Joint Review: A Torch against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

atorchagainstthenight_051116-1A Torch against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

Published by: Razorbill

Publication Date: August 30, 2016

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Dystopian

Extent: 464 pages

Rating: 5/5

Source: Purhcase


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.


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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.

And don’t forget to check out Dana’s review @ Dana and the Books as well! I also want to thank Hafsah Faizal @ Icey Books for allowing me to use this ATATN quote banner! I love it.

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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:

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And at the end:

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Wrap-Up: July 2016

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In July, I found some memorable reads and some fantastic ones. I’m only eight books away from my Goodreads Reading Challenge! Woo!

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

A thought-provoking WWII story that explores the heart-breaking journey of two sisters who survive in occupied France. I haven’t cried so hard when I finished this book.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

A heart-pounding and character-driven fantasy that is sure to captivate any reader. Sabaa has a rare and upcoming talent that I hope will enchant me even more. I simply adore her debut novel. Her characters are one the best I’ve seen in years. I can live in her book for weeks!

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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The Masked Truth by Kelley Armstrong

I can’t ask more from Kelley. She sure knows how to write a suspenseful and action-packed thriller. I love how Kelley brings out the psychologist in her. Her ability to address mental illness is superb.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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The Unquiet Past by Kelley Armstrong

A great Canadian read from my favourite author. This novel has a sprinkle of mystery, suspense, and supernatural. I love the banter between the two main characters.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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Betrayals by Kelley Armstrong

A heart-wrenching fantasy that will not let you go! Kelley excels in her fantasy worlds. She is a master in her craft. I’m in love with this Cainsville series. I was not expecting this ending. Wow, I’m blown away. I can’t wait until Rituals is out!

Kelley’s fourth book in the Cainsville series will be out on August 9. You can also find the first five chapters here.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ (4.5 actually)

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Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

20560137An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Published by: Razorbill

Publication Date: April 28, 2015

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Dystopian

Extent: 446 pages

Rating: 5/5


LAIA IS A SLAVE. ELIAS IS A SOLDIER. NEITHER IS FREE.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do. But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.


 …As long as there is life, there is hope.

I AM AN EMBERLING. Just so that I can get this declaration out of the way. An Ember in the Ashes was risk for me. I thought that either Sabaa’s debut novel will burn, or it will fall. And it burns indeed! I have not devoured a book with such intensity in a long while.

Lately, Goodread has been heating up with fantasy stories that take place in the desert, have non-Caucasian protagonists who kick ass, and destroy many expectations. I hoped Ember might contain the same traits. But Sabaa’s work is more than these qualities, though. It morphs into a character-driven gem that travels with you for days after finishing it. Sabaa has a raw talent that, I hope, will continue to evolve into something breathtaking.

At first, I didn’t think that having two POVs would hold up, but Sabaa creates an effortless transition from Laia, who is a Scholar, and Elias, who is a Mask at the Blackcliff Military Academy and son of the Commandant. I enjoyed both POVs. From them, I could see how this haunting and savage world breaks its people. Sabaa creates such a captivating realm that entrances and scares you.

Laia––who escapes being arrested with her brother, Darin, or killed with her grandparents––becomes a spy (and therefore the Commandant’s slave) for the Resistance, the very one her mother and father led, so it can save her brother. Her character development is slow, but she beautifully evolves from a self-doubting child to the Lioness’ daughter who gives her her body and her safety in order to find Darin. Now Elias is my favourite character. I first thought that he might be cliché. But his rebellion is more than defiance. Relentlessly beaten down, he must conform to the Empire’s will. The Martials give him no choice but to desert. But his desire for escape is destroyed when the Augurs, the Empire’s holy people, declare the Trials. Cain, the leader of the Augurs, gives him the choice to run or to fight. He doesn’t surprise me when he picks the latter.

I’d rather die than live with no mercy, no honor, no soul.

What I love about Ember is that Sabaa brings back long-feared creatures that the Empire forgets and how she creates her multi-complex world. On every page, she builds on this dominion. From beginning to end, every dark alley of Ember enchanted me. Sabaa keeps you on the edge; she has a way of tricking you into believing you’ve figured out her work, when, in reality, she weaves in these surprises that will floor you.

What surprised me the most was the love triangles. Yes, they’re in Ember, yet they’re not the central point. I do not find them distracting. They illustrate how people have little to live for and will risk to find solace in a dark and twisted world. It is indeed sick. Not many books will conjure up strong emotions in me, but there were times when I was livid. I was rooting for the Commandant’s and Marcus’ death. Sabaa does the Roman Empire great justice! I believe the only downfall Ember has is the cliffhanger. Coming in at a later time, I’m glad there’s sequel. But I’m still counting down the days to A Torch against the Night pub date!

Sabaa forges a heart-pounding fantasy that will certainly stand among the great YA novels.

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