Bookish Discussion: Cult YA Fantasy Series I’ve Yet to Read…

One of my top reading goals for 2017 is to focus on the YA fantasy genre (i.e. play catch up on the cult classics that I’ve totally bypassed…) The topic of this post will probably make you question my credibility as a YA blogger (*gulp* why did this seem like a good idea again?!) but I’m hoping the public humiliation will spur me on to actually reading these awesome series that I’ve been criminally neglecting. 🙂

This post actually came about after a delightful chat with a Waterstones bookseller (thanks Valentine!) I had gone to pick up the Fantastic Beasts Case but found myself accidentally-on-purpose skulking around the Sci-Fi and Fantasy section looking for the new Tearling book. Valentine and I got talking and we realised we had similar taste when it came to this genre and we fangirled about A Court of Mist and Fury, Ember in the Ashes and Daughter of Smoke and Bone. And then I realised how much I was missing when I noticed how many “cult classics” I’d not read… voila this post!

Reading for fun was put on hold during university (cruel reality unfortunately!) and clearly I was on hiatus during the most inopportune time – most of the series in this list, or at least the first book, were all published 2014 or earlier and all have now wrapped up. It’s interesting that I’ve not read lots of them already because YA fantasy is easily my favourite genre but I’ve found myself getting seduced by newer releases getting tonnes of hype that I’ve not been able to play catch up.

SO I’ve made it my mission to read (/make a start on…) these gems in 2017. I know I’m seriously missing out and my blogger rep might as well be in the gutter! Without further ado, in no particular order, my top ten cult YA fantasy series that I’ve not read (yet!)

  1. Graceling Realm by Kristin Cashore (2009-2012) – a read of this series is so overdue. It’s got a badass protagonist Graced with the skill to kill – what more could I ask for?!
  2. Penryn & the End of Days by Susan Ee (2013-2015) – angels?? Sign me up. This will fill the Daughter of Smoke and Bone shaped hole in my life.
  3. Snow Like Ashes by Sarah Raasch (2014-2016) – a refugee training to be a warrior, unrequited love, magic and politics. Err yes please!
  4. Study by Maria V. Snyder (2006-2008) – I’ve no idea how this one slipped through the cracks – I’M SORRY! *repentant face* 
  5. The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare (2010-2013) – I’m currently reading Lady Midnight so I’m really keen to go back and brush up on the Shadowhunter ‘verse with this series.
  6. The Raven Cycle by Maggie Steifvater (2012-2016) – this fully deserves to be in a list with “cult” and “YA” in the title. I’ve heard so much about this series and am familiar with the awesome fan art…
  7. Seven Realms by Cinda Williams Chima (2009-2012) – this was a recommendation from Valentine at Waterstones and once I’d read the blurb I was totally sold.
  8. Legend by Marie Lu (2011-2013) – the blurb of this one sounds amaaaazing! It’s one of the highest rated YA fantasies on Goodreads to boot.
  9. The Remnant Chronicles by Mary E. Pearson (2014-2016) – the first book in this series is a book club read this year so I will absolutely be getting round to it. Yay!
  10. Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta (2010-2013) – this is one of those high fantasy classics so I’m really looking forward to ticking this one off my TBR list!

So a good mix of fantasy, paranormal/ supernatural and dystopia to keep things interesting. I figure I can make a dent in at least a few of these series this year!  

Do you also have a similar TBR guilty secret? Any on here that you also haven’t read? Or if you have, recs for which I should absolutely start with first?! Let me know in the comments below. 🙂

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Film Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Release Date: 1 January 2017 (UK) 

Genre: Fantasy, Drama

Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Liam Neeson, Felicity Jones

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Synopsis: 12-year-old Conor (Lewis MacDougall) is dealing with far more than other boys his age. His beloved and devoted mother (Felicity Jones) is ill. He has little in common with his imperious grandmother (Sigourney Weaver). His father (Toby Kebbell) has resettled thousands of miles away. But Conor finds a most unlikly ally when the Monster (portrayed by Liam Neeson) in performance-capture and voiceover) appears at his bedroom window one night. Ancient, wild, and relentless, the Monster guides Coner on a journey of courage, faith, and truth that powerfully fuses imagination and reality. (Official Website)

Review: I was invited to a preview of A Monster Calls earlier this week and was blown away by so many things in this movie! The film is based on the novel by Patrick Ness, author of bestselling Chaos Walking Trilogy. Interestingly, the idea for the novel actually belongs to Siobhan Dowd, author of classic YA books Bog Child and A Swift Pure Cry. After Dowd’s untimely death, Patrick stepped in and finished the book with credits to her idea.

I have to start with the acting. I was so so impressed by Lewis MacDougall as Conor. He portrayed the anguish of a teen trying to survive school and family woes whilst dealing with his mother’s terminal illness.I was totally struck by MacDougall’s raw talent and cannot wait to see him in more things – I predict a solid rise to fame for him. 🙂 This movie has a stellar cast of big names joining MacDougall including Felicity Jones who plays her character with such grace and poise, Sigourney Weaver as the stern but beleaguered grandmother, and Liam Neeson as the Monster. They were all phenomenal in their roles, their performances, especially Jones’s, was understated and just worked. Because of the way the film was directed by J.A. Bayona, (The Orphanage) at times I completely forgot they were acting because they fully became their characters.

And if you need to break things, then, by God, you break them.

The novel is known for its exploration of some pretty heavy themes like illness, grief, divorce and bullying. But my absolute favorite is how it explores the grey areas of morality – how sometimes people can be both good and bad and the book does this without ever coming across as patronising. This is what I think made the novel such a winner amongst people of all ages in the first place – it truly is an important idea for all of us to understand and I think it is so bravely tackled by Ness in A Monster Calls. Although the book deals with these difficult issues the movie handles it deftly and beautifully – it was neither heavy-handed nor did it shy away from reality, exactly like in the book.  

I love how imagination is such a big part of this movie and it really takes you back to a time when you were younger and thought was pretty unrestricted. I felt *all* of the emotions during this movie – it was heartbreaking, charming, moving and magical and so many more things all at the same time. I loved how although it is a fantasy, the thing that I took from it was an exploration of what it means to be human and inherently complex.

Of course you are afraid, but you will make it through, for this is why you called me…

The original novel has a brilliant illustrated version with illustrations by Jim Kay. Bayona does justice to the messages in the novel and made them resonate on a grander scheme by bringing the beautiful illustrations to life in such a visual way through stunning watercolour. I was totally mesmerised during these scenes, and I found it reminiscent of the Tales of Beedle the Bard scenes in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows film – easily one of my favourite bits in the entire film series. The cinematography in this movie is done so well that at times I forgot I was in a cinema watching with lots of other people because I’d become totally immersed in the drama on screen! 

This is one of those movies that will stay with you long after you’ve seen it! I’ve given it 5 stars – it’s a faithful adaptation and doesn’t try to overdo the drama just because it’s on the big screen. All of the actors give solid performances and I would recommend it just for the visual smorgasboard it offers alone! 

Are you planning to watch A Monster Calls? Have you read the original novel by Patrick Ness? What bits are you most looking forward to seeing on screen? Drop me a comment below!

Waiting on Wednesday: The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted at Breaking the Spine, which puts the spotlight on eagerly anticipated upcoming releases.

We are in for a treat with YA releases in 2017 so there’ll be a few of these coming up in the next few months. 😀 One book that I’m really looking forward to is The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman! It is the second book in the Lady Helen series and is released in the UK and US in January 2017.

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The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman

Publication Date: 26 January 2017 by Walker Books UK 

Genre: Historical, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

Series: Lady Helen (book #2)

Synopsis: June 1812. Just weeks after her catastrophic coming-out ball, Lady Helen Wrexhall—now disowned by her uncle—is a full member of the demon-hunting Dark Days Club. Her mentor, Lord Carlston, has arranged for Helen to spend the summer season in Brighton so that he can train her new Reclaimer powers. However, the long-term effects of Carlston’s Reclaimer work have taken hold, and his sanity is beginning to slip. At the same time, Carlston’s Dark Days Club colleague and nemesis will stop at nothing to bring Helen over to his side—and the Duke of Selburn is determined to marry her. The stakes are even higher for Helen as she struggles to become the warrior that everyone expects her to be. (Goodreads)

Why I’m looking forward to it: First of all how beautiful is that cover?! I love that Walker have stayed with the original theme (pet peeve of mine is when the covers change mid-series grr!) As much as I adore Lord Carlston, I love love love that Lady Helen gets the cover all to herself in this one (feminism ftw!) and hope this hints at a badass Lady Helen in this installment!

I read the first book earlier this year (review here) and loved it. I’m a big fan of historical YA anyway but I wasn’t sure about the fantasy element. I needn’t have worried though as I loved everything about The Dark Days Club. The characters were brilliant, and Lord Carlston was dreamy. The plot was riveting and the whole thing flowed brillianty from start to climactic finish and left me wanting more after the last page… enter The Dark Days Pact.

In this installment we follow Lady Helen as she furthers her training with Lord Carlston as a fully fledged member of the Dark Days Club. We saw Helen make some pretty momentous decisions and so it will be really great to watch her continue to break conventions of Victorian society and really come into her own as a bona-fide demon hunter. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the encounters between Lady Helen and Lord Carlston go now that he’s mentoring her whilst at the same time dealing with his own problems. Finally, the Duke of Selburn’s agenda promises to ramp up the drama even further and I’m so excited to see how it all plays out before the final book in the series is released in 2018!

Have you read The Dark Days Club? What books are you most looking forward to? Drop me a comment below!

Bookish Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Published: September 2015 by Hachette Children’s Group

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Series: Six of Crows (Book #1)

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 1/5

Goodreads | Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads: Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge
A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager
A runaway with a privileged past
A spy known as the Wraith
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes

Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

Review: I was really looking forward to this series. I’d read the Grisha trilogy and fell in love with the world Leigh Bardugo had created so I was keen to revisit with a whole new cast of characters!

Six of Crows started off really strong. I was totally sucked into the plot, the different characters and their predicaments – I loved finding out how each of them had come to be in Ketterdam and they had really strong back stories and felt properly fleshed out. Needless to say I grew attached really quickly! Kaz was the ruthless gangleader with the troubled past he had buried deep inside him, Inej, kidnapped into slavery and was given an escape from a life of indenture by Kaz, Nina the Grisha in exile who has a complicated history with Matthias a loyal and righteous Fjerdan, with an unfortunate soft spot for Nina. We also have Jesper, the trigger happy guy from a humble background with a bad gambling habit, and finally Wylan the posh kid who has ended up right in the middle of the most ambitious heist ever.

I liked how distinct they all were not just diverse in terms of race (brilliant by the way) but also their personalities. One of my favourite things was easily the fact that these guys aren’t and don’t pretend to be perfect or even good at times! Kaz can be really nasty but it’s his way of surviving and the thing that’s got him to the top of his game in Ketterdam. The conflict between Nina and Matthias was great because you totally root for them but also understand why it wasn’t an instalove happily ever after for them (and waaay more realistic). And Inej despite her horrible experiences still holds on to her faith and light temperance which contrasted really well with Kaz.

As I read on, I found myself more invested in the brilliant characters over the plot! I loved how their back stories trickled into the story as we went along and the flashbacks were seamless and didn’t feel clunky at all. I was totally intrigued by some of their histories, especially Kaz and Nina’s, and very curious as to how they would play into this book and the next. Also credit to Leigh Bardugo, who is now queen of my heart, because there is not one love triangle to be found anywhere in this book – even with six characters milling about!

The pace of the book was great, things were continuously happening and nothing felt like filler – all of the events related back to The Heist. The audacity of the entire plot kept it totally riveting and the characters’ personal motivations for the money made it all the more nail-biting! It was all going swimmingly until I got to the last quarter when The Heist is going down and the proverbial hits the fan. Without going into detail and falling foul of giving away spoilers, whilst reading this section I found it a little difficult to follow the action – the description in this section of where they are and how they get from A to B is a little dense and I think the problem was that I just couldn’t visualise it – so more ‘it’s me, not the book’ as I don’t think this would be noticeable to most readers but I have notched off 0.5 stars. I found myself dragging and taking longer to just power through that section… and that’s when my book buddy stepped in!

I’d organised a buddy read of Crooked Kingdom with Laura over at Reading Sanctuary for when I’d finished Six of Crows and honestly that powered me through. She was great, really encouraging and I’m so glad I persevered because Six of Crows went back to being fabulous after that very brief, slightly frustrating, section. We’ve started our buddy read of Crooked Kingdom and it is seriously *so* good so far – expect another rave-filled review soon! So if there are two takeaways from this post it’s:

  1. Absolutely read Six of Crows and get ready to fall in love with some awesome characters (and don’t be stupid like me and get distracted by or lost in the description in *that* scene)
  2. Get a book buddy/buddy read a book – it’s so much fun to be able to fangirl to someone in real-time because they’re reading the book at the same time. There’s nothing better than fangirls coming together and… well, fangirling together!

Have you read Six of Crows? What did you think? Or maybe you’ve already discovered the brilliance of buddy reading? Let me know your thoughts!!

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Bookish Event: YA Fantasy Panel with Garth Nix and Co.

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Lovely readers, I have a packed event schedule for the next week so there’ll be more bookish events posts over the next few days – you guys are in for a treat! Also doing my first giveaway (which may involve signed books by YA Queens Rainbow Rowell and Leigh Bardugo!!!) so keep your eyes peeled for that…

Now onto business… Earlier this week, I went to the YA fantasy event hosted by Waterstones Piccadilly with a stellar panel of authors – seriously. We had the legend Garth Nix (Old Kingdom/Abhorsen series), Melinda Salisbury (The Sin Eater’s Daughter series), Alwyn Hamilton (Rebel in the Sands series), Paul Magrs (The Lora Trilogy series) and Laure Eve (The Graces series) with Buzzfeed’s Chelsy Pippin chairing.

It was fascinating to hear the authors talk about the fantasy genre – from how they go about world-building, writing characters, and thoughts on the YA genre. To do all of the authors justice, I thought it would be fun to do this post in an interview style but please note this is very much a summary and not verbatim!! 

First question was how the authors find their inspiration – how/where do the ideas for their books and characters come from?

Garth Nix talked about the 21st anniversary of Sabriel (published 1995 in Australia!) and how he never really left the Old Kingdom – there was no “coming back to it” when Clariel was published in 2014 and Goldenhand this year. One of the oddest places that Garth has ever had an idea come to him was during a root canal! Melinda Salisbury said ideas never came to her fully formed but rather solidified over time whilst Alwyn Hamilton wondered what us normal people did during commutes or before bed because that’s when she gets her inspiration. Laure Eve echoed this, saying coming up with ideas for books was her version of worrying whilst Paul Magrs said he gets inspiration from his favourite childhood things and smashes them together – Lost on Mars is actually a mash up of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles and Laura Ingell’s Little House on the Prairie!

Next Chelsy asked how the authors went about writing strong female characters.

Garth found this question amusing saying he was always asked about how he wrote “strong female characters” as if they were a rare, fantastical thing. He found it odd that he was never asked how he imagined up his actually strange fantasy creatures which actually involves some strong imagination [I loved Garth so much more for this brilliant answer]. He said the answer was simple – he wrote, and could write, strong female characters because that’s exactly what he was surrounded by growing up e.g. family members. He also gave credit to classic YA writers such as Tamora Pierce for her portrayals of female protagonists. Laure, Alwyn and Melinda chimed in agreeing that Pierce was a massive inspiration when they were growing up and for their female characters. Paul went back further and pointed to characters like Alice and Dorothy who were independent and curious young women and influenced his work.

World-building was bound to come up during an event with fantasy authors and come up it did!

Alwyn explained how she took her favourite parts of different worlds – Rebel of the Sands was a mash up of the Wild West and 1,001 Arabian Nights but she forced elements of both to work together for example, iron was very important in the Wild West for horseshoes and symbolised luck whilst iron is thought to ward off jinn in the East. Laure spoke about how music was her biggest inspiration for world-building and how she tries to translate music and how it makes her feel onto a page when she writes. Melinda said she was very visual and atmospheric – she comes up with scenes in her head and knows exactly how things like light and shadow look to build the world around these scenes. Paul said he likes to do it as he goes along, to keep it interesting and Garth agreed saying writing fantasy is like an iceberg where the book is only about 10% of the world that the reader sees (except authors like Tolkein who is a world-building genius).

There was a Q&A with the audience and one of the most interesting questions was how the authors feel about having their works pigeonholed into the YA genre?

Alwyn explained that whilst YA tends to be about teens it does not mean it is only for teens by any stretch of the imagination. Both she and Laure talked about how although the genre is about growing up, this is something everyone can relate to – we can all remember the awkwardness, confusion and loneliness we felt at this point of our life and so the genre transcends age. Garth agreed and said that genres were less for readers and more for publishers in order to maximise commercial success of novels. He hoped readers didn’t pigeonhole themselves into genres they would and would never read. Melinda finished off by saying she thought it was a great shame if people rejected novels because of the YA tag because actually the genre is the vanguard of the publishing the world – it is pushing the boundaries on issues like sexuality, mental health and gender.

The event was followed by signings and I went a little overboard with the books I must admit. Also, we were able to spend ages talking to the authors who are just the nicest, it was the most laid-back event ever *fangirls* What do you think about their answers? Are any of these authors your ultimate fantasy YA writer?

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Bookish Review: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Published: September 2016 by Macmillan

GenreFantasy, Young Adult

Rating: ♥ ♥ 1/2

Goodreads | Buy on Amazon

This was my first Kendare Blake book (*gasp* and I call myself a YA book blogger). I’ve never gotten around to reading Anna Dressed in Blood and tbh it’s never really appealed because ghosts, horror and paranormal which aren’t my favourite genre in the world. Buuut I thought I’d take the plunge with this pure fantasy offering 🙂

Three sisters, triplets, queens: Mirabella, the elemental, Arsinoe, the naturalist, and Katharine, the poisoner, are bred by their guardians to compete for the Fennbirn crown. In their 16th year they will take part in a life or death battle, using their gifts to outwit their sisters, to claim the throne by being the last one standing. Except this generation things aren’t proving quite so straightforward. Arsinoe and Katharine’s gifts are weak whilst Mirabella is the only one showing signs of power that has people convinced she will triumph. As they and their guardians fight to cheat, trick and betray their way to the crown, the girls are tested and find the darkness in them brought to the fore…

I was hoping for great things with Three Dark Crowns. First of all, although it’s got a bit of a Hunger Games premise about it (the whole to the death competition thing) I liked that it had a “purpose”, that they weren’t randomers just thrown together by a cruel government. These girls have been bred to compete for the crown and murdering their sisters to get it was par for the course. It was interesting to see how their separate upbringings had shaped their personalities and how far they had been indoctrinated to believe that either they killed their sisters or died trying. The wider political friction between the Black Council and the Temple was intriguing but I would’ve liked to understand more about how it all came about. 

And that leads me to what the biggest letdown was for me – the world building, or lack of. There were so many different rituals, the Gave Noir, Beltane, the Hunt, the Quickening to name a few and some of the names were really ambiguous that by the time they were mentioned a second or third time, I’d forgotten what they were, where they came in the sequence of the Ascension Year, their significance etc. and it jarred the reading for me having to pause and remember. It also felt like a lot of context was skimmed over – why the animosity and friction between the Temple and the Black Council since they all believe in the Goddess? Why are King Consorts so important, what do they do? Hell, what does a Queen do once she’s crowned? I can’t for the life of me tell you what happens to the Queen in the 16 years between the birth of the triplets and the Ascension Year. The twist at the end also wasn’t so much a twist for me as a facepalm moment, and again it feels due to a lack of world building.

The characters weren’t the most memorable I’ve come across and there were quite a few to keep track of. I just feel like a lot of info was held back purely because Three Dark Crowns is the first in a trilogy and this also meant the pacing was rather slow. For pages and pages, we essentially watched as the girls learned and learned and learned some more how to use their gifts (or not so much in Arsinoe’s and Katharine’s case) and it did make me wonder what they’ve been doing for the past ten years that they haven’t really grasped the fact that neither are gifted and should have made contingency plans waaaay sooner. So as this plot was crawling along, the subplot of romance was given more airtime than I think we needed in this book.

The romance was a little miss for me. Reading Three Dark Crowns I actually felt like I was reading a loose adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We had plenty of potential couples, but then we saw them running around with other characters because of various reasons such as curses and duty and it all was just rather messy. Hell, even the parents were in on it – was it just me who found the whole Madrigal (Jules’ mother) going off with Matthew (Jules’ bf’s brother) very weird? Like if Jules was to marry her boyfriend, Joseph, whilst her mum was dating Joseph’s brother, wouldn’t that just be a really awkward situation??? Anyway, I wasn’t sold on any of the ships – most of them seemed quite passive and I couldn’t really feel/sense the attraction between a character and their love interest.

I really wanted to like this but I’ve rated Three Dark Crowns 2.5 stars – the premise was interesting enough that it did keep me reading and was original. I liked that the plot doesn’t rely on some epic romantic arcs for our protagonists to have agency, at least in this book, and that it was more about 3 sisters dealing with their difficult predicament (kinda has a girl/sister power Frozen vibe about it!) However, I’m still on the fence about whether I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for the next installment…

Have you read Three Dark Crowns and have drastically different views? Let me know, I’m always intrigued when I’m in the minority with views on a book 😀

Bookish Review: A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

ATorchAgainstTheNight_CV 4.14A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

Published: September 2016 by Harper Voyager

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Goodeads | Buy on Amazon

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 🙂