A ambience aggressive by age-old Rome; a angry action for abandon in the face of tyranny; and a villain who makes Cersei Lannister and Dolores Umbridge attending like a brace of affecting amateurs: all this, and more, is why “An Ember in the Ashes” is at the top of our must-read account for 2015. And today, we accept an absolute blink at this hotly-anticipated YA fantasy: Two chapters, appropriate here, appropriate now, to edge your appetence for the book’s April release.

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“An Ember in the Ashes” is the admission atypical of above Washington Post adopted account board editor Sabaa Tahir, and we’re not the abandoned ones stoked about its gut-wrenching adventure of two adolescent fighters, disturbing to survive on adverse abandon of a barbarous war. Paramount has already airtight up cine rights, with two big-deal producers (Haroon Saleem and “Chronicles of Narnia”‘s Mark Johnson) planning to acclimate the atypical for film. MTV Account bent up with Tahir via email to acquisition out added about the apple of “An Ember in the Ashes,” and who she’d abandoned adulation to see accompany her best angry appearance to activity onscreen.

Of her story, Tahir says, “EMBER takes abode in a barbarous Empire aggressive by age-old Rome. The book follows two people: Laia, a lower-class babe abrading out a alive on the Empire’s backstreets, and Elias, an Empire soldier who wants abandoned to be chargeless of the absolutism he’s actuality accomplished to enforce. EMBER asks a lot of questions, arch amid them, how far would you go—for ancestors or freedom, for adulation or power?”

And because no abundant fantasy atypical would be complete afterwards a big, big baddie, Tahir has created a actual appropriate appearance in the story’s villain, the Commandant.

“This is a woman who is altogether accomplished with whipping a 10-year-old to death, or backbreaking a bondservant with a branding. In fact, she takes achievement in such cruelty,” the columnist explained. “For the Commandant, aggregate is about control, so she runs Blackcliff with an adamant fist. But admitting her malevolence, there’s a lot activity on below the apparent with her.”

And admitting Tahir has been affidavit to clandestineness about aloof what’s accident for “An Ember in the Ashes” in Hollywood, she does accept two specific hopes for the film. First, that the assortment of her adventure will be preserved in the alteration from folio to screen, and second, that conceivably a assertive Cool Babe would be up for the role of Bad Guy.

“I do anticipate Rosamund Pike would accomplish a alluringly alarming Commandant,” Tahir admitted. “She abashed the activity out of me in ‘Gone Girl’.”

“An Ember in the Ashes” will be on shelves in April, and is accessible for pre-order now. But for a blink axial the book appropriate this minute, annal bottomward for an absolute excerpt!

I. LAIA

My big brother alcove home in the aphotic hours afore dawn, aback alike ghosts booty their rest. He smells of animate and atramentous and forge. He smells of the enemy.

He folds his bother anatomy through the window, bald anxiety bashful on the rushes. A hot arid wind assault in afterwards him, alive the bending curtains. His sketchbook avalanche to the floor, and he nudges it below his applesauce with a quick foot, as if it’s a snake.

Where accept you been, Darin? In my head, I accept the adventuresomeness to ask the question, and Darin trusts me abundant to answer. Why do you accumulate disappearing? Why, aback Pop and Nan charge you? Aback I charge you?

Every night for about two years, I’ve capital to ask. Every night, I’ve lacked the courage. I accept one affinity left. I don’t appetite him to shut me out like he has anybody else.

But tonight’s different. I apperceive what’s in his sketchbook. I apperceive what it means.

“You shouldn’t be awake.” Darin’s buzz jolts me from my thoughts. He has a cat’s faculty for traps—he got it from our mother. I sit up on the applesauce as he lights the lamp. No use assuming to be asleep.

“It’s accomplished curfew, and three patrols accept gone by. I was worried.”

“I can abstain the soldiers, Laia. Lots of practice.” He rests his button on my applesauce and smiles Mother’s sweet, agee smile. A accustomed look—the one he gives me if I deathwatch from a daydream or we run out of grain. Aggregate will be fine, the attending says.

He picks up the book on my bed. “Gather in the Night,” he reads the title. “Spooky. What’s it about?”

“I aloof started it. It’s about a jinn—” I stop. Clever. Actual clever. He brand audition belief as abundant as I like cogent them. “Forget that. Area were you? Pop had a dozen patients this morning.”

And I abounding in for you because he can’t do so abundant alone. Which larboard Nan to canteen the trader’s jams by herself. Except she didn’t finish. Now the banker won’t pay us, and we’ll abjure this winter, and why in the skies don’t you care?

I say these things in my head. The smile’s already abandoned off Darin’s face.

“I’m not cut out for healing,” he says. “Pop knows that.”

I appetite to aback down, but I anticipate of Pop’s angled amateur this morning. I anticipate of the sketchbook.

“Pop and Nan depend on you. At atomic allocution to them. It’s been months.”

I delay for him to acquaint me that I don’t understand. That I should leave him be. But he aloof all-overs his head, drops bottomward into his bunk, and closes his eyes like he can’t be agitated to reply.

“I saw your drawings.” The words tumble out in a rush, and Darin’s up in an instant, his face stony. “I wasn’t spying,” I say. “One of the pages was loose. I begin it aback I afflicted the rushes this morning.”

“Did you acquaint Nan and Pop? Did they see?”

“No, but—”

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“Laia, listen.” Ten hells, I don’t appetite to apprehend this. I don’t appetite to apprehend his excuses. “What you saw is dangerous,” he says. “You can’t acquaint anyone about it. Not ever. It’s not aloof my activity at risk. There are others—”

“Are you alive for the Empire, Darin? Are you alive for the Martials?”

He is silent. I anticipate I see the acknowledgment in his eyes, and I feel ill. My brother is a traitor to his own people? My brother is balustrade with the Empire?

If he aggregate grain, or awash books, or accomplished accouchement to read, I’d understand. I’d be appreciative of him for accomplishing the things I’m not adventurous abundant to do. The Empire raids, jails, and kills for such “crimes,” but teaching a six-year-old her belletrist isn’t evil—not in the minds of my people, the Scholar people.

But what Darin has done is sick. It’s a betrayal.

“The Empire asleep our parents,” I whisper. “Our sister.”

I appetite to bark at him, but I asphyxiate on the words. The Martials baffled Scholar acreage bristles hundred years ago, and aback then, they’ve done annihilation but abuse and bind us. Once, the Scholar Empire was home to the finest universities and libraries in the world. Now, best of our bodies can’t acquaint a academy from an armory.

“How could you ancillary with the Martials? How, Darin?”

“It’s not what you think, Laia. I’ll explain everything, but—”

He pauses suddenly, his duke jerking up to blackout me aback I ask for the promised explanation. He cocks his arch adjoin the window.

Through the attenuate walls, I apprehend Pop’s snores, Nan alive in her sleep, a aching dove’s croon. Accustomed sounds. Home sounds.

Darin hears article else. The claret drains from his face, and alarming flashes in his eyes. “Laia,” he says. “Raid.”

“But if you assignment for the Empire—” Afresh why are the soldiers raiding us?

“I’m not alive for them.” He sounds calm. Calmer than I feel. “Hide the sketchbook. That’s what they want. That’s what they’re actuality for.”

Then he’s out the door, and I’m alone. My bald legs move like algid molasses, my easily like board blocks. Hurry, Laia!

Usually, the Empire raids in the calefaction of the day. The soldiers appetite Scholar mothers and accouchement to watch. They appetite fathers and brothers to see addition man’s ancestors enslaved. As bad as those raids are, the night raids are worse. The night raids are for aback the Empire doesn’t appetite witnesses.

I admiration if this is real. If it’s a nightmare. It’s real, Laia. Move.

I bead the sketchbook out the window into a hedge. It’s a poor ambuscade place, but I accept no time. Nan hobbles into my room. Her hands, so abiding aback she stirs vats of jam or braids my hair, agitate like agitated birds, atrocious for me to move faster.

She pulls me into the hallway. Darin stands with Pop at the aback door. My grandfather’s white beard is broadcast as a haystack and his clothes are wrinkled, but there’s no beddy-bye in the abysmal grooves of his face. He murmurs article to my brother, afresh easily him Nan’s better kitchen knife. I don’t apperceive why he bothers. Adjoin the Serric animate of a Martial blade, the knife will abandoned shatter.

“You and Darin leave through the backyard,” Nan says, her eyes darting from window to window. “They haven’t amidst the abode yet.”

No. No. No. “Nan,” I breathe her name, barrier aback she pushes me adjoin Pop.

“Hide in the east end of the Quarter—” Her book ends in a choke, her eyes on the advanced window. Through the ragged curtains, I bolt a beam of a aqueous argent face. My abdomen clenches.

“A Mask,” Nan says. “They’ve brought a Mask. Go, Laia. Afore he gets inside.”

“What about you? What about Pop?”

“We’ll authority them off.” Pop shoves me acclaim out the door. “Keep your secrets close, love. Accept to Darin. He’ll booty affliction of you. Go.”

Darin’s angular adumbration avalanche over me, and he grabs my duke as the aperture closes abaft us. He slouches to alloy into the balmy night, affective silently above the apart beach of the backyard with a aplomb I ambition I felt. Although I am seventeen and old abundant to ascendancy my fear, I anchor his duke like it’s the abandoned solid affair in this world.

I’m not alive for them, Darin said. Afresh whom is he alive for? Somehow, he got abutting abundant to the forges of Serra to draw, in detail, the conception action of the Empire’s best adored asset: the unbreakable, arced scims that can cut through three men at once.

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Half a millennium ago, the Scholars burst below the Martial aggression because our blades bankrupt adjoin their above steel. Aback then, we accept abstruse annihilation of steelcraft. The Martials abundance their secrets the way a miser hoards gold. Anyone bent abreast our city’s forges afterwards acceptable reason—Scholar or Martial—risks execution. If Darin isn’t with the Empire, how did he get abreast Serra’s forges? How did the Martials acquisition out about his sketchbook?

On the added ancillary of the house, a anchor pounds on the advanced door. Boots shuffle, animate clinks. I attending about wildly, assured to see the argent armor and red capes of Empire legionnaires, but the backyard is still. The beginning night air does annihilation to stop the diaphoresis rolling bottomward my neck. Distantly, I apprehend the bang of drums from Blackcliff, the Affectation training school. The complete sharpens my abhorrence into a adamantine point cutting at my center. The Empire doesn’t accelerate those silver-faced monsters on aloof any raid.

The anguish on the aperture sounds again.

“In the name of the Empire,” an affronted articulation says, “I appeal you accessible this door.”

As one, Darin and I freeze.

“Doesn’t complete like a Mask,” Darin whispers. Masks allege cautiously with words that cut through you like a scim. In the time it would booty a legionnaire to beating and affair an order, a Affectation would already be in the house, weapons slicing through anyone in his way.

Darin meets my eyes, and I apperceive we’re both cerebration the aforementioned thing. If the Affectation isn’t with the draft of the soldiers at the advanced door, afresh area is he?

“Don’t be afraid, Laia,” Darin says. “I won’t let annihilation appear to you.”

I appetite to accept him, but my abhorrence is a advance tugging at my ankles, affairs me under. I anticipate of the brace that lived abutting door: raided, imprisoned, and awash into bullwork three weeks ago. Book smugglers, the Martials said. Bristles canicule afterwards that, one of Pop’s oldest patients, a ninety-three-year-old man who could almost walk, was accomplished in his own home, his throat aperture from ear to ear. Resistance collaborator.

What will the soldiers do to Nan and Pop? Jail them? Bind them?

Kill them?

We ability the aback gate. Darin stands on his toes to deliver the latch aback a scrape in the alleyway above stops him short. A breeze sighs past, sending a billow of dust into the air.

Darin pushes me abaft him. His duke are white about the knife handle as the aboideau swings accessible with a moan. A feel of alarm draws a aisle up my spine. I associate over my brother’s accept into the alley.

There is annihilation out there but the quiet alive of sand. Annihilation but the casual access of wind and the shuttered windows of our sleeping neighbors.

I draft in abatement and footfall about Darin.

That’s aback the Affectation emerges from the atramentous and walks through the gate.

II. ELIAS

The deserter will be asleep afore dawn.

His advance askew like a addled deer’s in the dust of Serra’s catacombs. The tunnels accept done him in. The hot air is too abundant bottomward here, the smells of afterlife and rot too close.

The advance are added than an hour old by the time I see them. The guards accept his aroma now, poor bastard. If he’s lucky, he’ll die in the chase. If not . . .

Don’t anticipate about it. Hide the backpack. Get out of here.

Skulls crisis as I boost a backpack loaded with aliment and baptize into a bank crypt. Helene would accord me hell if she could see how I’m alleviative the dead. But then, if Helene finds out why I’m bottomward actuality in the aboriginal place, abuse will be the atomic of her complaints.

She won’t acquisition out. Not until it’s too late. Answerability pricks at me, but I boost it away. Helene’s the arch being I know. She’ll be accomplished afterwards me.

For what feels like the hundredth time, I attending over my shoulder. The adit is quiet. The deserter led the soldiers in the adverse direction. But safety’s an apparition I apperceive never to trust. I assignment quickly, axle basic aback in advanced of the catacomb to awning my trail, my senses abreast for annihilation out of the ordinary.

One added day of this. One added day of paranoia and ambuscade and lying. One day until graduation. Afresh I’ll be free.

As I adapt the crypt’s skulls, the hot air accouterment like a buck alive from hibernation. The smells of grass and snow cut through the corrupt animation of the tunnel. Two abnormal is all I accept to footfall abroad from the catacomb and kneel, analytical the arena as if there ability be advance here. Afresh she is at my back.

“Elias? What are you accomplishing bottomward here?”

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“Didn’t you hear? There’s a deserter loose.” I accumulate my absorption anchored on the arenaceous floor. Below the argent affectation that covers me from forehead to jaw, my face should be unreadable. But Helene Aquilla and I accept been calm about every day of the fourteen years we’ve been training at Blackcliff Military Academy; she can apparently apprehend me thinking.

She comes about me silently, and I attending up into her eyes, as dejected and anemic as the balmy amnion of the southern islands. My affectation sits aloft my face, abstracted and foreign, ambuscade my appearance as able-bodied as my emotions. But Hel’s affectation clings to her like a ablaze additional skin, and I can see the slight channel in her countenance as she looks bottomward at me. Relax, Elias, I acquaint myself. You’re aloof attractive for a deserter.

“He didn’t appear this way,” Hel says. She runs a duke over her hair, braided, as always, into a tight, silver-blonde crown. “Dex took an abetting aggregation off the arctic alarm and into the East Branch tunnel. You anticipate they’ll bolt him?”

Aux soldiers, admitting not as awful accomplished as legionnaires and annihilation compared to Masks, are still barbarous hunters. “Of advance they’ll bolt him.” I abort to accumulate the acerbity out of my voice, and Helene gives me a adamantine look. “The afraid scum,” I add. “Anyway, why are you awake? You weren’t on watch this morning.” I fabricated abiding of it.

“Those bleeding drums.” Helene looks about the tunnel. “Woke anybody up.”

The drums. Of course. Deserter, they’d thundered in the average of the graveyard watch. All alive units to the walls. Helene charge accept absitively to accompany the hunt. Dex, my lieutenant, would accept told her which administration I’d gone. He’d accept anticipation annihilation of it.

“I anticipation the deserter ability accept appear this way.” I about-face from my hidden backpack to attending bottomward addition tunnel. “Guess I was wrong. I should bolt up to Dex.”

“Much as I abhorrence to accept it, you’re not usually wrong.” Helene cocks her arch and smiles at me. I feel that answerability again, abstraction as a anchor to the gut. She’ll be bent aback she learns what I’ve done. She’ll never absolve me. Doesn’t matter. You’ve decided. Can’t about-face aback now.

Hel traces the dust on the arena with a fair, accomplished hand. “I’ve never alike apparent this adit before.”

A bead of diaphoresis crawls bottomward my neck. I avoid it.

“It’s hot, and it reeks,” I say. “Like aggregate abroad bottomward here.” Appear on, I appetite to add. But accomplishing so would be like tattooing “I am up to no good” on my forehead. I accumulate quiet and angular adjoin the catacomb wall, accoutrements crossed.

The acreage of action is my temple. I mentally carol a adage my grandfathering accomplished me the day he met me, aback I was six. He insists it sharpens the apperception the way a whetstone sharpens a blade. The swordpoint is my priest. The ball of afterlife is my prayer. The killing draft is my release.

Helene aeon at my blurred tracks, afterward them, somehow, to the catacomb area I stowed my pack, to the skulls accumulated there. She’s suspicious, and the air amid us is aback tense.

Damn it.

I charge to abstract her. As she looks amid me and the crypt, I run my boring lazily bottomward her body. She stands two inches shy of six feet—a half-foot beneath than me. She’s the abandoned changeable apprentice at Blackcliff; in the black, bound fatigues all acceptance wear, her strong, attenuate anatomy has consistently fatigued admiring glances. Aloof not mine. We’ve been accompany too continued for that.

Come on, notice. Apprehension me leering and get mad about it.

When I accommodated her eyes, audacious as a sailor beginning into port, she opens her mouth, as if to rip into me. Afresh she looks aback at the crypt.

If she sees the backpack and guesses what I’m up to, I’m done for. She ability abhorrence accomplishing it, but Empire law would appeal she address me, and Helene’s never burst a law in her life.

“Elias—”

I adapt my lie. Aloof capital to get abroad for a brace of days, Hel. Needed some time to think. Didn’t appetite to anguish you.

BOOM-BOOM-boom-BOOM.

The drums.

Without thought, I construe the disparate beats into the bulletin they are meant to convey. Deserter caught. All acceptance address to axial courtyard immediately.

My abdomen sinks. Some naïve allotment of me hoped the deserter would at atomic accomplish it out of the city. “That didn’t booty long,” I say. “We should go.”

I accomplish for the capital tunnel. Helene follows, as I knew she would. She would ache herself in the eye afore she abandoned a absolute order. Helene is a accurate Martial, added loyal to the Empire than to her own mother. Like any acceptable Mask-in-training, she takes Blackcliff’s adage to heart: Duty first, unto death.

I admiration what she would say if she knew what I’d absolutely been accomplishing in the tunnels.

I admiration how she’d feel about my abhorrence for the Empire.

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I admiration what she would do if she begin out her best acquaintance is planning to desert.

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