Thursday, June 15, 2017

Book Review: A Torch Against the Night

Title: A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes #2)
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Genre: Young Adult | Fantasy |Magic
Publisher: Razorbill 
Publication Date: August 30, 2016
Source: BEA
Format: ARC

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 (goodreads).

 

A Torch Against the Night truly tests our characters. 
Plot: Truth be told, I only remember 50% of what happened in An Ember in the Ashes. I remember liking it, but not being in love with it. I think that's my curse for this series. All the pieces were there: the characters were complex and very well written, the story was intriguing, and the world was impressively in-depth. But I still got bored.  Maybe the writing style just didn't resonate with me?

A Torch Against the Night opened with Elias and Laia on the run from the Empire with a giant target on their backs. They spent the majority of this novel dodging the Blood Shirke and her army, the Commandant, and trying to locate Laia's captive brother. In the first book, I remembered that there was mention of many magical creatures and magic in the land. There were more hints of magic in A Torch Against the Night but little explanation was given, and as the second book in the series, I expected more answers than what we were given. 

Characters: Everyone in A Torch Against the Night was put through the wringer, and some parts were hard to read. Tahir clearly took a page from George R.R. Martin, because it was clear that she believed in putting her characters through absolute hell. This book was told through the perspectives of Elias, Laia, and Helene and how each decision they made directly affected them. Their trials and hardships were what kept me reading, and I couldn't help but be sympathetic toward each of them. 

Much like in An Ember in the Ashes, the love story was muddled. It was barely present in the first book and started to become more defined in A Torch Against the Night. I personally could deal without the romance, but I respect Tahir's ability to explore her characters and have them unsure of themselves. 

Worldbuilding: It was clear that Tahir spent years drafting this world (I saw her at an event back in 2015 and I'm pretty sure she said it took 6 years to write An Ember in the Ashes, and it showed. The world, it's people, and the belief systems were wondrously in-depth and I could see Tahir telling multiple stories in this land. 

Short N Sweet: A Torch Against the Night introduced new enemies and new hardships; any high fantasy fan will happily devour this!


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