The Next Big YA Book (So They Say) Gets A Few Million

Razorbill, Paramount Preempt WaPo Ed's Debut In Major Deal

Ben Schrank at Razorbill took world English rights to the debut novel by former Washington Post editor Sabaa Tahir's An Ember in the Ashes. Separately, Paramount acquired film rights to the book in a seven-figure deal. The novel is set in a fantasy world and, per Razorbill parent Penguin Young Readers Group, has "echoes of ancient Rome." It follows two teenagers who are fighting to stay under a military regime.

Tahir, who was born in London but grew up in California's Mojave Desert, gained notoriety after writing a piece for the Washington Post's Outlook section when she was interning at the newspaper one summer. The story, about an arranged marriage from her perspective as a South Asian, brought everything from an offer for a reality show on MTV to marriage proposals. Instead, Tahir took a job at the Post's foreign desk after she graduated from UCLA in 2007.

Schrank, who acquired the rights from agent Alexandra Machinist at Janklow & Nesbit, said that Tahir's book is one "that knows its reader." He elaborated: "When you want more, it anticipates and provides. And then it tantalizes. The novel, like the mask it describes, actually grips you tight and does not let go."

In a release about the acquisition, Tahir said the novel was inspired by her desire to "capture the violence of our world and our history, and juxtapose it with characters who find hope, who search for freedom and love even when society wants to crush them."

Film rights for the deal were handled by Sally Willcox at CAA, and producer Mark Johnson (Breaking Bad; The Notebook) is currently attached to the project.

Razorbill is planning to publish An Ember in the Ashes in 2015; associate editor Gillian Levinson will be editing the book.

Laia, 17, is a coward and so far, it’s kept her alive. As a Scholar living under the brutal rule of the Martial Empire, Laia knows that courage will only get her killed. Then the Martials imprison Laia’s brother for treason. To save him from execution, Laia must step out of the shadows and embark on a quest that will take her from the haunted catacombs of her city to the halls of Blackcliff Academy, where the Empire trains its most feared soldiers. She must find the courage to defy everything the Martials stand for in a place where defiance has one outcome: death.

Elias, 20, is Blackcliff’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Sickened by the prospect of hunting and killing Scholars who oppose the Empire, Elias decides to desert the military. But before he can run, he’s ordered to participate in the Trials, a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor. Elias must wage war in the Trials with skill and ferocity while struggling with a deep inner ambivalence. For while losing the Trials might cost him his life, winning them could cost him his soul.

When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at Blackcliff, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the Empire itself.

But this sounds so generic...