Series: An Ember in the Ashes, #2
Published by Razorbill
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.
This book starts slow. I spent about the first 50-70 pages waiting to be enthralled like I was with An Ember in the Ashes. But boy once the whip got cracking I eagerly devoured each page. This review contains spoilers for A Torch Against the Night, so please read with caution. I’ve done my best to keep the spoilers hidden.
Torch focuses on several stories within it. The first is Elias and Laia’s trek to Knaf (sp?) prison to rescue Darien. The second is Elias’ View Spoiler »slow poisoning by his mother after they escape into the desert — Elias finds himself in the Waiting Place and meets a mysterious girl in charge of the land. Eventually Elias must come face to face with his own impending death. « Hide Spoiler. Third is Helene’s complicated status as Blood Shike, and ultimately her relationship with the Empire and Gens Aquilla. The final story within a story (forth – if you are keeping track) is the Nightbringer and Commandent angle mentioned in Ember. Seems like a lot of topics to tackle for a second book right?
To a lesser author, Torch would have fallen flat with the amount of plot and character developments, but Tahir almost effortlessly pulls it off. Tahir understands balance and momentum when it comes to this complex plot and characters. She also did an incredible job of making sure we understood the landscape and the political climate in Ember to help make this successful. This is really where some series become make-or-break for me. I read an enormous amount of fantasy (and YA fantasy at that), and I can’t tell you how disappointing it is to read a world that is not thought out where those little details become secondary to romance and end up hurting the series in the long run (lookin’ at you Throne of Glass). The main reason this series works for me comes down to the writing and the world.
This book definitely felt like Helene’s story and I loved every minute of it. The dynamics of her position as Blood Shike versus within her family was so well done. Helene is a complex character who is just as important as Elias and Laia. Finally a female character that hasn’t been regulated to that “love triangle” status! Her relationship with Elias is built first on friendship as they trained, and later into a romantic one. But above all Elias and Helene respect each other and that is why this whole “love triangle” is forgivable.
SPOILER: View Spoiler »Did not see Keenan as the Nightbringer! I don’t know how I didn’t see this, but honestly it surprised me. I didn’t quite believe the whole Keenan genuinely feeling love for Laia – I just think the whole development after Izzi’s death wasn’t all that believable for Laia’s character. I do understand why Tahir needed that scene, and what it will ultimately mean for Books 3 & 4, but it was the one weak part of this story for me. « Hide Spoiler
The Elias View Spoiler »poison-death angle and scenes with the girl in the Waiting Place « Hide Spoiler had to be some of my favorite scenes. Definitely called it on what was ultimately going to happen, but I still love the mythology of it all. This will be an interesting thing to see played out in the future books.
Another 4-star rating for me on this series. I do think Ember was slightly better than Torch but I do love where this series is going. Can barely contain my excitement for the next installment!!