I’ve known Laia a few days and Helene all my life. Helene’s no passing attraction. She’s family. More than that. She’s part of me.” — Elias Veturius on Helene Aquilla, An Ember In The Ashes

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Helene Aquilla is a character in the An Ember in the Ashes series by Sabaa Tahir. At the end of the fourth trial, she became the Blood Shrike to Marcus Ferrar and the Empire.

An Ember In the Ashes

Helene is first introduced into the story when a deserter is on the loose. She almost finds Elais, preparing to flee from the academy, but decided to drop the issue afterwards.

Helene Aquilla is the only female at the Blackcliff Academy. And that means constant teasing by Marcus, whom she likes to call "the snake". She's a skilled combat fighter and has every potential to be amongst the most experienced masks in the whole empire.

Helene is selected as one of the contenders to be the emperor and goes through a series of trials alongside three others; Elais, Marcus and Zach. During one of those trials Helene is revealed to be a healer as she heals Laia. Her ability has not been explored much through the entirety of the book.

Helene also shows signs of attraction towards Elias as she gets jealous whenever Elias brings the topic of Laia. She stays away from Elias for most part of the book to full those feelings. By the end of the book Helene, due to her loyal heart, is selected as the Blood Shrike who will serve the new Emperor Marcus.

A Torch Against The Night

Helene admits to love Elias in the midst of her mission to capture, torture, and execute him. She says, "He's a threat to the Empire. A threat I must deal with. But I love him. How do I kill the man I love?" (67), and she continues to ponder Elias and her duty to execute him, despite her undying love to him.


Helene Aquilla is the 20 year-old daughter of Pater Aquilla and best friend of Elias Veturius. She first appears in Blackcliff, watching Barrius being punished for deserting by the Commandant. Although she is the only girl in Blackcliff, she is the third in class. She is chosen, along with Elias Veturius, Marcus Farrar and Zak Farrar to be Aspirants. In the end, she is made Blood Shrike and swears fealty to Marcus Farrar.


Helene Aquilla comes from a prestigious family. Her father, Pater Aquilla, is mentioned to be a jurist, while her Mother and sisters are intelligent and beautiful. Helene is the only female of her generation to attend, and as of Ember, also to graduate. Helene is third in her class, with Elias and Marcus first and second respectively. It is said that her hardships have made her not weak, but stronger.

Helene first met Elias, her best friend, when they were six in the "culling pen", where new students are picked on and tossed in the rain and mud. I'll watch your back, she had said, quoted by Elias to have "all the gravitas of a Cadet".  As Fivers, Helene and Elias stuck together to survive, solidifying their friendship. At one point, a Barbarian raiding party is said to have captured them, and Helene got her and Elias out safely due to the Barbarians underestimating her strength.

Throughout their years at Blackcliff, Helene is haunted by Marcus's perverse need for her. The Snake, as she dubs him, watches her at every turn, only warded off by Elias. Later, in the Trials, her fear of Marcus is exploited in the First Trial of Courage.



Helene has ice-blond hair and blue eyes.She also has a slender figure and in armor, as described by Elias, looks "like a warrior goddess". She is exceedingly beautiful and stunning. Her fierceness makes her even prettier.


— Helene is Greek for shining light or bright one.



— It is revealed in Torch that Hannah, her sister, hates Helene with a burning passion

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