Book Review: A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

A torch against the night

A Torch Against the Night
by Sabaa Tahir
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Series: An Ember in the Ashes, #2
Release date: August 30th 2016

Rating: head rush from reading so hard

I loved An Ember in the Ashes (review here).  I am often nervous about sequels for books that I really like.  I will buy the sequel and them hold out for months or even years before I read the book.  It is a habit that often causes me to be behind the bandwagon but I hate it when I have to pretend that the sequel or the rest of a series that I like hasn’t been written.  In this case I needn’t have feared.

A Torch Against the Night continues with the events unfolding in the first book. Elias and Laia are on the run from the Marshal Empire and attempting to break Laia’s brother of of prison.  They are being hunted by Elias’ best friend Helene who is swore to bring him in as she is bound to the pretty damn evil new emperor Marcus.  Oh,mygodsogood.

I was not expecting the addition of Helene as a narrator but it blew me away.  Helene is damaged (Blackcliff will do that to you), loyal, driven, and string as hell.  Classic example of not knowing that it was going to be everything that I ever wanted. 

I think that some people have mistaken the instant attraction between Elias and Laia as instalove.  I disagree.  They are attracted to one another but have both basically decided not to ask on that attraction because, hey on the run for our lives here, and because they want to be friends.  But there is still attraction and and the slow burn that is happening as they get to really know one another is amazing.  Elias has some pretty palpable chemistry with Helene as well. 

Speaking of attraction and love.  There is a love-friggin’-pentagon in this book at this point and it isn’t making me want to do physical violence.  I cannot even begin to express how out of character that is for me.  I have my favorite combinations of course.  Speaking of: Helen Aquilla + Harper Avitas= Kiss dammit!

The new characters are all well developed and do not seem like filler or as a way to continue the stories conflict.  They have motivations and stories outside of out narrator’s and it feels as if they were already in the narrative and just had not had any “page time” yet.  This is always a good thing. 

I was genuinely concerned for the characters for most of the novel.  None of them felt safe.  I honestly thought that all three of the narrators were going to die at separate times of the story.  I could not figure out how they were going to get out of many a situation. I couldn’t even tell myself that they were safe because they are the narrators.  Sabaa Tahir is not an author who balks at killing off characters.

This is not an easy book.  It is graphic.  The Commandant in particular does some pretty sick stuff in this book.  Even more than in the last book.  The violence doesn’t feel gratuitous.  None of the narrates are untouched by it.  It haunts them and colors their judgement, guiding their choices.

A short plea to Sabaa Tahir: I want the Commandant and Marcus dead.  In every scene that they were in I was urging (usually in my head but not always) and all all of the other character in the book to just stop mid work and KILL THEM.

“Blood Shike.” 
“Yes, your maj-.”
Slice.  There goes his head.

Is that too much to ask?

There are some very thought provoking ideas of guilt and redemption.  It also continues on with the questions of family and how it influences us for good or for bad.  I like that this book spreads the idea to the family that you make for yourself.

The pacing was perfect.  There were battle and confrontation scenes that were set at a breakneck speed.  Other parts such as Elias’ “episodes” in the woods took on an otherworldly slowness.  I pretty much hurtled my way through this book. Sabaa Tahir is now an autobuy for me.  Well done.  I need the third book, like, now.