A Torch Against the Night Book Review

atorchagainstthenightTitle: A Torch Against the Night
Series: An Ember in the Ashes #2
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: August 30, 2016
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 452
Format: Purchased Hardcover

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.

As this is a sequel there may be spoilers in this review.

This sequel to An Ember in the Ashes was nothing short of a roller coaster of a ride, and it was such a phenomenal way to continue the story.

Remember when we weren’t getting a sequel? Oh, how those days were dark and unfair. But now that we have it, and we’re getting two more books after this one, I have to say that the publisher made the right decision because Sabaa SLAYED this book.

The plot picked up right where the first book left off with Elias and Laia running for their lives from the Empire and Blackcliff. It was a few intense first chapters, including with Helene being interrogated for answers, and I thought that it was a strong beginning for the book. As the book continued, the plot began to grow and twist and there were so many hints that I tried to pick up as I went along to figure out if someone was who they were, or if a certain action was going to happen, or if there was something that foreshadowed something later in the book.

It was a roller coaster ride and I think I fell in love with the characters even more in this book, though there were a few bumps along the way that had me wanting to yell at them to pick a different choice.

Laia was just as strong in this book as the last and I felt that she definitely grew as a character. Her mysterious power was revealed more and she didn’t even realize she was doing it until an event later on in the book. I thought that her own surprise was a good thing to incorporate, but I also wish her powers were explained a little more. I do love her, though, because despite everything she’s gone through she still has a very kind and caring heart, and she has a fire in her that doesn’t burn out. Though there was misplaced trust and uncertain feelings, I thought that she was just an exceptional character.

Elias was going through a lot in this book mentally and physically, and I think that coupled with what he had been told about himself being, essentially, a curse kind of took a lot out of him. He held himself back a lot and wanted to do a lot of things on his own when he would have benefited from having someone help him, which was very frustrating to me. But, I understood, at the same time, where he was coming from given his past and everything that went along with it. I did think he was extremely brave, though, and that he made a lot of good and bad decisions. He’s only human, after all.

Helene was probably the most conflicted of all of the characters because her heart and her duty were at war with one another the entire book, and I felt so sad for her because of it. She tries to be the Blood Shrike everyone expects her to be, and she’s extremely smart and capable of her new job, but almost everyone looks down on her because she’s a young woman. I like that she never let that get to her, though, and instead showed everyone just how strong and capable she actually was. I want her to find her own happiness because she deserves it, damn it.

There were so many secrets throughout this novel, so many questions that I have, and I need to know what they are. Why does Marcus talk to himself? What is the Commandant actually doing? What will happen with Elias and Laia? I need to know!

The action sequences were also stellar because they were fast paced and I could imagine every single slice or hit with clarity; I felt like I was watching an action movie. Everything felt like it belonged in that world seamlessly, and I think that the way it was delivered made it beautiful.

There was some romance in the book, and when a certain thing happened I was like, “But why?” And then more things were revealed and I was like, “Oh hell no.” I think that the tension between Laia and Elias was so thick you could have cut it with a knife, even though both of them tried to deny it multiple times. It was cute, really.

I’m just reeling from this book. My mind doesn’t know what to think, where to go, or how to really comprehend everything that went on because there was SO much that happened. I’m satisfied with how it ended the way it did and I’m definitely excited to read the next book.

I rated this book 5/5 stars and highly recommend it if you’ve read the first book.

An Ember in the Ashes Book Review


Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Series: Book #1 in the An Ember in the Ashes trilogy
Publisher: Razorbill – An Imprint of Penguin
Publication Date: April 28, 2015
Genres: Young Adult – Fantasy, Romance, Action
Pages: 446
Format: Purchased Hardcover

“An Ember in the Ashes” by Sabaa Tahir is a story about a girl named Laia who’s world is turned upside down one night where her grandparents are killed and her brother is taken into custody for the supposed accusation of him being a traitor to the Empire. She meets with the Resistance to go undercover as a slave in the Commandant’s house – right under the noses of the enemy – to find out what she can about the military school that is Blackcliff and how she can help her brother to escape prison.

It is also the story about Elias, a solider (a Mask) of Blackcliff who is almost graduated. He doesn’t want to be a Mask though, and he wants to escape from the path laid out before him. But when an opportunity arises that would allow him to be free in both body and soul, he takes up the opportunity and discovers there’s a lot more to the life he had been living than he thought.

This story deserved the hype it got, in my opinion.

It was full of heartache and blood and danger, but it was also filled with hope and desire and the will and need for freedom.

Let me talk about the characters.

Laia starts out as this kind of weak character. She feels like she should fight, to put up a stand when her brother is being taken in as a prisoner, but instead she runs and she feels the guilt of that through most of the book. She tries to convince herself on multiple occasions that she should be more like her mother and let that fierceness drive her and save her brother. But she runs and she’s afraid that she’s cowardly because of it. As the story progresses, she is wary and makes mistakes, which makes her human. She puts up with a lot of physical abuse and is braver than she can imagine or even believe. She puts her trust into people she hardly knows, but I think that that trust is slowly put to the test and she becomes more aware of those around her as the story progresses. She is frustrating at times because she constantly thinks of “if only I did this” or “if only I did that,” but that’s not who she is as a person. She’s more reserved, but she has a strong spirit and a fire that drives her to want to save her brother. I think that fire was one of the best things about her and that will be a driving force in the next book.

Elias, on the other hand, is a strong character. He’s been molder into a soldier, to be one of the deadliest in the Empire – a Mask. He wants to desert and live life freely, to be away from blood and war and carnage. But he has to pretend that he’s not up to something, even when his best friend, Helene, suspects that he is. He tries to be strong and to let instincts lead him when he needs to, but there is agony in him and a desire to be free forever from his mother, the Commandant, and Blackcliff itself. I found Elias to be extremely likable and the fact that he had such a strong will in him, and compassion unlike many of the other Masks at Blackcliff, was a great redeemable quality in him. He felt human and relatable. He was everything that complimented Laia’s otherwise weaker disposition, but the roles seemed to have reversed toward the end, even for a little while.

The Commandant is a ruthless killing machine. She oversees all of Blackcliff and is very cold and cruel to everyone and anyone around her. She makes a great villain, and even though you get a small glimpse into one part of her past, there’s still a lot of mystery shrouding her and her motives (because boy are they dark). I don’t have much sympathy for her, and frankly, I’m rooting for her death.

Helene is Elias’s best friend as the two of them were thrust into the same ranks together and went through many a trial together to survive. She’s one to follow orders to the letter and hates to disobey them. And I don’t think she ever has. She’s a well-trained killer and doesn’t really reflect or remorse that often. I found her to be a strong female character and that how a lot of people underestimated her was something great to point out in a book because a lot of female characters, regardless if they’re strong or not, are often underestimated in intelligence, strength, emotions, or otherwise. The fact that she could kick ass was awesome. I hope to see more of her later on.

Marcus is another kind of villainous character that relishes in blood and causing a load of hurt on others. The scenes with him in there were rough and he was often mean, always mean, and I can see him somehow being struck down soon.

Now there’s plenty more side characters I could mention: Izzi and her awesome humor; Keenan and his awkwardness, but cold demeanor; Cook for her otherwise passive attitude, and more. I really hope to see more of them in the next installment because they made the story richer and more enticing.

The plot of the story itself was a simple one at the beginning: releasing Laia’s brother, Darin, from prison. But as the story progressed and Laia’s and Elias’s stories began to intertwine, the plot and what needed to happen became more complex and intensified. Between Laia finding the Resistance to become a slave, to what she deals with as such, and beyond, to Elias dealing with deserting or a destiny much different and potentially much greater than he ever thought, I was hooked. I think that the primary goal of releasing Darin was still the main driving force behind a majority of what happened and will happen, but there’s so much more that needs to be explored that I can’t share without it getting spoilery. Ahhhhh!

The world building was subtle, but it was vivid enough to be like any painting or movie out there. What was described might not have been paragraphs and paragraphs of setting and everything, but it was enough that you got a sense and feel of what the world looks like, tastes like, smells like. It was beautiful and simple, yet complex.

Overall, this story, with its dual POVs, action sequences, hints of romance, world building, stories, magic, and mystery, was a lovely and enticing read and I highly recommend it.

I rated this book 5/5 stars.