Title: A Torch Against The Night (An Ember in the Ashes #2)
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Release Date: August 30th, 2016
Standalone/Series: Part two in the Ember in the Ashes series
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy
My rating in stars: 5 stars
My rating in words: New all-time favorite!
What it’s about:
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.
“Most people are nothing but glimmers in the great darkness of time. But you are no swift-burning spark. You are a torch against the night — if you dare to let yourself burn.”
Oh my. I absolutely LOVED this book! LOVED, LOVED, LOVED! Beware the gushing review ahead!
An Ember in the Ashes was one of my favorite reads of 2016. I adored every single beautiful sentence from that book and have been counting down the days for the release of A Torch Against The Night. And when it was finally here, I dived right in (After a quick re-read of An Ember In The Ashes. Just so you know, I still adored every single sentence). And guess what? I was, yet again, immediately sucked into the story and I ADORED.EVERY.SINGLE.SENTENCE.
An Ember had a super interesting and well-developed worldbuilding, with still so much room for more. Torch gave us more and expanded that world immensely. All of a sudden, the world is no longer limited to Serra and Blackcliff Academy. We see the Empire. We see everything from the Tribal Desert in the South to Kauf in the North, from Antium in the West to the Forest of Dusk in the East. And everything is so beautifully and vividly described it’s as if you’re seeing it all for yourself. We see Masks, tribespeople, aux soldiers, efrits and jinns. We learn more about legends only briefly talked about in the first book. There is so much going on and it’s just so much fun to learn about it all.
“Don’t look so worried. Most successful missions are just a series of barely averted disasters.”
An Ember had a nailbiting, edge-of-your-seat, breackneck speed. Torch gave us all that and more. The stakes are even higher. Death is looming past every corner and not everybody makes it. Our characters face some tough decisions, each one equally horrible. This story is completely unputdownable. The chapters fly by and you’ll have been reading for hours before you know it.
An Ember had some of the most rootable heroes and some despicable villains. Torch made those heroes even more lovable and added even MORE despicable villains.
Let’s talk heroes. I already loved Elias, but with this book my love for him grew tenfold. He’s my new all-time favorite male main character. Hands down. He’s just so good and kind and strong and brave and I’m just swooning for him so bad. Elias the warrior. Elias the caretaker. Elias the patient. Elias the son. Elias the friend. I love every single version of Elias we got to see in this book.
“Veturius is a Mask like the rest of us, yes. Bold, brave, strong, swift. But those were afterthoughts for him. Elias sees people as they should be, not as they are. He laughs at himself. He gives of himself – in everything he does. […] He’s the things that I can’t be. He’s good.”
But he’s not the only strong character here. Laia, his partner-in-crime, has grown so much. She’s no longer the scared little girl she was. She has grown brave, but also smart and kind. She was a true partner to Elias, not just some damsel in distress he had to save. She’s perfectly able to take care of herself, thank you very much! Plus, she learns some more about herself here and it is a gamechanger.
And of course, let’s not forget Helene. Oh my, Helene. She gets her own POV here and it is heartbreaking. She is such an interesting character and I both loved and hated being in her point-of-view. I loved it because she is such a strong and aspirational character. I loved it because we get to learn about her family. I loved it because we get to learn more about the Empire. I loved it because through Helene we got to know the mysterious but super intriguing Avitas Harper. But I hated it because of all characters, Helene has the most pain, heartbreak and terrible choices thrown her way. She is forced to hunt down and kill her best friend, how could this go well in any way?
So of course now that we have these three amazing, rootable heroes it has to be balanced out with some of the most despicable villains. The Commandant is still the most despicable of all. There are not many villains out there as purely evil and hateful as her. There’s Emperor Marcus, who is brutal and bloodthirsty, but haunted by ghosts of the past. There’s the sadistic Warden of Kauf, who is just creepy-as-hell. AND to top it all, there’s the mysterious, otherworldly Nightbringer, who is bent on destroying the world in his quest for vengeance.
“So long as you fight the darkness, you stand in the light.”
An Ember brought the romance as a background thing. There was a love square thing going on, but it still felt natural. However, it was always like an afterthought and never in the way of the main plot. Torch brings back that romance, straightens out the loose ends and intensifies it all, while still not taking the spotlight away from the main action. In Ember, I didn’t mind the romance, but I was also not super invested. Torch got me invested, and then some. I don’t think I’ve ever shipped anyone as hard as Laia and Elias. OK, I probably have, but still… Elias/Laia = OTP, guys!
An Ember gave us a major cliffhanger ending that had us craving more, more, more. The ending of Torch was both satisfying and heartbreaking. That last scene was utter perfection. I have answers but I also still have so many questions. I still need more, more, more. I can only be thankful that we will have at least two more books coming.
Basically, I can gush about this book all day long. I loved it. I adored it. I encourage everyone to read this series. It’s already one of my top books of 2016!
“Your emotions make you human. Even the unpleasant ones have a purpose. Don’t lock them away. If you ignore them, they just get louder and angrier.”
“It takes only a split second for life to go horribly wrong. To fix the mess, I need a thousand things to go right. The distance from one bit of luck to the next feels as great as the distance across oceans. But, I decide in this moment, I will bridge that distance, again and again, until I win. I will not fail.”
“Failure doesn’t define you. It’s what you do after you fail that determines whether you are a leader or a waste of perfectly good air.”
“Elias and Laia are each other’s countermelodies. I am just a dissonant note.”
“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?”
“She chuckles again. “Because sane plans never work, girl,” she says. “Only the mad ones do.”