Review: “A Torch Against the Night” by Sabaa Tahir

This book kept me up past my bedtime (which is saying a lot because I keep sleeping hours like an old person). I read at work when I was supposed to be working (oops!). I savored the last 100 pages. I savored the final chapter even more. All the characters I loved and even ones I didn’t think I would are back and if this book doesn’t give you a reason to follow Tahir throughout her writing career, look again. Tahir holds nothing back. There’s blood, death, violence, manipulation, but edging its way in all the dark places is light and hope and love.


Title: A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes #2)
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin Random House)
Release date: August 30, 2016
Length: 452 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Young adult, fantasy
Synopsis (from Goodreads): “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.”

My rating: 5 STARS. OBVIOUSLY.

It’s true, guys. Five stars. Five bleeding, burning stars. 

Another 5 star rating for the year. I don’t give these out easily but with Tahir’s sequel to An Ember in the Ashes which I loved to pieces, I knew the sequel had to be great–it just had to be, and what’s brilliant is that it didn’t disappoint me!

A Torch Against the Night was everything I wanted it to be. It picks up right after the first book left off. Laia and Elias are on the run, escaping Blackcliff in hopes to save Laia’s brother, Darin, from a slow death in one of the deadliest prisons in the Empire, Kauf Prison, where he’s been imprisoned for supposedly harboring the prints to weapons that could give the enslaved Scholars a chance at fighting back at the Empire. But the newly crowned Emperor Marcus, his second-in-command and Elias’s best friend the Blood Shrike Helene Aquilla, and Elias’s own mother known as the Commandment all seek Elias and Laia. And Helene’s first mission as Blood Shrike is to find Elias and kill him.

“But you…are no swift-burning spark. You are a torch against the night – if you dare to let yourself burn.” 

Here’s what I love the most about this book: two fantastic, strong, contrasting female characters: Laia and Helene. They grew up in completely different worlds and the world Helene thought she knew so well is crumbling at her feet while Laia seeks to bring freedom to her people to topple the Empire. My heart hurt for both of them: for Laia being betrayed by someone she loved, by Helene fighting for her life and that of her family all while fighting the war within herself about Elias. The best (or worst?) part is that I can’t even hate Elias. He is good. There is goodness in him and he wants to see that in everyone, wants to take everyone’s responsibilities and make them his own but that’s also his tragic flaw.

I wanted to see more of the Augurs in this and while they appear VERY rarely, it isn’t enough to satiate me. I don’t know whose side they are on and it confounds me. I’m immensely curious about the Commandment, struggling to comprehend why she is the way that she is especially after a certain revelation. I love that we learn more about Elias’s upbringing. Mamie Rila is one of my favorite characters in this book so to come across the various Tribes, to have that sneak peek into Elias’s life before he was taken, he clings so hard to that life and it breaks my heart.

“When you love, there is always more pain.” 

There’s nothing I really dislike about this book. Laia felt weak in the beginning of the book but she grew into herself and after what happened with Keenan, I expected her to falter a bit but she held strong and true. She’s been that way throughout the first book, too–strong where I myself would crumble and that’s all the more why I admire her. We also see there’s underlying magic working it’s way throughout the Empire and I’m thrilled to see how that plays out in books 3 and 4 of the series.

Now the problem will be actually waiting for the other books. *cries*


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