Book Review: A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

A torch against the night

A Torch Against the Night
by Sabaa Tahir
Goodreads |  Amazon
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.

Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes cover

An Ember in the Ashes
by Sabaa Tahir
Goodreads | Amazon
Series: An Ember in the Ashes #1
Release date: April 28th 2015
Rating: Oh, my God, oh, my God, Oh, my God!

NB: It has been a few months since I read this.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir was one of my favorite books of 2015. It tells the story of a Martial soldier Elias Veturius and a Scholar slave Laia who is trying to save her brother by spying in the military academy where Elias is about to graduate.  It is told in alternating first person chapters from Laia and Elias’ points of view.  It sharts out with a bang with an attack on Laia’s home and basically never lets the tention go.  Even in the quiet moments of the story you never feel as if any of the characters are truly safe.

I despise love triangles.  To me they show disloyalty and a lack of ture emotional involvement.  Why should I care if the MC clearly doesn’t? An Ember in the Asheshas a love quadrilateral.  There is an abundance of sexual tension.  And you know what?  I LOVED it?  It was an examination of all they ways that we can fall in love.  Instant attraction, a shared history, someone you have a ton in common with?  It also explores the idea of choice.  Everyone may be attracted to more than one person but acting on that attraction is a matter of specific choice that the characters make.  Their feelings are not uncontrollable. 

I love how she took elements that we are familiar with and managed to make them into something that felt fresh and new.  The whole world was a take on Roman Empire (or was in my head) and definitely didn’t shy away from grit and violence.  This isn’t a cute and cuddly book.  In some ways it is like a horror film.  There is a closed set that our heroine cannot leave (Blackcliff), monsters (the Commandant and Marcus), and some pretty gruesome violence. 

“I don't need to believe in the supernatural, not when there's worse that roams the night.”

I thought that it was interesting that both Elias and Laia have pasts that are mysterious to themselves.  As the book goes on they find out more and more about who they are from other characters.  It isn’t wholly comfortable.  Like anyone they have an idea of who they are and the more information they are given the more they question their own vision of their selves. 

“There are two kinds of guilt: the kind that drowns you until you’re useless, and the kind that fires your soul to purpose.”

Guilt is also a theme that is explored.  Elis’ journey make me think of a documentary that I saw once about a man who worked with death row inmates and how he would say to them that they are more than the worst thing that they had ever done.  Elias has difficulty separating who he is from what he has done.  There might not seem to be another choice but he holds onto responsibility as if it is something precious.    Laia, on the other hand, only has one moment that she has guilt about but she agonizes over it.   

The writing hit just the right note for me vacillating between extreme introspection at time and furious action. This was a fast pace and enjoyable book and I am looking forward to the sequel. (Read my review of A Torch Against the night here) And by “looking forward to” I mean that I am going to obsess about it until I get it.  Because I must know what comes next.