Author: Sabaa TahirSeries: Ember in the Ashes, #2
Released: August 30th 2016
Length: 452 pages
Source: Publisher for review
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.
The thrilling, long-awaited sequel to An Ember in the Ashes is finally in our greedy little hands and it’s even better than we dared to hope. Beautifully written, emotionally exhausting, filled with pain and far too much heartbreak, A Torch Against the Night once again shows that Saba Tahir deserves all the praise she’s been getting. It is a bloody, painful and surprising work, a true challenge for readers and fans, but one that is worth every tear and all the hurt it causes.
The story is equally divided between Laia, Elias and Helene, but Helene easily steals the spotlight. Her character has become essential to this story and her insight invaluable to this bloody plot Sabaa Tahir weaves. With Laia and Elias on the run, Helene is our eyes and ears in the Empire. She is the one who shows us bloodbaths and genocide, the one who makes so many questionable choices along the way. But even when her actions are deplorable, we never forget that she’s a prisoner of her oaths and circumstances, a powerful captive, but a captive nonetheless. The Empire’s war against the Scholars has progressed to actual genocide under the Commander’s heartless rule and Helene, as Blood Shrike, is caught right in the middle of it.
The journey is no easier for Elias and Laia. We’ve come to expect hopeless situations in Tahir’s prose, but she pushes even that to extremes. Their quest to save Laia’s brother seems impossible and the losses they suffer along the way almost too difficult to bear. A Torch leaves no time to breathe, no time to heal between one heart-wrenching blow and the next.
Even with the somewhat slower beginning, which admittedly doesn’t last long, the quality of Tahir’s writing carries us right through it. The sheer elegance of her prose is unparalleled, the careful consideration put into every single word, every sentence heavy with strong emotions. A Torch is calmer, quieter, more subdued compared to the epic battles and intrigue that came before, but it’s also emotionally more taxing and infinitely more distressing. If you thought the Empire couldn’t be any crueler, wait until you see it under the new Emperor’s rule.
Readers who were unhappy about the romantic aspect of this story, the Gordian knot of emotions between Laia, Keenan, Elias and Helene, will be happy to know that it all gets more or less resolved by the end of this book. The love triangle is a bit more prominent, but for reasons other than torturing the readers. Tahir often takes us where we don’t want to go, where we haven’t even dreamed of going, but she does so because it serves her story, not because she enjoys torturing us. Or maybe it’s a bit of both…
Two more books were recently announced to thousands of delighted (and terrified) fans. Tahir has already taught us to fear her and what she might do. I doubt it will get any easier – or more enchanting – from here on out, and I honestly can’t wait to find out. It’s difficult to fully explain the emotional impact of this book without revealing spoilers, which is why I invite all of you to private fangirling sessions the second you read this.
A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review.