“You are a torch against the night – if you dare to let yourself burn.”
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: fond the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both.
A Torch Against the Night explore an expanded universe of An Ember in the Ashes. Right after Elias and Laia’s escaped Blackliff, the two are on the run for their lives and to a mission of rescuing Laia’s brother Darin from Kauf, the most secured Prison of Serra. While Helene now a new Blood Shrike has a task of finding and killing Elias.
Sabaa Tahir did a wonderful job in this second installment. It is better than the first book, which really says something. In this installment, readers will be treated with lots of actions, constant dangers, tricky alliances, and bunch of characters that are all well-developed.
Let start with Elias. Elias truly rise in this installment. Sabaa Tahir did a great job of breaking and remaking Elias character. It’s a hell of a journey but surely worth every ounce of aches. The way he makes Elias vulnerable is well done. By removing Elias’ strength she add a huge tension and danger to the plot. Making this sequel edgy and a thrilling read.
Elias is still self-sacrificing and loving but without his mask, and with his condition, and with the additional presence of his adoptive family, Elias shered some emotions and feelings that will surely affect readers. Hearts will race, ache, and warm for Elias in this installment.
Helene Aquila is another character that undergo a huge development in this book. Just like Elias Helene was broken and remade in this installment. The thing she went through in the end just to fulfill some prophecy of sort is really heartbreaking. I can’t imagine myself in her shoes. I don’t thing I can find any strength after all the things she went through. She’s a true warrior who will do anything for the sake of the Empire.
As for Laia, her quest to free her brother, Darin bring some experience and realization, as well as open hidden power of her. As she tries her best to save the only family she has, Laia become a symbol of hope to other scholar like her.
The villains – The Commander, Marcus, and The Warden are all menacing in their own ways. They are ruthless, cunning and manipulative. They will do anything to gain power or simply get what they want.
Besides with the characters, Sabaa Tahir also managed to gradually develop the world of this series. As Laia and Elias leave Blackcliff to get to Kauf and free Darin, readers will get the chance to meet other scholars and tribes, and see their relationship to the Empire. All the politics, scheming, and plans of different sides are laid out one by one as the story progresses. From the internal power struggle of the Empire with Marcus as the Emperor, Helene as the Blood Shrike, The Commandant, all the gents and scholars. It’s a mess of alliances. No one knows who to trust, everyone’s has their own motivations, loyalties are questionable.
The fantasy aspects of the story also didn’t disappoint. It offers some twist and turns I didn’t see coming. Too bad I can’t discuss them here without touching spoilers.
With non-stop dangers, enough twist and turns, and brilliant characters developments, A Torch Againts the Night is a solid sequel. Sabaa Tahir perfectly crafted a very engaging, dark, and riveting fantasy in this new installment of An Ember in the Ashes series. Will definitely go back to this fantasy world both in the next installments and through rereading.
* This review is based on a copy I received courtesy of the publisher, Penguin Random House International.