Review: A Torch Against the Night – Sabaa Tahir

25558608Title: A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes #2)

Author: Sabaa Tahir (twitter) (site)

Publisher//Date: Razorbill// August 30, 2016

Genre: YA Fantasy

Source: Purchased

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Synopsis: 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.

Rating: 4.5/5

I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS BOOK FOREVER AND IT’S FINALLY HERE AND I WASN’T DISAPPOINTED. I tend to put off reading sequels – especially second books – because I’m worried about it falling short of my expectations (I’m currently  doing this with Crooked Kingdom and I feel like an idiot). An Ember in the Ashes was EASILY one of my favorite books in 2015 and I was dying to get back into this world and , while A Torch Against the Night wasn’t quite the same HOOOOOOLY CRAP THIS IS SPECTACULAR book like its predecessor, it was a fantastic follow-up and widened the scope of the series, with lots of world and plot for the next two (!!!!!!!) books to play around in.

Let’s Break it Down:

What I Liked:

  • The Expanded World. OH MY GOD THIS WAS GREAT. An Ember in the Ashes, while a great introduction to this world, almost entirely to the confines of the city of Serra. And while we start in the city, we travel to extremely different sectors of the world. We see the worlds of the Tribespeople and the Illustrians and cover a great deal of ground in the Empire. We also see the supposedly “mythical” creatures that inhabit the world, especially the Jinn. Like I said, there’s a whole big world to play around with here and Sabaa Tahir made the most of it and I think she’s going to continue doing it, and I am here for it.
  • The Character Development. First of all, I missed these guys. I was immediately remembered why I fell in  love with all these characters in the first place and got to see them in a new light. The main characters were taken in darker directions and very low points in this novel and I hated to see it because I love them so much and because, for some characters, you know it will probably go lower before the series is over.  It does give you an idea of where they will be going in the upcoming books in the series and IT’S GOING TO BE SO GOOD. Probably painful but so good. Mostly. More on that later.
  • The Tone. This is the same brutal and violent world of Ember in the Ashes and it some respects it might be more brutal. The stakes are higher in this book and we’re in the real world. It has a more urgent and darker feel to the book and its so fitting.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • The Pacing. This was the only real complaint with the whole book. The pacing felt a bit off. Ember had this ridiculous mounting cliffhanger chapter endings – one chapter would end in a cliffhanger, the next would change POV character, which would end in another cliffhanger and then return to the first. I thought it would be more of the same in Torch, with the added POV character but it wasn’t. Two of the three characters were together for most of the novel and it lost the urgent “I must read this next Elias chapter so that I can find out that happens in Laia’s NEXT chapter,” drive because the next chapter would just pick up where it left off. There’s also a great deal of travelling in this book which, by nature lends itself to slower pacing. While it wasn’t necessarily bad, it was completely different from the first book and was one of the things that made that An Ember in the Ashes so special.
  • One Particular Plot Line. This is kind of a personal thing, but one of the character’s story arc was kind of off for me and it really felt they were written into a corner. I know that a lot of the third book will be spent in rectifying it and I don’t really know how I feel about it as a whole. I understand why it went this way, but I’m still very meh about it. I’m hoping my feelings change with the third book or with a re-read.

All in all, A Torch Against the Night is a solid second book with a a ton a exploration into a fascinating world and into established characters, though the pacing may leave some to be desired for fans of the first book in the series.

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