A Torch Against the Night
(An Ember in the Ashes, Book 2)
By Sabaa Tahir
Genres: Fiction, Young-adult, Fantasy, Adventure, Historical Fiction (in spirit)
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Rating: 4.5 Stars
Ohhhhhhh man. THIS book. It took me months to finish this. MONTHS. After falling deeply in love with An Ember in the Ashes, I immediately started on the second one, hungry for more Elias and Laia. Once I got through the first several chapters, however, I thought I knew exactly where this book was headed and I was not of fan. Some hardcore procrastination happened in a flimsy effort to prolong my time with my two favorite characters.
All I can say is, BOY WAS I WRONG. That’s what I get for thinking I know everything. By the time I reached the last page, I was kicking myself for putting this off for as long as I did. I will never doubt Sabaa Tahir again.
When we last saw Elias and Laia, they were running for their lives away from Blackcliff Academy (and the Commandant. Ugh) and this book picks up right where we left off. Laia desperately needs help finding and breaking in to Kauf prison where her brother is being kept, and Elias readily agrees to team up. After spending his life around so much death and oppression, it’s his way of giving back and helping a greater good. Things are going swimmingly—at least, for two fugitives on the run—when the Commandant happens and throws a giant hitch in their plans. I know, it’s totally unlike her… *she said with bitter sarcasm*
Meanwhile, the two creeper twins Marcus and the Commandant are busy slaughtering innocent people and generally ruining everyone’s lives. Poor Helene is trapped as the new Blood Shrike and doing whatever Marcus tells her to—a horrifying thought. After the humiliating destruction Elias and Laia caused in their departure, Marcus and the Commandant are eager for blood and send Helene to apprehend her best friend and boy crush Elias. Because after all, if anyone could find him it’s her. With a heavy heart, Helene scours the countryside looking for Elias and gets hot on his trail.
Laia and Elias face setback after setback after setback and begin to doubt if they’ll ever make it to Kauf. They don’t even know if Laia’s brother will be alive by the time they reach it. But with the help of some new (and old) friends, the two FINALLY make it to Kauf prison.
And so does Helene… Dun dun DUNNNNNN!!!
Both the beginning and ending of this book DEFINITELY kept me on my toes. So much happens in such a short period of time! At least it felt that way. Read one page and you’ve already gone through two fight scenes and an angsty almost-kiss. But what really kept me going were the great characters. I LOVE LAIA AND ELIAS SO MUCH!! Laia somehow manages to be both strong and vulnerable in the best way and there’s a humility about her that gives me all the feels. And Elias has had some serious bad luck, but uses his remorse as a motivator to be a better person. He has such a big heart and I’m so glad I can count him among my fictional husbands. Plus, the new characters we see in this book are great! Afya Ara-Nur IS MY GIRL and I love her sassy honesty. YAS QUEEN.
It’s also worth mentioning again how awesome this universe is. I really love the strong roman vibes I get from this book because it feels so different from anything I’ve read. Every time Tahir describes the landscape and I get to compare it to the map, it gives me a little thrill.
Plus, there’s a WHOPPER of a twist at the end that I did not see coming at all. I had a few suspicions on what was going to happen, which is how I ended up reading this book for four months, but I was definitely not even close. I was reading in bed when the big reveal happened and I looked something like this…
It’s just… UGH. SO MANY FEELINGS. Like, I was surprised and not surprised at the same time… I don’t even know anymore.
THE UGLY (A.K.A The part where I rant)
*Skip this section to avoid spoilers!*
Did you listen to my warning? Are all the spoiler-concerned readers gone?? Okay good. Can you believe Laia and Ian?? OMG. WHAT WAS THAT??? Ummmmm that awkward moment when you realize you slept with the Nightbringer??????????
Also, Helene freaking bothered me this time around. Am I alone in this?
She annoyed me a little during An Ember in the Ashes, but I really fought against it last time. I love that she’s so smart, cunning, and can really pack a punch. It’s refreshing to see a female character that can hold her own in a world dominated by alpha males. But then she would go off on rants about how amazing the Empire is or how scholars deserve to be treated terribly and my strong girl-power vibes would be ruined. At the end I really felt for her though, because Elias strings her along the ENTIRE book and then ditches her at the last second, leaving her with skeevy Marcus. Yuck.
In the beginning of A Torch Against the Night I still felt horrible for Helene because Marcus and the Commandant are just THE WORST and no one should have to go kill their best friend. By the end, however, I was completely frustrated. She’s been around Marcus and the Commandant almost her ENTIRE LIFE. Why is she so surprised when they do terrible things?? THEY’RE DESPICABLE PEOPLE. Obviously they’re going to betray you and not listen to anything you say! When Marcus kills her family, I saw it coming for miles. It was so frustrating because I feel like it could have been avoided if she had just stopped long enough to think of another plan.
And I will say that I got a tad bored in the middle. Maybe bored is the wrong word because there was always something happening, but it definitely dragged on a little. I hated the parts with Laia and Ian together and Elias off in Never, Neverland. I just wanted the story to GET ON WITH IT. That could be my frustration talking though because GRRR @ IAN’S ENTIRE CHARACTER.
Was this sequel as good at the first? No, I don’t think so, but it was still an amazing book and I highly recommend this series! Can’t wait to get my hands on A Reaper at the Gates!!!!
TALK TO ME
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Holler at me in the comments!!