*This post contains spoilers for An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir*
If you've read this book, you know that Cook is a slave at Blackcliff who Laia interacts with, and who helps create a diversion at the end of the story so Laia and Elias can escape. But certain things make me think she's not exactly who/what she seems at face value.
Here's my theory:
I think that Cook is...wait for it....Laia's mother, who has been presumed dead for years due to her leadership of the Resistance.
So here are some reasons why I think this is a plausible theory:
1. She's terribly disfigured, which leads to a false/new identity, especially if there's shame/secrets involved. We don't know what she used to look like, and since she's not particularly forthcoming with details, well, that's my guess as to why. HOWEVER, in the book it mentions that she seems familiar to Laia, especially her eyes.
2. She gets SUPER squirrelly whenever Laia mentions her mother and the Resistance. She's very keen on making sure Laia doesn't trust anyone, but also continuously warns her to stay out of trouble. Now, this could be just because Cook at one time helped the Resistance and was familiar with Laia's mom and the methods used by the Resistance and how dangerous being a part of their actions are.
3. That whole ending scene with the home-made explosives? Now, who ELSE do we meet (if only briefly) in the beginning of the book who can mix all kinds of things together to make other more useful things? If your guess was Laia's grandfather-ding ding ding! Laia's mother's father is a known apothecary/mixer of things, and I don't think it's a far-fetched idea that he not only knew how to mix explosives/flammable things, but also taught his daughter how to do it, as well.
4. We're meant to assume that the Commandant killed Laia's mother--we see her poster on the wall of the Commandant's office and she mentions to Laia that the posters are all people she's captured. But we don't know, FOR SURE, the details of her death. It's possible that, instead of killing her, the Commandant disfigured her, maimed her, and put her to work as her personal Cook. I mean, at this point death would probably be a relief from the torture of having to grovel at the feet of your worst enemy for years on end with no chance of real escape.
So, barring some other details that might lead us away from this theory, such as Cook apparently being around 70 years old, and having blue eyes instead of golden/brown like Laia, I think there's a decent chance that this could be a thing.
It also turns out that I'm not the only one with this theory! While refreshing my memory about the characters in the book, I stumbled across this discussion on Goodreads, where other readers theorize that Cook is Laia's mom!
A Torch Against the Night comes out at the end of this month, so we may find out Cook's real identity then. For now, what do you think? Is it possible that Laia's mom, could in fact, have been right in front of her all along?