A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir
Published: September 2016 by Harper Voyager
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
I pretty much pounced on A Torch Against the Night as soon as it came out. And boy am I glad I did but at the same time, I’ve seen the next book in the series is not due to be released until 2018… 2018??!! WHY!!! Anyway, enough hysterics, let’s dive on into this review.
A Torch Against the Night is the second book in the An Ember in the Ashes series which I read earlier this year (review here) so minor spoilers ahead as to how things were resolved at the end of the first book. Following the events of the Fourth Trial, Elias and Laia are now fugitives on the run from the Martial Empire, now headed up by Emperor Marcus and Helene Aquillas, his Blood Shrike, but also Elias’s oldest friend at Blackliffe Academy. After Laia saves Elias from his execution, they journey to Kauf prison where Laia’s brother Darin is being held. However, hunted by the Empire, the Commandant and otherworldly forces, the path will not be an easy one for any of our characters and difficult choices will have to be made…
Ahh where to start? Because I read the last book so recently, the plot and characters were still fresh in my mind, but Tahir made it really easy to pick up where the reader leaves off and you get totally immersed straightaway. In this book we get to see the characters dealing with the aftermath of the Trials in the last book. I found the exploration of Elias’s guilt and remorse really interesting and gave the character a lot more depth, and the chapters in the Forest of Dusk were brilliant, hinting at what we’ll see in the next book. The idea that we make the best choices we can, and that our best intentions can turn into the worst of mistakes and regret really resonated with me and made the characters feel so much more realistic and human (as if Elias needed to be any more perfect, but I digress…)
So you’ve made a few bad decisions… So has everyone attempting to do something difficult. That doesn’t mean that you give up, you fool.
Tahir excels at writing strong female characters and in A Torch Against the Night we get the whole gamut of different personalities. I loved encountering the strong Tribal characters (Afya, can I be your friend you sassy thing, you?), the reliably ruthless Commandant, as well as some other old and beloved characters from the first book, but the real standout is easily Helene. Helene Aquilla, you are flawed perfection wrapped up in scims and white blonde hair. Her various predicaments (to put it veeery lightly) throughout the book are just heart rending. I cried and raged on her behalf, she is the best kind of flawed character dealing with the ultimate unrequited love for Elias which complicates things to no end but her perseverance to protect and remain loyal in the face of so much is really admirable. I’ve raved about Helene but Laia is equally awesome, she really comes into her own in this book, asserts her independence and makes difficult choices all with saving her brother in mind. One of the things I really liked was that Tahir kept the romance to a minimum and did not try to shoehorn it in – as far as I’m concerned these kids have got plenty to deal with already.
She needs nothing else. She needs no one else. She stands apart.
The pace of A Torch Against the Night was something that really struck me. Although its a middle installment, at no point did any of the plot lines feel like filler fodder. Although I guessed parts of the bigger picture as we sped along, I absolutely did not guess the “reveal” at the end and this is all down to Tahir’s fantastic story-telling. She gives us enough info that we don’t feel totally blind-sided when the reveals come along, but also keeps enough just hidden so that we’re hooked to keep going. I liked that all the different plot lines contributed to the wider story arc in some way and the world-building also developed in a way that brings this book and the last together. There’s also something to be said of the events that our protagonists face – the obstacles are relentless and Tahir is not afraid to really up the ante to make sure there’s no coasting through here. Didn’t do my blood pressure any favours though – there were many points where I was so done and I’m just the reader!
If you’re on the lookout for a quality YA fantasy series, An Ember in the Ashes, should be very high up on that list. The only thing is, after reading this book, I realised there’s TWO more books to go still – folks PSA this is not a trilogy.
Have you read A Torch Against the Night? What were your thoughts on the ending? Let me know in the comments below 🙂