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.
I have to start this review by explaining my relationship with the first book in this series, An Ember In the Ashes. I liked it, I really did. Was it a favorite? No. For me, the pacing was off until the last 100 pages or so, when things really picked up and I finally couldn’t put the book down. Up until that point, I had been reading it off and on for months. Months. Not usually a good sign for me. But by the end, I really loved the character development, and I thought the ending itself was great, so I was able to rate it a little higher and begin anticipating the sequel. Which brings me to now, days after finishing A Torch Against the Night.
Sabaa Tahir is the most improved author I’ve ever read, I kid you not. I enjoyed A Torch Against the Night a billion times more than the first book. Every issue I had with Ember is fixed in Torch. The pacing is perfect. I couldn’t turn pages fast enough. The character development went above and beyond what I expected. The story itself is worthy of nail-biting and sleep-deprivation. Because of this book, Sabaa Tahir has planted herself on my ‘favorite authors’ list. A Torch Against the Night is not only one of the best books I’ve read in 2016, but it’s one of the best books I’ve read. Period.
My favorite thing about Torch, and it’s true of Ember as well, is the characters. I really, truly love these characters. They are all so complex, so imperfect, so true to who they are. I adore the fact that Laia isn’t a typical YA heroine. She isn’t good at defending herself, she doesn’t magically develop the ability to swing a blade flawlessly overnight, and she doesn’t always make the right decisions. And then there’s Helene. Helene is incredible in this book. Never before, for me, has a character whom I considered a ‘side character’ so quickly stolen not only the spotlight, but my heart as well. I could read a whole book of only Helene’s POV. She is the perfect example of how Tahir excels at character development and growth.
The story of A Torch Against the Night is, as I said before, fast-paced. So much happens in this book, much more than I expected to get to read about in this installment. The ending is very satisfying, but definitely left me wanting more. I can’t wait to read about these characters again. I loved this book so much, I know I will have to revisit it before book three comes out. I can’t recommend this book and this series enough. Even if, like me, you weren’t the biggest fan of the first book, give this one a shot. It’s one hundred percent worth it.