Towards the end of August, I posted a review for An Ember in the Ashes, the first book in a YA fantasy series written by Sabaa Tahir. I listened to the audiobook of this title and I thoroughly enjoyed it, so, eager to continue with the series, I quickly purchased the second book, A Torch Against the Night.
Title: A Torch Against the Night.
Author: Sabaa Tahir.
Publication: 2016, Razorbill.
My Edition: 2016, Audible.
Length: 14 hours, 17 minutes / 452 pages.
Genre(s): Fantasy, YA, Dystopian, Romance.
My Rating: 4/5.
Like An Ember in the Ashes, A Torch Against the Night is written as a split-narrative novel, except this time, instead of just two narrators, there are three: Laia, a member of the Scholars (a slave race), Elias, a banished soldier, and Elias’ once best friend, Helene. Some of you may remember that, in my review for An Ember in the Ashes, I mentioned that I had wanted to hear more of Helene’s perspective. Well, I swear I didn’t know, but she seems to have been given a much greater role in the later books in the series.
At the end of the first book, Laia and Elias had escaped Blackcliff as fugitives. This is still the case in A Torch Against the Night, and this unlikely couple are constantly evading capture as they make their way towards Laia’s brother, whom she is still desperate to rescue. Meanwhile, Helene has been tasked with hunting Elias, and there is something of a chase while we explore the beautiful fantasy world that surrounds these characters.
The night only brings more horrors.
There are many new characters to meet, lots of new twists, and so much emotion in A Torch Against the Night. We follow both Laia and Elias as they encounter Scholar suffering, supernatural creatures and the barbarity of the prison system. Yet, as in the first book, we are also shown the other side of the story, following Helene and her family as we experience the many trials of being a Blood Shrike.
This book has a very different feel to An Ember in the Ashes, but it is nevertheless just as successful. It took me a little longer to read it than the first book, and I would say that I didn’t enjoy it as much, but that would only be true of the first half of the book. Towards the end, I was completely gripped. The emotion really hit home and I can genuinely admit that this book brought me to tears.
What I Loved:
Other than the extraordinary emotion evoked by this wonderful story, there was a lot to love about it. As the characters had already been introduced, the story was able to get going quite quickly, and I adored their interactions with each other. For quite a while, Laia and Elias join with others to join a small group of friends, and I loved the sense of companionship that this brought with it.
I also enjoyed how, in this book, everything seems so big. Whilst the settings were arguably better presented in An Ember in the Ashes, this sequel takes us out of Blackcliff and unleashes us into an entire world. Constant suggestions are made towards mass war and revolution, and the scale of this was really engaging.
Overall, the characters were well presented. Laia has become a much more likeable character, even if there did seem to be a little less depth to both her and Elias. Out of all the characters, however, Helene was developed the most successfully. In this novel, we really come to know Helene Aquilla, coming into contact with not only her family, but also her most private thoughts. In An Ember in the Ashes, I had supposed that she would be a fascinating character, and I was certainly right!
Without giving too much away, I will also say that there is a truly fantastic twist in this book that really impressed me. I certainly hadn’t seen it coming, and it left me in awe for a long time after I had finished reading.
What I Didn’t Like:
Although I did love the lore introduced in this book, I will admit that this fantasy element did at times seem a little forced. This was particularly true of the beginning of the book during the introduction of the Soul Catcher. Honestly, I just didn’t see the purpose of this character until later on in the story, so I found this whole scene really confusing.
I mentioned earlier that I thought Laia and Elias were lacking in a depth that was fully provided by An Ember in the Ashes. This is a very minor point, as they are still very strong characters, but a part of my problem lies in their inconsistency. For quite a long time, there is barely any mention of Laia’s brother. This just seemed a little odd, because she spoke (and thought) of almost nothing else for the whole of the first book. This issue is, of course, clearly resolved by the end of the novel.
I honestly cannot find another way to fault this book. As you can probably tell from this review, I adored the ending, even if the beginning was a little frustrating. Most of my issues, such as poorly developed settings and character inconsistency, are overshadowed by the size of this story. It doesn’t matter that we don’t know every detail, because there is so much that is happening! Almost from the first sentence, we are provided with an action-packed story that is simply bursting with magic.
I fully enjoyed this book, and would have given it a rating of 5/5 if it hadn’t been for its beginning. I could not be more pleased with this series and cannot wait to find out what happens in the third book, and recent release, A Reaper at the Gates.
Thank you for reading this review. I am really keen to continue with this excellent series, but I also want to finish my project of reading the entire collection of Sherlock Holmes stories. My next audiobook read is therefore going to be The Hound of the Baskervilles, after which I will be moving onto A Reaper at the Gates.
You can click here to check out an A-Z list of all of my reviews (so far)!