A Torch against the Night by Sabaa Tahir
Published by: Razorbill
Publication Date: August 30, 2016
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Dystopian
Extent: 464 pages
Following the events of the Fourth Trial, an army led by Masks hunts the two fugitives as they escape the city of Serra and journey across the vast lands of the Martial Empire.
Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—and save her brother, whose knowledge of Serric steel is the key to the Scholars’ future. And Elias is determined to stay by Laia’s side…even if it means giving up his own chance at freedom.
But Elias and Laia will have to fight every step of the way if they’re going 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.
Helene’s mission is horrifying, unwanted, and clear: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both.
I just. No. I. Ugh. WHY. Why do you do this to me, Sabaa? Why? That ending. No, wait, this book. And honestly, I thought––clearly wrong––I understood your plot twists, but no. To be fair, I was expecting spectacular arcs, unbelievable despair, blood-stained streets, redemption, and an unsatiable desire to kill the Commandant, Marcus, and, surprisingly at the end, someone else who shall remain nameless. Clearly, I’ve received all these goodies, except they broke me. ANYWAYS. Now let’s move on to the review so I can wallow in my pain.
A Torch against the Night quickly starts off where An Ember in the Ashes ends. While the fury of the Commandant, the Academy, and the Masks sweeps up behind Elias and Laia, they escape the ruins of Serra by travelling through the catacombs. Fighting against time, destiny, and unforeseen forces, Elias must find a way to rescue Darin, Laia’s brother, who’s trapped in Kauf Prison. Yet what is he willing to give up to break out Darin, protect Laia, and redeem himself? Everything. Sabaa sucks you back in this world by starting off Torch with heart-thumping and nail-biting action.
She weaves in a cold brutality into her world. It snakes through the darkened streets and touches every single person in the Empire. Either it kills those people, or it moulds them into something fierce, hard, and sometimes maniacal. She creates such a superb world building that may outshine her first book and offers much more backstory, which I love. The Nightbringer’s decision to decimate the Scholars brings a whole new twist to the series.
She also opens up this world through cut-throat politics. You delve more into this complicated realm, where one-upping your opponent doesn’t mean you impale them on your sword. You outwit them. And I have to admit that Kauf Prison scares me. Not many things do. Well, okay, beauty pageant kids, peacocks, and blue jays unnerve me, but everything else is fair game. Sabaa’s prose evokes images of the unkempt bodies, tortured screams, and death on your skin. Reading the prison scenes are torture.
The characters and their journey shape this book into a solid character-driven story. They become the book’s backbone. Sabaa expands on her characters as well. You get to see Mamie Rila, Avitas Harper (I DID NOT see that plot twist coming), Afya Ara-Nur, Helene’s family, Shaeva, and many memorable others. She continues with the first-person, multiple POVs. And she gives you Helene’s! Helene’s honour and her vow to Empire and Emperor will tear you apart. She, the new Blood Shrike, feels the crushing weight to keep order, find and possibly kill Elias, and restore power to an Empire that she ultimately questions.
“Failure doesn’t define. It’s what you do after you fail that determines whether you are a leader or a waste of perfectly good air.”
Laia, the Lioness’ daughter, goes from a scared girl who spies for the Resistence to a woman who won’t let pain or fear control her. Her failures and missteps turn her into a leader and break that little girl who made jams with her Grandmother. Instead of wallowing in self-doubt, she learns from them and learns how to be the leader who she must be. What I love the most is that she refuses to let this betrayal destroy her. She rises above and and lets the past, these mistakes, and the people who help her shape her.
“You are my temple,” I murmur as I kneel beside her. “You are my priest. You are my prayer. You are my release.”
Elias. Oh my, Elias. I thought I had fictional crushes before, but I was wrong. He stays true to who is. His character development jumps off each page I read, and I lapped it up every chance I got. He devotes his life to redeem himself so he can change this world. And he will not let destiny outsmart him. He won’t let his training turn him into his mother or won’t allow this world destroy him. Besides Helene’s growth, his is one of the best I’ve read. God, I can’t get enough of this character!
And I can’t help but say that MY OTP LIVES! And no, I won’t tell you who it is! MUAH! 😈
Sabaa’s writing will take hold of you and won’t let go. Prepare to cry, rage, throw your book (lightly please. Book abuse should be criminal!), and cry some more. I’m emotionally unstable after this book. Wake me up when the third book is out!
What did you think of A Torch against the Night? Did it meet your expectations? Bore you? Tell me in the comments! I’ve been dying to talk about it.
And here’s the perfect GIF for THAT moment in the book:
And at the end: