Review: A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes #2) by Sabaa Tahir

Release Date: September 8th 2016
Published By:  Harper Voyager
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Purchase: Booktopia     The Book Depository

Rating: 4 out of 5

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.

 

Review: This review contains no spoilers for this book. It does however contain spoilers for An Ember in the Ashes. See my review here.

Laia and Elias, the most wanted fugitives in the whole empire, are on the run from the Marital Soldiers as they embark on the journey to not only save their own lives, but the life of Laia’s brother… who in turn may save them all.

The journey continues from the events following An Ember in the Ashes, Marcus is now the most dangerous Emporor there ever was in this bleak world, the Commandant at his side and on the hunt for her own son and the girl who defied her and

But Laia and Elias aren’t the only people who aren’t struggling to survive. Helene, now the Blood Shrike, must bid the Emperors will, and of course his one command is for Helene to find her best friend and his accomplice and kill them both.

Helene has spent her whole life leading up to this – to serve the Emperor. But her bond with Elias runs deep, and everyone knows it. She struggles to gain the respect of soldiers she leads and the confidence of the Emperor she serves. They all know she cares for Elias, but as Blood Shrike, she is ordered to hunt and kill him. Either way, Helene must betray someone, but most importantly, she must betray herself. Will she betray her very existence or her own heart?

This fast-paced sequel will keep you on your toes. With magic and betrayal, honor and violence, you are thrown into a world filled with more brutality than ever before as our young heroes try to save Laia’s brother from the most secure prison in the kingdom and the Emperor and Commandant become more ruthless than ever to make sure they don’t succeed. There is blood and brutality everywhere with many deaths in the bid to save or destroy the empire.

I loved the fact that we got 3 POV in A Torch Against the Night. Unlike An Ember in the Ashes where we only get Laia and Elias’ POV, in the sequel we also get Helene’s. We get to learn a lot about these three main characters with each POV filled with determination and uncertainty, longing and fear. But I will admit that I much preferred Helene and Elias’ story. Helene grabbed me in this book – her turmoil, her inner strength and her uncertain determination lured me into her world and I felt for her, rooted for her and at times even damned her. She actually goes through a hell of a lot in this book, and it was fantastic to get to know this complex woman a little bit more as she struggles to find herself and save those she loves at the same time.

Laia’s selfishness got to me at times, And stupid – wow did this girl do some stupid things! Some of pure selfishness, other out of idiocy. No, actually that isn’t true – her idiocy stemmed from her selfishness. She looks at things in a way that is tainted by what she wants to see – rather than seeing the truth, or even questioning what she is being told/what is happening, she picks the things that sound/look good and runs with it because it’s much easier, much nicer, than looking for a horrible truth. But in saying that, it did lead to a pretty interesting twist – one that makes you sit back and think “interesting…” but then when you think about it too much your thoughts lead to “ewwww!”. Good luck processing this one with rose coloured glasses Laia!

I felt deeply for Elias – after all, what is going to happen to him at the end? He has left the only world he has ever known, betrayed his mother who is the sadistic and bat-shit-crazy Commandant, all on the hope of something better and to keep his word to a scholar girl who is trying to save brother. Where will he end up? And does he even have control over that anymore?

He has fled from the Masks, he has rejected his own future, he has been betrayed by the his own mother and the those he believed would ensure he held a place in a secure world – but that is just the beginning for him. Even though he has thrown away everything he has ever known, he makes more sacrifices than you could ever imagine in his journey to keep to his word! OMG does he pay – and that alone raises so many questions on where his journey will take him. Elias’s journey takes a massive twist in this book, and it is horrible, painful, possibly deadly … and forever. This is the story moving forward that really interests me.

What I adore about this series is the darkness, and I am not even ashamed to admit it. This bleak word is filled with turmoil, grief, violence and it is littered with utterly depraved characters. Whether or not I like the characters as “people”, I have to admit that they fascinate me. The villains of the story absolutely captivate me – they are well fleshed out but yet hold enough mystery to keep me wanting more. They are ruthless, blood-thirsty, and basically insane – and I love it!

The writing is amazingly gorgeous for such a despair filled world. The world-building is amazing where suffering is palpable, the viciousness is off the charts, the cruelty can almost be felt. This is a terrible world, filled with lots of death, brutality and ruthlessness – and I adore it! This action filled story will drag you into this horrible world where the twists will shock you and leave you begging for more of this torturous world.

Will the ember in the ashes be a torch against the night, or will it burn down the world?

 

What do you think?

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