A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir
Published by Penguin on August 30th 2016
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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.
From the Hardcover edition.
I realize I am not staring into his eyes. I am staring into my future.
I see it for a moment. Pain. Suffering. Horror. All that I love, all that matters to me, awash in blood.
Oh my god. I loved it.
Last year, I read and enjoyed an advance copy of an unknown book from a debut author – An Ember in the Ashes. I sped through it, loved it, rated it five teacups, and thought that was the end of that. On to the next one. Like most books I rate and review, I expected it to be forgotten in a sea of YA. But suddenly, out of nowhere, it was a bestseller! And that’s when I got some unprecedented backlash for my review.
“I’m really surprised you liked this.”
“This is just like ten million other books – how can you think it’s so good?”
“I’m not sure I can take your opinion seriously anymore.”
And I was like:
“What? I just liked it.”
*voice getting smaller*
“I’m not saying it’s the best book ever or anything.”
“Okay, maybe it wasn’t that great.”
But, you know what? Fuck it. I loved this book and the first one. I know they’re not something out of this world and I know the story is not that original, but I don’t care. Because, for me, it’s not what a book is about, but how it’s told. And I think both An Ember in the Ashes and A Torch Against the Night are told with nail-biting tension and perfectly-paced action. I hung on the author’s every word.
I honestly don’t give a shit anymore if these books are objectively good (what even is that, anyway?). I race through them. My heart pounds. The pages just fly by in my desperation to find out what happens. They’re nasty and brutal, full of evil surprises and even more evil things that you see coming but can’t stop.
A Torch Against the Night picks up right where we left off and, if you enjoyed the first one, it’s very easy to be pulled back into the rhythm of the story and world without recapping. I wondered if I would be able to easily follow the stories of Laia, Elias and Helene after more than a year away from them, but I needn’t have worried. I felt the rush of everything coming back to me as I was once again immersed in this world.
Often, sequels wander aimlessly, but this one was perfectly plotted. It didn’t feel like it was bridging a gap – the story moves along, many important and awful things happen, secrets are revealed and Tahir rounds off this installment well, whilst still promising so much more from the next book. I can’t freaking wait.
I love all three narrators, but Helene is worth five stars alone. Out of all of them, she has been through the worst kind of hell and has had to make the most difficult decisions. I love her internal conflicts over what she wants to do and what she should do. She’s sharp and smart, just cool enough to be badass, whilst also painfully, relatably human.
Seriously, I just have nothing bad to say about this book. I think, if I tried, I could feasibly come up with an original-ish idea for a fantasy that has not been done before. However, I think to take a somewhat familiar story and inject it with new life so that it becomes virtually unputdownable is a much more commendable achievement. Bravo, Ms Tahir, bravo.
I'm Emily May - a twenty-something year old book blogger from the North of England. Currently going wherever the wind or the storyline takes me. Find me on Goodreads
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