Title: A Torch Against the Night
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Series: An Ember in the Ashes, #2
Release Date: August 30th 2016
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 goodreads.com
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…
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.