Book: A Torch Against the Night
Author: Sabaa Tahir
My Rating: 4.5 Stars
“Most people are nothing but glimmers in the great darkness of time. But you are no swift-burning spark. You are a Torch Against the night – if you dare to let yourself burn.”
When I read An Ember in the Ashes last year I was taken by surprise because I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did. Fast forward a year and I was skeptical to start the sequel, despite anticipating it’s release for a long time. But again I was surprised at how much I underestimated the book. I found it to be even better than the first.
The long wait for its release did leave me forgetting bits and pieces from the previous book, so I had to reintroduce myself to a lot of the world’s magical elements and society, which included the structure and conflict regarding the Scholars and the Martial soldiers, in order to understand what was going on.
I gave this book a 4.5/5 stars. Though it’s not a “perfect” rating, my thoughts and feelings toward A Torch Against the Night are mostly positive. One of the reasons behind my enjoyment of this book was because the experience of switching back and forth between reading the book myself and following along with the amazing audiobook was one of the best reading experiences I’ve ever had. It had a level of intensity and enjoyment that held my attention from the very first page. The POV alternated between Elias, Laia, and Helene throughout the book. I wasn’t too sure about it at first because I didn’t really like Helene in An Ember in the Ashes, which goes back to being one of the reasons I was skeptical about starting the sequel since I wasn’t looking forward to reading her chapters. I just remember feeling frustrated at her loyalty to the Empire as she didn’t understand why Elias felt differently than her about Blackcliff Academy and how they drilled ruthless, murderous soldiers into all their students. I actually started listening to the audiobook when Helene’s chapters came up because I wanted to get through them faster, but eventually her character and her story became really interesting to me.
There were many twists and turns for all the characters; many things that completely took me off guard, but that’s what made the book fast paced. It barely had a dull moment and I couldn’t stop flipping the pages to find out what was going to happen next.
The book starts off right where An Ember in the Ashes left off and there’s literally no room to relax because the action starts off right away.
Elias and Laia are on the path to Kauf prison; their mission is to save Darin, Laia’s brother. Even though Elias has never met her brother he agrees to help Laia save him because the crucial knowledge that Darin possess could save the Scholars from being completely wiped out by the Martial soldiers and the Empire. One thing that I wasn’t expecting to remain a huge obstacle throughout the whole book was the poisoning of Elias thanks to his villainous mother. I thought the cure to save him was going to get in the way of their journey for a short period of time, but Elias unfortunately suffered throughout the entirety of the book, which lead to that huge sacrifice at the end that I still have mixed feelings about.
As they made their journey, the world expanded as we saw many places and got introduced to new characters, such as Shaeva, Afya, Harper, Mamie Rila, and the creepy Warden.
Regarding Keenan: That was quite the twist… and I totally saw it coming. I actually shipped him with Laia in the first book because there wasn’t anything really happening between Laia and Elias for me to be onboard with. Even in A Torch Against the Night, when Keenan got re-introduced, I was okay with either of them being with Laia (even though I slightly changed my mind and liked Elias better). Then little hints were being dropped here and there, and even though it seemed far-fetched to think that Keenan could be some kind of enemy, when it was revealed I wasn’t really surprised. I found the whole thing to be rather creepy actually, especially with the fact that he and Laia slept together. He manipulated her in order for her to give the armlet from her mother to him out of love. Something that was mentioned that I found interesting was that he wouldn’t have been able to take it from her if he didn’t love her in return. I’m wondering if this will be an important factor that will make an appearance in the future books.
Romance is obviously not a focal point in this series, and usually I would want it to be more present in any book I read, but I found this story captivating enough that I didn’t really mind its small presence. But the funny thing is, despite its small presence, this book literally had a love square. There was Elias and Keenan who were both into Laia, and then there was Helene who was jealous of Laia being with Elias because she was in love with Elias.
I also think that Helene and Harper have the potential to become a romantic thing in the future, but I think I need more convincing if that’s the path that will be taken because of the fact that he literally tortured her in an interrogation at the beginning of the book. Obviously he was taking orders but that still doesn’t sit well with me.
All the twists and turns in this book left the potential for an amazing third book in the series. Such as Darin and Laia finally catching up, Darin healing and later begin making weapons for the Scholars, Elias’s new situation, his and Laia’s relationship, Keenan maybe coming back, and the fact that Elias and Harper are brothers! I’m really looking forward to the next book but unfortunately there will be another long wait for its release.