ARC Review: A Torch Against the Night

A Torch Against the Night

Title: A Torch Against the Night

Author: Sabaa Tahir

Series: An Ember in the Ashes, #2

Publisher: HarperVoyager

Release Date: August 30th 2016


Five Stars

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.

– Blurb courtesy of

I received an ARC of this book free from HarperVoyager. It in no way affects my views on A Torch Against the Night.

This review may contain spoilers for previous book(s) in the series.

My Thoughts On…

…The Plot

Laia is curled in a ball on the other, one hand on her armlet, fast asleep.
“You are my temple,” I murmur as I kneel beside her. “You are my priest. You are my prayer. You are my release.” Grandfather would scowl at me for sullying his beloved mantra so. But I think I prefer it this way.

Now that Laia has saved Elias from execution at the hands of the new Emperor the next step for the two of them is to escape from Blackcliff. However it’s a lot harder than they thought, with the secret tunnels in the catacombs that Elias originally planned to use right after his graduation blocked they need an alternate exit only to discover the Commander has beaten them there.

Elias and Laia barely manage to escape with their lives, but they quickly come to realise their escape only playing into the Commander’s plans. Now Elias is dying, unable to go much further under his own strength, every Mask and Martial both within the walls of Blackcliff and outside are searching for the two of them, and their path to Kauf and freeing Laia’s brother is paved with more obstacles than they can face alone.

“I thought you told me you loved stories. Have you ever heard of an adventurer with a sane plan?”
“And why do you think that it?”
I am at a loss. “Because…ah, because—”
She chuckles again. “Because sane plans never work girl,” she says. “Only the mad ones do.”

Calling in his favour with the Tribesmen, risking his family and his own life, Elias, Laia and two old friends they meet up with on the road begin their journey to Kauf. However the Commander is launching her attack in the Scholars, killing them all for the crimes of the rebels, she is working her way through the prisons towards Kauf.

Meanwhile back at Blackcliff Marcus is struggling to hold the reigns of his rule in his hands. The Gens are launching their own rebellion against their new Emperor and, after letting Elias and Laia escape, Helene is no longer the trust Blood Shrike of the Emperor instead she is someone he holds at arm’s length. To prove her loyalty to the Empire above all else Helene is given a mission; find Elias and bring him back, alive, for his execution. If she fails it is more than her honour on the line, it is her family’s lives, but with her feelings for Elias still an obstacle can Helene really hand him over to his death?

…The Characters

“Stop. You always think everyone is your responsibility, Elias. But we’re not. We’re our own people and we deserve to make our own decisions.”

Elias quickly became my favourite character in A Torch Against the Night. After everything he did in the first book he is still burdened by his guilt but he uses it to push himself forwards, uses it to try and make amends not only to Laia but to all the Scholars. He believes that by freeing Darin from Kauf he can give them a fighting chance and he willing to give his life for that. Elias has become so much more than the Mask he was in the first book. I loved seeing his character grow and after everything he faces I can’t wait to see where his story goes next.

“Don’t lock yourself away from those who care about you because you think you’ll hurt them or they’ll hurt you. What point is there in being human if you don’t let yourself feel anything?”

Laia on the other hand I didn’t like nearly as much as I did in An Ember in the Ashes. In the first book she seemed to face her fears and became what she needed to be to survive living in the Commander’s house but in this book she falls back into a subservient role. When she’s with Keenan or Elias she is content to follow them around and let them take the lead which is not what I expected from her at all. She lets her doubts and her guilt take over and she starts second guessing all her decisions.

It’s understandable given everything she goes through but I wanted to see more of the Laia we saw at the end of An Ember in the Ashes; confident and sure of herself, willing to risk anything, even saving a Mask from the execution stand, to save her brother.

“But you, Helene Aquilla, are no swift-burning spark. You are a torch against the night—if you dare to let yourself burn.”

Helene has some really hard choices to make throughout this book. There is never an easy road for her and though she tries to make the best of her situation she always seems to choose the wrong path. Helene seems to be standing on the edge of a turning point for her character and as she is led around by Marcus and Elias and the Commander it’s hard for her to see what the right way is. But at her heart Helene has always been loyal to the Empire and it’s that loyalty that she falls back on, above and beyond whatever feelings she had for Elias once upon a time.

“Elias and Laia are each other’s countermelodies. I am just a dissonant note.”

The love square that was hinted at in the first book seems to come to an end in this one and I loved the way the feelings between Elias and Laia, Laia and Keenan, and Elias and Helene were all put under the microscope. Nothing ended like I thought it would but I feel that all four of their characters are moving on to much bigger roles within the story. I didn’t like Keenan much in An Ember in the Ashes but his character grew on me in this one. I understand his purpose and all I will say is I did not see it coming at all but I loved the depths it added to his past.

…The Setting

“Shadows gather, Elias, and their gathering cannot be stopped. Darkness grows in the heart of the Empire, and it will grow more still, until it covers this land. War comes. And it must come. For a great wrong must be righted, a wrong that grows greater with every life destroyed. The war is the only way. And you must be ready.”

If the first book focused on Blackcliff and life within the Empire then the second book is all about life outside of it. We explore the world of the Tribesmen whom Elias grew up with and who he goes to for help when he and Laia need to get to Kauf prison without the Martial’s discovering them. I loved learning a little more about their ways; their history, heritage and culture which all come together to make such rich characters. We also learn more about the prisons; we see the hardships that are faced inside Kauf and what the Scholars are living with now the rebellion is being fought. In my review for An Ember in the Ashes I mentioned that I wasn’t too keen on the magic system in this series. It seemed like it came out of nowhere. In A Torch Against the Night  however the magic seemed to fit much better in with the story. There is still a lot we can learn but it felt like more than an afterthought this time.

Luckily A Torch Against the Night didn’t end on a cliffhanger so I am not desperate for the next book. I still want to get my hands on it as soon as I physically can but I’m content to wait until it’s release. This has been a brilliant series so far and I cannot wait to see where the third book goes with the story and the characters.

What did you think of A Torch Against the Night? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.

All quotes have been taken from an ARC and may differ in the final publication.

32 thoughts on “ARC Review: A Torch Against the Night

  1. I made my hubby read the first book last week (without having read it myself yet) and after he finished it, he was like: “WE NEED BOOK TWO, NOW!”. So I’m glad I can show him this review now to let him see it won’t be a disappointment. Nice one! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He definitely won’t be disappointed with book two, and neither will you when you read book one as well.
      Honestly it’s an amazing series and I think it got a lot better with A Torch Against the Night.
      Thanks, I hope you love this series, and I hope your hubby loves book two as well! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. AHHH I’M SO JEALOUS THAT YOU GOT THIS ARC! 🙂 Such a great review though, nice job. 🙂 I’m sad to hear that Laia goes back to being a bit of a doormat for the boys, but I still can’t wait to read this book and get a bit more depth on all of the characters. 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This was definitely one of my favourite parts of my haul from YALC, I was so thrilled to get a copy because I’d been wanting to read this book for ages now.
      Yeah I was a bit disappointed by Laia’s character but she did improve towards the end, it just wasn’t enough in my opinion.
      It’s a great book, I think better than AEITA, I hope you enjoy it as well! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great review, Beth! 🤗 Nice score on the ARC. Go you! 🙂 That’s awesome! This series is on my TBR. I really need to get around to this one. I swear almost everything I read anymore is part of a series. It’s like no one makes standalone books anymore. Ha!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Jill, and yeah I was thrilled to get an ARC of this book at YALC, definitely one of my best finds of the weekend! 😀
      I’d highly recommend this series, I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought and I think it’s getting better with each book. I’m excited for the third now!
      Yeah I’ve been seeing less standalone books, especially in the fantasy genres, there’s still more than a few in YA contemporary! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I love when a series gets better each book. Some get worse and it’s really sad because it takes you out of the story. Fantasy is one of those genres that really lends itself to a series because of the world building and the stories are usually much larger than contemps or romance novels. Waiting for the next book is the worst part! 😂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think sometimes series suffer from middle book syndrome as well, definitely was not the case with A Torch Against the Night you’ll probably be pleased to hear! 😀
        Exactly, I’ll admit some of the standalone fantasy books I’ve read haven’t been as good as the series just because there’s not a lot of time to develop the world properly!
        Yeah, I need a time machine so I never need to wait for another book again! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m so glad that you gave this book a high rating. I really, really enjoyed AEITA and if this one was disappointing I’d be really sad.

    And HELENE! I mean, I really liked Elias but I think Helene was the more interesting character of the two, especially given that she’s still under the Empire, still their watchgirl, still working for them. I liked that she was more loyal to the Empire than anything else, too, despite her love, because we don’t see that a lot (even if the Empire is evil). I’m glad to hear that the love square develops a bit further and I hope the end is satisfying.

    Also given that the covers for these books have been amazing so far, I can’t wait to see what the third one will look like. Great review, Beth! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I definitely enjoyed this book, in fact there were times when i thought it was even better than AEITA although in the end I think both books had their ups and downs you know. I’m gad to head you enjoyed AEITA as well, hopefully you’ll love this book too.
      I liked Helene in the first book but loved her in the second. I think her and Elias have the two most interesting story arcs; seriously Elias’s story gets so much more interesting in ATATN. Even in this book Helene’s loyalty was to the Empire and it was interesting seeing her struggle with that especially when she faces what she faces. Honestly I felt for her so much by the end but I loved her character so much more as well. I think you’ll like the way the love square goes in this book, especially the way things go with Helene and Elias, what happens definitely fits where their characters are going.
      I need more information on the third, but yeah I reckon the cover will be amazing, it can’t not be can it?
      Thanks Reg! 😀


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