A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes #2)
By: Sabaa Tahir
Publication Date: August 30th, 2016
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.
This is a book that’s been glaring at me out of a very large to-read pile for the past few months. And now, having read it, I feel mingled happiness and frustration. Happiness, because it was an excellent read. And frustration, because I want more immediately.
An Ember in the Ashes set the bar high in terms of what I wanted out of this book. I was especially craving Elias–Laia togetherness and makeouts. The lack of this in Torch Against the Night was acute. But I also felt frustrated with the plot. It was hectic, with a varied pace and numerous action scenes, but it left me craving more. The ending wasn’t quite a cliffhanger, but it wasn’t satisfactory.
Anyways, on to the things I did appreciate.
I really enjoyed the character development here. There were shown to be more dimensions to almost everyone–and that after the first book introduced a whole range of deep and nuanced characters. Elias’ dedication and commitment were constants, although I really do wish that he was a little less of a self-sacrificing martyr. And in contrast, Helene’s story emphasized the deep devotion to her family and her internal conflict vis a vis her service to the Empire. I was very happy with Laia’s story arc, though. In my review of the first book, I complained that she wasn’t as integral to the plot as I felt she should have been. In this book, however, she grew bolder, began to understand herself more, and gained the courage to truly act–even though the consequences were mixed.
In terms of romance, though, I was disappointed in the book. The Elias-Laia bond never materialized, despite strong possibility. Part of this was because Elias and Helene shared a *moment*, and Keenan the untrustworthy rebel showed up again to woo Laia. I understood why things didn’t happen between the two of them, but I was still annoyed. The one interesting aspect of the love story was Helene–I appreciated how at the end she had realized the world didn’t revolve around Elias, and was starting to see the potential in her assistant Harper.
Helene, though, is easily the most tragic figure in the book. She’s unwillingly landed in the middle of a complex political dance of treason and loyalty. She’s the most powerful female figure (besides the Commandant) in the entire male-dominated world of the Empire. And, on top of that, she’s forced to hunt down and kill her best friend/crush. I could have cried for her, the way the book ended. But, I also think that her story is the one that will be the most interesting going forward. The actions of this book utterly changed her, and it’ll be interesting to see how she reacts.
Granted, this book set up a LOT of interesting stuff for the coming book. Now that Laia and Darin are reunited, I can’t wait to see what they’ll do. I’ll be interested to see how Helene does, like I said. And the Commandant is in an…interesting…situation. Overall, I think Sabaa Tahir has set the stage for a potentially electrifying third volume.
Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.