An Ember in the Ashes: 5 Great Book-to-Movie Adaptations with Sabaa Tahir

April 27, 2015 2015, films, guest post, Sabaa Tahir, Wendy 32

an ember in the ashes

I really enjoyed An Ember in the Ashes, and I enjoyed meeting author Sabaa Tahir when I went to visit the set of the book trailer shoot. When the opportunity came up to host a guest post, I naturally had questions about the film that’s in development! It’s a little too early to share any details on that front, but the author is here with some of her favorite book-to-film adaptations for the official blog tour, with thoughts on why she thinks they were so successful. We’ve got pretty strong opinions on this topic, so we hope that An Ember in the Ashes will be as fun to watch as it was to read.

vine-divider-final5 Great Book-to-Movie Adaptations
by Sabaa Tahir

Some of you know that An Ember in the Ashes has been optioned for a film by Paramount Pictures, with Mark Johnson (Breaking Bad) and Haroon Saleem (Chronicles of Narnia) producing. The adaptation is moving forward, with a script nearly finished! A film version of my book would be surreal and awesome, but of course, I do hope that the adaptation is loyal to the book. As an author, that will always be my first priority. I take great heart from the fact that the producers and Paramount are really dedicated to staying true to the spirit of Ember!

While a lot of readers have issues with book-to-film adaptations (myself included), sometimes, directors do a bang-up job. Here are five book-to-movie adaptations that I think got it right:

1. Lord of the Rings: Hardcore fantasy fans might not agree with this one, and I’ve had many a debate over it. But ultimately, I feel that Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Tolkien’s classic epic hits all the right notes. We skip the overly-long back-stories and launch straight into the story. And the songs—well the songs were never my favorite thing about the LOTR books, so I wasn’t sorry to see them gone. Most importantly, I feel like Jackson captured the scope of Frodo’s epic quest and wrenching decisions with a tight script and perfect casting.

2. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: The PoA is still my favorite of the Harry Potter films. J.K. Rowling’s books get progressively darker as Harry gets older, and this is the first movie that captures that progression perfectly. At the same time, director Alfonso Cuarón made sure we didn’t lose any of the humor and whimsy of the books. Throw in Gary Oldman as Sirius Black and David Thewlis as Remus Lupin and we’ve got ourselves a pretty perfect adaptation.

3. Jurassic Park: A classic. No one does marauding dinosaurs like Spielberg. The script has humor and suspense in all the right places. We don’t get any of the extra storylines that clutter up the book. But my favorite part of the movie is the music, spectacularly scored by composer John Williams. The soaring main theme takes the story to a whole new level that you just can’t experience while reading the book.

4. Bridget Jones’s Diary: Perhaps I’m biased because I didn’t read the book until after I saw the film, but for me, this movie is perfect. The casting, the humor, the romance—Helen Fielding wrote the script and you can see it in how well she portrays the spirit of her characters. The film is actually more different from the book than I expected, but just as fun and quirky. Hugh Grant brings a perfect, seedy sort of appeal to Daniel Cleaver and Colin Firth’s Darcy is by turns infuriating and enchanting. I own this movie, have seen it probably 20 times, but I’m still not sick of it. That’s the mark of a damn good book-to-movie adaptation.

5. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011): I really enjoyed Stieg Larsson’s books, but the visceral, unflinching nature of the movie took the story to a different place. I can’t say I loved the movie—there were some truly disturbing parts that I struggled to get through. But it was certainly very true to the book, and the brooding, chilly atmosphere, emphasized by Trent Reznor’s spare score, was spot on.

20560137An Ember in the Ashes

Laia is a slave.
Elias is a soldier.
Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

An Ember in the Ashes will be released on Tuesday, April 28th, 2015 and is available for pre-order online and in stores.

sabaa tahirAbout the Author

Sabaa Tahir grew up in California’s Mojave Desert at her family’s 18-room motel. There, she spent her time devouring fantasy novels, raiding her brother’s comic book stash and playing guitar badly. She began writing An Ember in the Ashes while working nights as a newspaper editor. She likes thunderous indie rock, garish socks and all things nerd. Sabaa currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family.

Visit her on her website and Twitter to keep up with all her latest news.

vine-divider-finalI’m often neutral when it comes to book-to-film adaptation announcements, but in this case I’m pretty excited–it’s a very atmospheric book with scenes that are very easy to visualize, so it’ll be fun to see them come to life one day. Fingers crossed that the filmmakers will take heed of all the things that made the above adaptations successful in this author’s eyes.

Are you excited for the Ember book and film, too? As true booklovers, you know you should try to read this before the film comes along and everyone is clamoring to read it, right? ;) What other book-to-film adaptations are you looking forward to?

Be on the lookout for Layla’s An Ember in the Ashes review for us this Wednesday, too!

Wendy signature teal




32 Responses to “An Ember in the Ashes: 5 Great Book-to-Movie Adaptations with Sabaa Tahir”

    • Wendy Darling

      It’s always interesting to see how the books differ when you watch the movie first, isn’t it? I usually find it much harder to do it that way, which is why I generally try to read the book first if I’m interested.

      And yes, this would make a great film! I hope it makes it.

  1. Holly J

    YES YES YES TO LOTR!!! Even though I still haven’t read the books, these movies are timeless fantasies that I always can lose myself in. And of course, Harry Potter. Loved how the movies were adapted from the books (and Prisoner of Azkaban will always be my favorite). Great post!
    Holly J recently posted…Get Rec’d: Faking Normal

    • Wendy Darling

      AZKABAN is coming up as a lot of people’s favorites! With good reason.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post, thanks for stopping by!

  2. J. Oh

    Oh, I’m so excited for this! An Ember in the Ashes is one of my most anticipated reads this spring. I have to say that I’m nowhere near as up to date with movies as I am with books, so I really don’t know about many upcoming book-to-movie adaptations. (Though I think Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton was also optioned for a movie, and I’d be interested to watch that. Possibly too violent for me, and the book wasn’t my favorite, but I admit I’m still excited when I read books that have fellow Asians in them…) But, surprisingly, I’ve watched all of the movies listed above, except The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Ah, I hope you like this when you get to it! I hear you, it’s nice to have protagonists who aren’t your usual middle class white American girl, which is the majority of YA that’s published. This one is actually a bit violent too, but not explicitly so–definitely not what I’d consider “gory.”

  3. Nikki

    I’m not a Harry Potter fan so I can’t comment on that one. I also can’t comment on Bridget because I don’t do chick flicks. However! I totally agree about Jurassic Park, LOTR, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I would also throw in that I thought Ender’s Game was a really good adaptation. There were things that differed from the book to movie but overall they stayed true to the feel of the book, which is the important part.

      • nikki

        The Swedish versions were very close to the book and I loved them! I actually haven’t seen the American version because I could never think there was a chance they’d get better. I will say if you can get through the first about 100 pages it starts to pick up a lot. Also, keep in mind the books end up being exceptionally more graphic than the movies.

  4. Carina Olsen

    Ahh, gorgeous post Wendy and Sabaa :D Thank you both so much for sharing. <3 Sigh. I shall read this book very soon :D And ack! The Lord of the Rings movies. <3 They are my favorite movies of all the movies. Though I have not read the books yet, lol :) But someday! And ohh. Jurassic Park were books first? I did not know this. Love the movies so much :D Might look into it, hih ;p
    Carina Olsen recently posted…Review: The Immortal Heights by Sherry Thomas

    • Wendy Darling

      Let us know what you think of this book when you get to it! The romance might bother you a bit, but the rest of it is really good.

      And YES, JURASSIC PARK was a great book. Different from the film (of course), but a great book.

      So jealous you’ve read IMMORTAL HEIGHTS! I can’t wait for that one.

  5. Pili @ In Love With Handmade

    I really wasn’t a fan of Prisoner of Azkaban, the movie, because the book is my favourite of the lot, and the changes really bothered me.
    As far as LOTR movies? I have to agree! Some of the descriptions were too bloody long for me and I ended up skimming, and in the movies we cut to the chase a bit more! And the changes weren’t really all that bothersome!
    I still need to read Jurassic Park, the book… whoopsie!

    And I cannot wait till my preorder of An Ember in the Ashes, because I do clearly plan to read it before the movie comes out!
    Pili @ In Love With Handmade recently posted…An Amber in the Ashes Release Day Blitz!!

    • Wendy Darling

      I really, really liked the book JURASSIC PARK, although Layla (a few comments below) seems to have not enjoyed it as much? I thought the ending was SO good, very different from the film. I’ve come to love both iterations with time, but it took me a few years and a few rewatchings before I would admit how much I love the film.

      And oh, I hope you enjoy EMBER! If you haven’t already read it, being that I’m responding so late. – ___ –
      Wendy Darling recently posted…Saint Anything: book launch + Sarah Dessen interview + giveaway!

  6. Cee

    There is no doubt that Lord of the Rings is one of the very best book-to-movie adaptation ever. I don’t know who could’ve done it better than Peter Jackson and his crew.

    So pleased to see Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in this list! That was my favorite movie and book of the series. I thought Cuaron did an excellent job capturing the tone. (I know people had issues that he took certain creative license or whatever, but I thought they were well done from what I remember).

    It makes me wonder if there’s a movie adapted from the book in the past three years that I’ve liked, and I really can’t remember.
    Cee recently posted…ESSENTIAL READING | Five Books Parvati (from Liars, Inc) Would Read and Why

    • Wendy Darling

      I think creative license is often necessary for good adaptations–I think clunky movies are often the result of being too faithful to the books! One of the issues with the first two Harry Potters, actually.

      I’ve liked a decent number of adaptations in the past few years, although you also have some truly horrific ones. Let us not speak of them. <.<

    • Wendy Darling

      Did you get anything at all out of Andy Weir when you met him, Kate?! He was at JPL last year as well, but we didn’t get to see him. *sigh*

      I’m really excited about that film, too. I think Matt Damon is perfect for that role, and I’m hoping Ridley Scott keeps the humor.

      • Kate @ Ex Libris

        No, dammit, I did not. :-( He did say that he was consulted on some aspects and gave input into the script and that he liked the script. So, I think that they will keep the humor. That’s really the appealing part of the book, in my mind. I’m nit usually a fan of Man vs Nature books and I think Mark’s voice is what kept me hooked on this story.
        Kate @ Ex Libris recently posted…Blog Tour: A Matter Of Heart

        • Wendy Darling

          I actually love survival books, but I have to admit my eyes did glaze over a few times because he got SO technical and SO often, hah. I started skimming some of the minutiae of some of the mathematical equations and whatnot. I agree, the humor and voice were the strongest parts of the book. I think…I think…that the people who optioned it would recognize that.

  7. Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings

    LOVE this list because PoA is my favorite HP movie and I am also OBSESSED with Jurassic Park. I wanted to be a paleontologist for years! I’m also a die-hard fan of LotR and who doesn’t adore Bridget Jones’ Diary? ;) Another excellent book-to-movie adaptation is The Princess Bride–adore that film! Thanks for sharing such a wonderful list, ladies!
    Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings recently posted…Review: Iced by Karen Marie Moning

  8. janice

    I absolutely agree about the Prisoner of Azkaban, too! I didn’t like any of the other Harry Potter movies until this book! The series was always a little dark in my mind and the movie reflected exactly that. Funnily enough, most of my friends’ least favorite HP movie was this one.

    Also, can’t wait to read Ember! It’s coming out tomorrow and I’m supposed to get it soon; I’ve been waiting for a long time!!!
    janice recently posted…The Lights at Work

    • Wendy Darling

      Same here! I thought the first couple of films were groan-worthy, but AZKABAN was darker and the stakes were higher, and it just felt less cartoony. I quite enjoyed that one.

      I hope you enjoy EMBER when you get your little paws on it!

  9. Brenda

    Wonderful post, I love book to movie adaptations. Well, especially if I’ve read the book first, which I try very hard to do. Such fun to compare my version of the characters to the actors selected to play them. I so agree with Harry Potter being a wonderful example. Congratulations on the release of An Ember in the Ashes!

    • Wendy Darling

      I try to read the books first, too–I often find that doing it the other way, I can become impatient with the book or I can’t get the actors or whatever out of my head, which isn’t fair to anybody. And while I’m cynical about a lot of book to film adaptations, I have to admit I have a hugely long list of favorites! (As evidenced by the discussion post we did awhile back, linked in the first paragraph.)

  10. Layla

    I’m so glad to see Jurassic Park make this list. (Not only is it true to the book, but it’s better than the book, in my opinion.) Also agreed on the Jackson and Prisoner of Azkaban – while I had some problems with the LotR films, I love them a lot. And they’re good adaptations – very watchable, and don’t spend too much time on the backstory (cough cough, I’m looking at you, almost every Harry Potter movie everrrr).

    Lovely post. An Ember in the Ashes will make a great film, I think. Fingers crossed!
    Layla recently posted…An Ember in the Ashes: 5 Great Book-to-Movie Adaptations with Sabaa Tahir

    • Wendy Darling

      Whaaaaaat. I love JURASSIC PARK the movie, but I love the book even more! What didn’t you like, out of curiosity? When I first saw the film, I was actually really angry at the ending. In the book, when they look outside and see the pterodactyls flying, it’s this quietly chilling moment when they realize, “Oh shit, they’re migrating.” In the movie, it’s “Daaaaaaaaw, lookie that!” So it took me awhile to love them each as their own separate things. The film eventually became one of my favorites, of course. I AM SO EXCITED FOR JUNE.

      I never had the patience for Tolkien, sadly, but I helped out on a few LOTR screenings so I have some FEEELINGS about those, hah.

      I agree that AZKABAN was when the Harrys started getting good. Also biased because I did pub/promo for that. :D Somewhere I still have shirts and tiny LEGO buses.

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, don’t resist. It’s much easier to give in and see what all the fuss is about. :D

      And yes, I’m always suspicious of book-to-film adaptations, but this one has the potential to be really fun. Fingers crossed!