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.
A Torch Against the Night is the sequel to the first book in the series, An Ember in the Ashes and it follows the journey of Elias and Laia as they leave behind Blackcliff on the run and journey to Kauf Prison to free Darin, Laias brother. Although they have no guarantee that he is still alive. This is something I enjoyed, as we didn’t know what to expect as the story developed. One thing I really enjoyed about A Torch Against the Night, is how the story began exactly where we left off from An Ember in the Ashes and its very easy to be pulled back into the rhythm of the story and the world.
It is without a doubt that one thing that Sabaa Tahir can do and can do well, is world building. If you thought An Ember in the Ashes was dark, cruel and brutal then A Torch Against the Night is that but even more magnified. As we escape the walls of Blackcliff, we see just how brutal life is and can be.
One thing I loved about A Torch Against the Night is the addition of Helene’s perspective. An Ember in the Ashes alternated between Elias and Laia’s perspective and now we have the addition of Helene. With Elias and Laia on the run, we are able to rely on Helene’s perspective to understand what is going on with the Emperor, the Commandment and most importantly the Nightbringer.
Another thing I really enjoyed about A Torch Against the Night is the inclusion of more magical elements in terms of efrits, wraiths and the jinn. As we move away from Blackcliff, Sabaa Tahir is able to delve deeper into the history and the world building is developed further. In comparison to An Ember in the Ashes, I would say this book has a slower pace for the first half of the book but as the story develops it definitely picks up the pace as the action and adventure develops.
One thing I did not enjoy about A Torch Against the Night, is the “love square”. Love triangles I can handle but throw another person in the mix and it all gets even more confusing for me. This was very much present in An Ember in the Ashes and I struggled with it in the first book as well. Luckily, it is resolved by the end of the book but there were numerous times I was left frustrated by the characters, there is definitely a lot of unrequited love present. The “love square” is what makes this book just under 5 stars for me, like the first book I got easily annoyed with it and it was rather confusing since every character seemed to love one another.
As mentioned above, A Torch Against the Night is told by three narrators, Helene, Elias and Laia which allows us to delve deeper into the characters and understand their feelings since they each represent something different. In An Ember in the Ashes, Laia had incredible character growth and she was my favourite but it is safe to say Helene has become my favourite character in this sequel. Helene has been dealt a brutal hand by destiny, she is put through so much torture and forced to make such difficult decisions. She is a strong character and she grows a lot in this sequel. One of my favourite aspects of Helene’s story is her constant battle between her duty and her emotion and love. Now we get to experience her narrative, we truly get to see the constant battle she has with herself over this.
Overall, A Torch Against the Night was a 4.5 star read for me just like An Ember in the Ashes. I once again adored my reading experience and I loved being able to experience Helene’s character development first-hand and her point of me. The only thing that put me off was the dreaded “love triangle,” although this is now dealt with so I cannot wait to see what Book three has in store. If you are looking for a dark, gritty fantasy then this series is most definitely worth picking up.