his sage treatment of an ancient soothsayer named Cain, and for Hardingham, it is the raspy narration of a jaded rebel turned-slave whom Laia meets while undercover. Engaging vocal performances and a fast-paced story line will keep listeners riveted. Ages 14–Up. A Razorbill hardcover. (Apr.)