Elias and Laia are running for their lives. After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.
Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.
But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.
Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own—one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both.
I devoured the first book in this series, An Ember in the Ashes, so it is no surprise that I loved its sequel!
A Torch Against the Night begins immediately where An Ember in the Ashes leaves off–Laia and Elias are on the run from the Empire. Immediately, I was thanking and praising Sabaa Tahir for not dragging me through wasted pages of exposition by attempting to explain everything that happened in the prior novel. Instead, we learn everything we need to know about the previous book and its explosive climax from the characters themselves as they scramble to make sense of what has happened and what the future holds. It all feels very organic, and it has the added benefit of not slowing down the action – and action is still foremost among the reading pleasures Tahir provides. A Torch Against the Night proves to be just as much of a page turner as An Ember in the Ashes.
We still get the switching narration between Laia and Elias, like we did in An Ember in the Ashes, with an additional third narrator, Helene. I have grown to love Helene in A Torch Against the Night, and part of me wishes for a book solely dedicated to her story. Helene is the most complex and nuanced character in this novel. Helene struggles with the power that the Empire has over her hostage family, she must deal with her own conflicted feelings for her now-traitor best friend, Elias, she provides perspective on the Empire’s internal power struggles and political intrigue, and she goes through the constant tests of competence required of a young woman in a male-dominated world. The manner in which Tahir leaves Helene in this book will have you rooting for her to take the lead in the next book!
The blood and gore continues in this sequel, but it all occurs outside the walls of Blackcliff Academy. Taking the story outside the walls of Blackcliff Academy expands the world Tahir created in An Ember in the Ashes. As Elias and Laia travel to Kauf Prison to breakout her brother Darin, Tahir fleshes out the other peoples of her world, examines their relationships with the Empire, and develops shifting power dynamics. The fantasy aspects of this world that were briefly alluded to in An Ember In The Ashes also become more prominent here, revealing new magical powers and beings. Our main villain, the jinn lord known as The Nightbringer, gets much more time and attention, and somehow Tahir makes him so complex that he develops from an omnipotent bad guy to a surprisingly sympathetic, albeit still terrifying, antagonist.
Between The Nightbringer, the Commandant, the Warden, and Marcus, Sabaa Tahir has shown a true talent for creating and developing villains. And who doesn’t love a good villain? Marcus, who started out as a sort of Draco Malfoy stand-in to the Harry and Hermione like Elias and Helene, has come further in one book than J.K. Rowling’s character did in seven, and Tahir hints that the character has hidden depths and secrets that promise to make him even more compelling as the series continues. I get the feeling that we will be seeing a great deal more of Marcus in book three. I also think we will get more of the Commandant in book three as well. The Commandant remains as twisted and cunning as ever, but Tahir leaves her behind for most of the story, giving the Commandant just enough time and attention to cause enough problems for our heroes to remain a viable threat.
A Torch Against the Night is a fast and enjoyable read full of surprising plot and character choices. It will be fascinating to see where Sabaa Tahir takes these characters and this world throughout the rest of this amazing series! If you have not started this series yet, what are you waiting for?!
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Fiction, Dystopian
Devoured… over the weekend while… the boyfriend recovered from food poisoning.
Title: A Torch Against the Night
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Purchase your copy here.
Author: Sabaa Tahir