Title: A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes #2)
Author: Sabaa Tahir
PubDate: August 30, 2016
Page count: 452
“So long as you fight the darkness, you stand in the light.”
Past midnight some time last week I started reading this book and finished around 4 in the morning having mixed feelings and everything. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it but I think not as much as An Ember in the Ashes. I guess I was so blown away by AEitA that I set expectations in ATAtN only to find myself a little disappointed. Maybe I was expecting something else but regardless, ATAtN is a very enjoyable book!
A Torch Against the Night picks up where Am Ember in the Ashes has left off with Elias and Laia running away from Blackcliff after Laia saved Elias from his execution. They agreed on helping each other—Laia will save Elias and in exchange Elias will help Laia break into Kauf prison to save her brother Darin. With the soldiers, Helene—the new Blood Shrike, and the Commandant out to hunt them, Laia and Elias must flee the city of Serra, trusting each other and the new and old friends they meet along the way.
“There’s hope in life,” he says. “A brave girl once told me that. If something happens to me, don’t fear. You’ll find a way.”
The second book in the series is as action-packed, thrilling and dark as the first. We see Laia and Elias fighting for their lives and using every way they can just to escape the people hunting them down. Worse, Helene, being the new Blood Shrike, has to join the hunt because the new Emperor, Marcus, wants Elias dead. But worst, the Commandant, as merciless as ever, is able to track down Elias and Laia as soon as they thought they’re free. And if you find AEitA violent then this book is way way brutal with lots and lots of deaths it’s a nightmare!
Tahir did a great job in the world-building as well as with the pacing. This book is very intense that I found myself so engrossed and the slow pacing helps in building the thrill and tension of what will happen next. The plot is well-constructed though at times I found myself wishing it didn’t go that way. Lol. It’s also told in three different POVs (Laia’s, Elias’s and Helene’s) and I really liked reading from Helene’s POV.
“Most people,” Cain says, “are nothing but glimmers in the great darkness of time. But you, Helene Aquilla, are no swift-burning spark. You are a torch against the night—if you dare to let yourself burn.”
We also see a lot of character development in this book. Laia matured a lot in this book by becoming braver and making bolder decisions. And though she’s nowhere near Helene’s prowess, she comes to discover her own abilities that somehow help her in facing their battles. Her unfailing determination to save Darin is what keeps her going and the thought of seeing her brother again keeps the fire inside her burning. Elias, on the other hand, is still that selfless, loyal and courageous man we met in Ember! But in here, he goes through an agonizing phase which causes him to slip off back and forth to the other-world. And being righteous and all, he honors the promise he made to Laia that even though it might kill him, he’s still willing to help her break Darin out of Kauf. Helene is becoming my favorite more and more. My heart broke for her because now that she’s the Blood Shrike, she’s ordered to hunt down Elias—her best friend, her love. And as if it’s not torture enough, Marcus threatens to kill her family if she disobeys him. Torn between her family and Elias, my heart was aching for Helene all throughout.
But I love him. How do I kill the man I love?
Aside from Laia and Elias trying to break into Kauf to save Darin, there are also other things happening inside the book. The Commandant, if anything, becomes more and more evil by suppressing the Scholars after they revolted. She turns into a crazy blood-thirsty evil by killing every Scholar she gets her hands on. She’s so cruel and heartless that I can’t wait to see how she dies! Grr. Emperor Marcus, on the other hand, wants to strengthen his power by making alliance with Helene’s father but of course not without threatening Helene’s family first. He needs Helene to be loyal to him because he knew he’ll need her to take down the evil bitch. We also get to meet Elias’s adoptive family who helps Elias and Laia along the way and there’s also Afya Aya-Nur, the woman who gave Elias a favor coin when she thought Elias was going to be the Emperor. Then there’s the Soul Catcher, Shaeva, who pulls Elias into her realm. A lot of things are actually happening inside the book and each character is dealing with their own stuff; Laia—practicing her newly discovered ability, worrying about Darin, dealing with her feelings, Elias—trying to stay awake, planning how to break into Kauf, dealing with his guilt because of the Third Trial, and Helene—having a difficult time thinking of ways how to save her family and Elias, trying to prevent a war, dealing with her own feelings. This book is just so beautifully messy and so insane I loved it!
Now let’s get to the romance. I hate to admit it but I actually liked Keenan with Laia. I never doubted him because he seems to really care about Laia and he’s loyal but, but, but!! I wasn’t a big fan of him in Ember but when he reappeared in this book I started to grow fond of him. And you know what I hate more? It’s the fact that there was a certain point that I’ve come to accept him to be Laia’s happy ever after considering Elias’s condition. How foolish of me! Sorry Elias! Anyway, I’m just happy Keenan is out of the picture now. But Elias, oh, Elias! My heart still aches for him. Actually, my heart was aching for him the entire time just like with Helene because what he’s been through is pure torture—knowing that he’s slowly slipping away and can’t do anything about it. And it doesn’t help that he pushes away everyone because he’s convinced that anyone who gets close to him dies. He pushes Laia away and doesn’t let himself feel anything towards her.
I stare across the fire and into her dark golden eyes, the way I’ve tried not to for days. When I do, I remember why I haven’t looked: the fire in her, the fervent determinations—it speaks to something at my very core, something caged and desperate to be free.
But Laia, being assertive that she is, won’t let him blame himself for the death of the people around him. She will show him that it’s okay to feel guilty but that he shouldn’t let it consume him. And eventually Elias comes to accept that it’s okay not to be responsible for everyone. That it’s not his responsibility to keep everyone safe.
“Don’t lock yourself away from those who care about you because you think you’ll hurt them or—or they’ll hurt you. What point is there in being human if you don’t let yourself feel anything?”
Another thing that really saddened me is when Elias and Helene meet again and Elias said his goodbye to Helene one last time. (I might’ve cried on that one) Knowing they used to be best friends—and each other’s first love, it was really heartbreaking to see them killing each other. Even in Ember I was hurting for these two because they were best friends but they had to fight each other.
“I’m going to let go of you,” I say. “If you try to take me down, so be it. But before I do, I want to say something, because we both know I’m not long for this world, and I’d hate myself if I never told you.” Confusion flashes across her face, and I barrel on before she starts asking questions. “I miss you.” I hope she hears what I’m truly saying. I love you. I’m sorry. I wish I could fix it. “I’ll always miss you. Even when I’m a ghost.”
Laia and Elias are bound to be together. I was sure of that. With everything they’ve been through they just deserve to be together. I loved them both since page one of Ember and until the last page of Torch I was rooting for the both of them. All the torture, all the pain, all the soldiers who hunt them down, and all the other forces—human or otherworldly—they’ve faced be damned just as long as in the end they finish their mission together. And they did.
Overall I really enjoyed this book! With all the twists and turns, you just can’t help but finish this book in one sitting. But as much as I wanted to give this book 5 stars, there are a couple of things I have issues with. For one, like I said, a lot of things are happening inside the book all at once. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing but for me it just didn’t work. Like Elias being pulled into Shaeva’s realm and dealing with lost souls while on the other side he’s traveling with Laia and then fighting his way into Kauf. I also felt like some of the turns just appeared out of nowhere and though they have backgrounds, I just didn’t quite expect them to turn that way. And then what happened to Elias really frustrated me because really? After all that he’s just going to be the Soul Catcher? But then there are still book 3 and 4 so let’s just see about that.
“You are my temple,” I murmur as I kneel beside her. “You are my priest. You are my prayer. You are my release.”
I highly recommend this book to everyone so read it, you guys! 🙂