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An Ember in the Ashes #2

A Torch Against the Night

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Set in a rich, high-fantasy world inspired by ancient Rome, Sabaa Tahir's AN EMBER IN THE ASHES told the story of Laia, a slave fighting for her family, and Elias, a young soldier fighting for his freedom.

Now, in A TORCH AGAINST THE NIGHT, 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.

452 pages, Paperback

First published August 30, 2016

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About the author

Sabaa Tahir

19 books31.2k followers
**My apologies if I don't respond to emails or friend requests right away! Come find me on Twitter or Instagram @sabaatahir, or on my web site: www.sabaatahir.com

Sabaa Tahir grew up in California’s Mojave Desert at her family’s 18-room motel. There, she spent her time devouring fantasy novels, raiding her brother’s comic book stash and playing guitar badly. She began writing An Ember in the Ashes while working nights as a newspaper editor. She likes thunderous indie rock, garish socks and all things nerd. Sabaa currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 15,601 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,921 reviews290k followers
September 2, 2016
I realize I am not staring into his eyes. I am staring into my future.
I see it for a moment. Pain. Suffering. Horror. All that I love, all that matters to me, awash in blood.

Oh my god. I loved it.

Last year, I read and enjoyed an advance copy of an unknown book from a debut author - An Ember in the Ashes. I sped through it, loved it, rated it five stars, and thought that was the end of that. On to the next one. Like most books I rate and review, I expected it to be forgotten in a sea of YA. But suddenly, out of nowhere, it was a bestseller! And that's when I got some unprecedented backlash for my review.

“I’m really surprised you liked this.”
“This is just like ten million other books - how can you think it's so good?”
“I’m not sure I can take your opinion seriously anymore.”


Ouch.

And I was like:
“What? I just liked it.”
*voice getting smaller*
"I’m not saying it’s the best book ever or anything.”
*even smaller*
“Okay, maybe it wasn’t that great.”

But, you know what? Fuck it. I loved this book and the first one. I know they’re not something out of this world and I know the story is not that original, but I don’t care. Because, for me, it’s not what a book is about, but how it’s told. And I think both An Ember in the Ashes and A Torch Against the Night are told with nail-biting tension and perfectly-paced action. I hung on the author’s every word.

I honestly don't give a shit anymore if these books are objectively good (what even is that, anyway?). I race through them. My heart pounds. The pages just fly by in my desperation to find out what happens. They're nasty and brutal, full of evil surprises and even more evil things that you see coming but can't stop.

A Torch Against the Night picks up right where we left off and, if you enjoyed the first one, it's very easy to be pulled back into the rhythm of the story and world without recapping. I wondered if I would be able to easily follow the stories of Laia, Elias and Helene after more than a year away from them, but I needn't have worried. I felt the rush of everything coming back to me as I was once again immersed in this world.

Often, sequels wander aimlessly, but this one was perfectly plotted. It didn't feel like it was bridging a gap - the story moves along, many important and awful things happen, secrets are revealed and Tahir rounds off this installment well, whilst still promising so much more from the next book. I can't freaking wait.

I love all three narrators, but Helene is worth five stars alone. Out of all of them, she has been through the worst kind of hell and has had to make the most difficult decisions. I love her internal conflicts over what she wants to do and what she should do. She's sharp and smart, just cool enough to be badass, whilst also painfully, relatably human.

Seriously, I just have nothing bad to say about this book. I think, if I tried, I could feasibly come up with an original-ish idea for a fantasy that has not been done before. However, I think to take a somewhat familiar story and inject it with new life so that it becomes virtually unputdownable is a much more commendable achievement. Bravo, Ms Tahir, bravo.

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Profile Image for Renée Ahdieh.
Author 25 books17.2k followers
June 2, 2016
magnificent.

TORCH simply burns, in all the best ways. it's everything you've come to love and expect from the brilliance of Sabaa Tahir, except BETTER. twisty, turny awesomeness abounds on every single page. and you will not want to keep turning them until the tale is over.

the wonderful thing about A TORCH AGAINST THE NIGHT is that--though it never shies away from depicting cold brutality--the nuances of emotion are just as deeply felt. just as passionately rendered. you will yell at your favorite characters, laugh with their loved ones, and perhaps even shed a tear or two for a villain.

this book is even better than EMBER. and THAT'S saying something.
Profile Image for The Burning Rose (Jess).
161 reviews307 followers
February 12, 2020
5/5 stars. I want to cry!
How do you understand that the book you just finished reading is a good book? Which is worth 5 whole stars, and maybe even more?
I'll tell you my opinion - you should feel it. You have to feel the characters, go through the experience they are going through. You have to feel that you are experiencing what is going on in the book with the characters.
It's a very great connection to a book, and it doesn't happen with most books. Usually, you just read the book from your point of view as a reader. It's hard for you to connect with the characters. And, if you did connect with a particular character, that doesn't mean you necessarily feel and become the character.
If you don't understand what the hell I'm talking about -because I'm a completely complicated person who can't explain herself- I'll explain now.

From the first book I connected with Elias.
Yes yes, Elias. Not Laia. I know many of you have mostly connected to Laia, I don't, but I'll go into that later.
Me and Elias are alike. I will not begin to explain why, because it’ll be long, but our personality is similar.
Throughout the first book, the moment I was sucked into the plot, I could put myself in the position of Elias. I experienced the emotions with him, I experienced the failures with him. It was amazing. It doesn't happen to me with characters usually, so it's a delightful feeling in my opinion. It's fun.
As soon as I started reading the current book, I was worried that this connection would pass. It happened to me before that I became very attached to a certain character, but in the next book she/he changed a bit, and the connection broke off. So it didn't happen in this book. I could still feel Elias. Experience the world he‘s in. But thank God this connection isn’t physical, is it? It could’ve been sucks. (those who don't know what I'm talking about - sorry, don't do spoilers).
So in summary: Elias is a freaking king.

Now let's talk about Laia.
Like I said before, I'm not a big fan of Laia. And to be honest? I liked her even more in the first book. In the current book she was a little far from me. Don't get me wrong, she's a good character. But I guess it's because of my amazing connection to Elias and the fact that Tahir added Helene's point of view.

Oh, Helene. We will talk about her, I have many things to say about her.
In the first book, she confused me. Big Time. In one episode I thought she was nice, in another I thought she was annoying, in another I said to myself "Oh! What a badass!”, And, in another chapter, I thought to myself, "What the hell?". So yeah, I couldn't even form an opinion about her. Which is why I am so happy that Tahir decided to add her point of view.
From the first episode, which was told from Helene's point of view, I could begin to piece together the puzzle pieces of her character. I could finally understand her, accept her and then love her.
And yes, I might surprise you again, but I love Helene more than Laia. (And like I said, that's probably the reason for my distancing from Laia's character, too).

Is it just me or is this review very confused? You see, it took me 4 days to write it. I don't know, I feel like I'm confusing everything, maybe it's just me, but I always find it hard to explain myself when I talk about something so good.

So characters, characters, characters...
I have to take a few lines and write about Tas, this sweet, strong boy I loved so much. And Darin, who I finally got to know. Although that’s obviously not enough, and I must pick up the third book. And Helene's amazing family. And IZZI, oh IZZI!
And Keenan, who I love so much. Really, even after this book, after all the craziness that was discovered, I still really loved Keenan's character.
And you can't forget Harper, of course. He was so intrigued to me! His character was so intriguing. I felt like I was slowly sipping from the bottle, and I hadn't even reached half of it. I really liked him, and I look forward to getting to know him better in the next book.

So after talking about the characters, I'll talk about the plot.
Sabaa Thair knows how to write a good book. She knows how to keep the reader in suspense and make him turn a page and keep reading.
It's amazing how you always stay thirsty for more, how you can't put the book out of your hands. How you keep expecting something and still enjoy it when you receive it.
I'm not sure I'll be able to get more opinions into this review, because I'm starting to feel that my excited brain is starting to confuse everything again.. So I'll stop here.
Excuse me if you read this shit called "review" and I hope you enjoyed this book as much as I did.
Profile Image for Andreea Pop.
320 reviews2,104 followers
September 3, 2016
“So long as you fight the darkness, you stand in the light.”

A Torch Against the Night is the very glorious sequel I had expected from Sabaa Tahir. But what distinguishes itself from its prequel is the otherworldliness of it. The breath of Death on our characters' necks. The villain(s) that are evil incarnate. The idea of a prescribed destiny. The new abilities and powers. The demons, the stories, the souls -- everything combines with a well-built plot, an expanded universe and realistic, flawed portrayals of characters in order to deliver the best kind of chills.

From the very first page, we're thrust back into Tahir's fictional world quite violently. Starting exactly where Ember ended, we're reminded of the stakes, the world and the unnatural. Plus Elias and Laia's slow burn, sizzling chemistry.



I had initially rated this book with 5 stars, but I ended up changing it because no matter how much I loved how it all unfolded, I had to admit there was something irking me: the inconsistency of the pace. The plot unravels with several ramifications that, at first glance, only deter from the main storyline. Or at least the one I deemed main in my head. Raider's Roost. Nur. The Waiting Place. All the back and forth between Antium and the countryside. But they did enrich a captivating world, so I partly appreciated it. However, I still found myself wishing more exciting things happened. And I can guarantee that's what is probably going to happen in the third novel, because wheels have been finally been put into motion.

Regardless, there is a sort of redundancy in both Elias and Helene's POVs as they both battle their own demons. Which is the only flaw of this book, in my opinion.

If you had any inkling of love for Elias in the first book, then prepare yourself for full-on worship and adoration. This sequel painted him in true hero colors, highlighting his altruism, his devotion, his intensity and, most of all, his fairness. There was a particular character development that broke my heart which I hope somehow will be reversed by the end of the series because from the beginning I had the image of Elias and Laia as Emperor and Empress stuck on my retina, with Helene as Blood Shrike. I also need to mention his amazing dynamic with his adoptive family which was a wonder to see. SO BEAUTIFUL.

This time around, Laia makes a lot of mistakes. Disastrous one after disastrous one. But I liked that instead of drowning in guilt, she turned a critical eye against her actions and learned from them. Betrayals change her. New allies shape her. And love strengthens her.



“It takes only a split second for life to go horribly wrong. To fix the mess, I need a thousand things to go right. The distance from one bit of luck to the next feels as great as the distance across oceans. But, I decide in this moment, I will bridge that distance, again and again, until I win. I will not fail.”

Helene Aquilla, however, was incredible. I didn't think it was possible to love her more than I did in Ember, but I was so wrong. She grows a lot in this installment, through emotional hardships that plague her at every step. Her whole journey is a turning point, the stepping stone for her maturity. The question of duty vs. heart remains deeply rooted into her persona and heartbreak shapes her anew in an astounding, almost terrifying image. I cannot wait to see how this colder, broken, hollowed Helene is going to enact her revenge and show the world her wrath. After all, the title of this book is an omen to the fire in Helene Aquilla.



“But you, Helene Aquilla, are no swift-burning spark. You are a torch against the night - if you dare to let yourself burn.”

The matter of the 'love-square' as I like to call it is entirely resolved by the end of the novel. At least I think so. Or just let's go ahead and call it a pseudo-love-triangle because even though the focus is on an almost-pair that has my heart bursting with joy, the possibility of old flames coming to life yet again is not wholly crushed because feelings of mutual love still reside in a back corner, even though they are one of deep friendship. But the romance situation resolves messily and I was displeased (or better yet, uncertain) of how the story developed on a couple of occasions.

“Failure doesn’t define you. It’s what you do after you fail that determines whether you are a leader or a waste of perfectly good air.”

By far, the most compelling aspects of this continuation are the villains. The Commandant manages to upgrade her bitch title to the one of ultimate bitch. I swear, I haven't read such a beautifully written bad character in a long time, one that thrives on power and bloodshed, on gore and brutality and perennial violence. It was fascinating and utterly horrifying to witness how easily she can make a whole nation crumble.

The Warden is a new bad guy but immensely intriguing in his sadistic ways. The Nightbringer establishes himself as a layered, complex character that is not as straightforward as one might think. Honestly, I do not know what to further expect from him because his involvement in this book is jaw-dropping.



Another one of the most intriguing characters of the whole book is Marcus. I loved his cunningness and his... cleverness, I suppose, even if he's not one of the good guys. It was one of those instances where you can just clap to the performance, but be glad he's just fictional.

Other things worth mentioning: the Aquilla family; Avitas Harper (omg you're gonna love him and I hope he plays a bigger part in the following books); KEENAN HOLY SHIT KEENAN; Izzzzzzyyyyyy; COOK; Shaeva (oh, sweetie); Afya, the most badass and honorable Zaldara ever; Elias with children around -- you're not up to it, I'm telling you.

The wait until 2018 will be a torturous one, because A Torch Against the Night moved all the right pieces to make my heart crack and crave more destruction. Thrilling, captivating and intelligently written, this sequel cemented the status of this series as a 'MUST-READ' so I urge you to read it the first chance you've got.

ENJOY! <3
Profile Image for Tharindu Dissanayake.
275 reviews457 followers
May 28, 2021
"What in the skies was that?"

I really liked An Ember in the Ashes. Despite the minimal world building, and the present tense narrative, the plot was intriguing enough to make me start with A Torch Against the Night immediately, and I was really hoping this would improve upon the first book. For the first half of the book, it did feel that way. But then things started going downhill.

"Everything that has happened so far is the result of willpower, or sheer, dumb luck."

The 3-star rating does not mean that I didn't like this one, for I still find the underlying plot of the story quite interesting. It's complex, full of mystery and abundant of twists throughout, making everything unpredictable. I was a bit worried about the addition of a third POV, but Helene's character compares well to the other two POVs, if not better. Instead of moving along the same plot line, we get multiple new branches, and a lot of magic elements. The result is -just like with the first book- one could easily enjoy the book without worrying about other shortcomings. When it comes to imagination, Tahir has a lot in store.

"True suffering lies in the expectation of pain as much as in the pain itself.”

My main complaint lies with the villains: they are continuing to be cruel, and violent, just because they are villains and nothing else. There's no backstory to make their actions believable, aside from petty hatred towards the main characters. And then, the violence: Killing off every prisoner, in every prison, down to last child. Why? By the time I made it to the last few chapters, I was totally numbed, and I don't think it would've made me feel any worse even if the author got rid of a main character. May be the villains do have good reasons, which might be revealed in next book(s), but as of now, it doesn't make much sense.

"Failure doesn't define you. It's what you do after you fail that determines whether you are a leader or a waste of perfectly good air."

But I guess the good things is -with the amount of sheer hatred all readers must develop towards the villains- it will feel a lot satisfying when they do get beaten (if that happens). With all this said, I have already picked up A Reaper at the Gates: The plot makes up for everything else, again!

“You are my temple. You are my priest. You are my prayer. You are my release.”


"We are away, into the night."
Profile Image for karen.
3,968 reviews170k followers
June 22, 2018
congratulations! semifinalist in goodreads' best YA fantasy & science fiction category 2016!

"Force won't work," Harper murmurs. "You need to outwit them. You need secrets."

"Secrets are a snake's way of doing business."

"And snakes survive."


i didn't love this as much as An Ember in the Ashes, but it's a seriously fun book regardless. the problem is that the first one was so strong, it's a tough act to follow. this one is certainly not lacking in action or worldbuilding or interesting characters - there's plenty for them to do, and the stakes are sky-high, but it just didn't seem as well-constructed as An Ember in the Ashes. there's a rushed quality to the plotting here - many instances where it comes across like a breathless, "we need to do this oh now we are doing it, good!" which is great for the book's pacing - this is a fast, fast read - but it feels like too much was glossed-over and sacrificed to that pacing.

but whatever - it's a minor quibble that irritated me when i was reading it, but when i think back on all the stuff that happened in this book, my irritation is totally squashed by my much stronger feelings of having read something fun and dark and fierce.

all the great characters are back - laia, elias, the commandant, marcus, keenan, and helene. heleeeeeeene. who is here given all the space she needs to be the powerful, complicated, thoughtful, badass, pragmatic creature we got glimpses of in the first book. here, in her new role as blood shrike - the sword that does the ruthless emperor's will, she really shines.

speaking of shining - the scene revealing the origin of this book's name?? CHILLS!

helene is my new favorite character in all things.

I'm Blood Shrike. It is time to show my strength.

as far as the other characters go - tahir does a great job clipping elias' wings a bit here. it's almost unfair to have a character who is unmatched in fighting prowess - it takes the elements of danger and tension away from any action scenes. but she came up with a really great, fair way to level the playing field in order to increase the peril of our characters, and the things that change for elias over the course of the book (no spoilers here!) are both dramatically interesting and textually appropriate. not what i would have guessed, but very satisfying.

and laia - i dunno, she's not my favorite heroine of all time. there's a lot i respect about her character, but i like my heroines to have a little more of an edge to them, and laia's just a bit too squeaky for me, and her very formal avoidance of contractions grates on me a bit. don't get me wrong, i feel for her when bad things happen, and that closing scene was affecting, but what can i say - i'm team helene and i'm a one-woman gal.

all the magical bits from An Ember in the Ashes - the parts that i was so frustrated about not getting explanations for when i learned it was conceived as a standalone, are fully defined here, and they add an extra layer of intrigue to what was already a pretty kickass world.

it's a rough ride - there's a lot of blood, a lot of horrific casualties of revolution and ambition, a lot of sacrifice for the good of the empire:

The Empire must come first - above your desires, your friendships, your wants.

it's all wonderful, horrific, consequence-bleeding stuff. and there had better be a third book coming, because i want some vengeance - righteous, splattery vengeance.

gimmie.

*****************************************

oh, YAY! i was deemed cool enough to snag an arc of this after all! and while i was not in the top-tier of cool kids who got the accompanying power bracelet:

if you have a glue gun, a toilet paper roll and some glitter, that's easy enough to remedy. behold!

 photo IMG_4939_zpsnlsklfvl.jpg  photo IMG_4944_zpsu6mnguvf.jpg

who's cool NOW? oh, still not me? oh well, at least i SPARKLE!
*****************************************
thanks to no one for giving me a heads-up that this existed will be existing. now it's nearly too late to buy party tooters.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Rose.
401 reviews592 followers
September 18, 2016
S A B A A
T A H I R
R U I N E D
M E.


Side effects if reading ATATN: dizziness, fatigue, lightheadedness, clammy skin, cold sweat, P A I N.

description

If you’ve read any of my updates, you’d know how terrified I was going into this- that I was expecting the worst.. and now I’m just sorry that I even doubted Sabaa Tahir. Because absolutely every part of this book was brutal, but also perfection.

All the best parts of An Ember in the Ashes were still a part of this story; the complexity of each and every character, the morals that are constantly questioned, and the raw human emotion that is at the center of everything. All those scenes where you’re silently begging for them to make it out of a terrifying situation, or *small moments of joy*- they’re all there.

And also so much more.

After Elias and Laia run off in the last book, they encounter their newest journey.. to free Darin, Laia’s brother, from prison in order to help the Scholars have a fighting chance against the Empire.

Me at first page: okay, that seems like it won’t be too bad

Me 60 pages in:

description

If you thought the first book was brutal.. this one is a million times worse . I felt like the first book talked about and promised a lot of horrors, but in this one it all comes to life. It is war and everyone is fighting for their own, and there are no rules or limits as to how they do it. Everyone is fighting dirty, and it is absolutely terrifying.

This is a mission.
You’re it’s leader.
This is the cost.


Like, the last book. I couldn’t get enough. I physically had to FORCE myself to take breaks and not devour it in an day. This isn’t like other books, because you honestly don’t know who will make it. And not everyone does. From the first page until the last page, I had non-stop anxiety for these characters.

This book is told from the same perspectives as the 1st, Laia and Elias’, but since they’re off on their own journey, we also have Helene’s perspective to let us see into the Empire. While Laia and Elias attempt to reach her brother's prison (and then somehow try and enter it), Helene is given the the task of finding & executing Elias.

Aka everything is a mess.

I wish I could go into the romance (and maybe I will once this comes out), but it would spoil pretty much everything. Though, I can happily say that my ship is sort of happening, so there’s that! Lots of twists and turns, and wrong decisions happened, which people may not like.. but I understood. In the end, however, I think most people will be happy with everything.

"You want to talk now? After weeks of not even looking at me?”
“I look at you.” His response is swift, his voice low. “Even when I shouldn’t.”


Overall? Sabaa killed it. And I still can't wrap my brain around how she has created such an original, fast-paced, entertaining masterpiece AND THEN TOPPED IT WITH THIS. There were so many little details in the first book that were finally explained in this one, and some shocking twists and turns that I doubt anyone will expect. I highly recommend starting this series, I really can't compare it to much else because of how perfect it is. I really hope we get to see more of Laia and Elias, I feel so deeply connected to them at this point that I can't think of this as being the end of their story.

“You are a torch against the night- if you dare to let yourself burn.”


Note: There is apparently more books to come in this series! While this ending wouldn't be considered a cliffhanger, in my opinion, there are many unanswered questions. I think it's set up to be continued, so hopefully Tahir does that :D

And a huge thank you to Penguin Teen for giving me the opportunity to read this early :)



------
Profile Image for Dana Kenedy (Dana and the Books).
206 reviews1,006 followers
November 17, 2016
This review can also be found on my blog, Dana and the Books.

An Ember in the Ashes was one of my favourite books from the past few years so it's only natural that I counted down the days to the sequel. In fact, I found out my local book shop had it stocked a couple days before the UK release date, so I frantically ran over and recruited the bookseller to help me find it. Poor guy must have thought I was insane - I don't think I even brushed my hair I was so desperate to get my hands on it. Well, that wonderful man found the ONLY copy they received and IT WAS MINE.

For some reason I cannot possibly fathom, the UK edition doesn't include a map.

WHY?!



Siobhan was lovely and sent me bunch of photos of her map-abundant Canadian edition and I am forever in her debt.

I was so eager to continue Elias and Laia's journey I started reading straight away. Surprisingly, the first 100 or so pages didn't excite me the way Embers did. I started to get a bit worried. Would this sequel pale in comparison to such a strong debut?

BUT, after I passed the 150 page mark and got over the map snubbing I got that same thrill I did when reading Embers.



We got some pretty awesome fight scenes and great character development.

And then...

AND THEN we got the mother of all MOTHER FUCKING PLOT TWISTS.



Okay, it probably wasn't as shocking as I'm making it out to be but I never pick up on hints or foreshadowing so I was legitimately shocked.

My actual face:



While I think An Ember in the Ashes is the stronger novel overall, A Torch Against the Night was still a fantastic follow up. I can't wait until the third one (2018?!?!).

Sabaa Tahir, I bow down to you and your wonderfulness.

This was a buddy review with Siobhan - don't forget to check out her awesome review!

(Book Depository / Amazon US Amazon Canada / Amazon UK)
Profile Image for Dorreh.
63 reviews198 followers
March 13, 2018
This review will be more of a rant, don't say I didn't warn you.

I'm reviewing An Ember in the Ashes and a Torch Against the Night together in this review, mostly because I didn't have the energy to rant twice.

Because I don't like using acronyms, and typing out the titles taking long, we will refer to them as book 1 and 2. In book 1, we dive into a world with so many undeveloped yet interesting ideas. From the hype that surrounded this book, I was super excited to read it, and when it started off with action, I thought oh yay this is going to be one of those fast paced excellent books! Man was I WRONG! First off, while the book tip toes around a pace that is sensible for the setting and action dwelling, it slows the scenes to a unbearable pace by contemplating every single characters emotions for what feels like a eternity. Let's start with the character Laia, shall we? We start by being introduced to her and her brother sneaking back into the house, and then the book plunges us into chaos. This would have been the perfect beginning, but laia's ineptness goes a long way to ruin it. One would wonder, how could an opinion be tarnished so early into a book? The answer is; make the main character whimpering and cowardly. My greatest complaint quite frankly is the superficiality of all the characters in this book. My personal adoration for this genre are kick ass female characters that overcome their worst fears. Laia is nothing even close, and I kept waiting for her to develop a spine, but even when the author was trying to portray her development I found I didn't like or even connect with her on any level.

Moving on, I think I made my point. DID NOT LIKE THE MAIN CHARACTER ONE BIT. Now that that's settled, let's move on to the dynamics shall we?

You seen my disappointment runs bone deep, because usually with books that provide a certain amount of Sanskrit influence, I'm pulled right in. It's the connection one makes with their own cultural ancestry. So all the more painful when I felt the great potential that this book had was wasted. Elias was no help either. A morally conflicted 20 something year old sucked into a life that was not his choosing seems like a good start for a character, add a touch of family problems and loyal best friends and you have a he perfect combination. But then he had to go all head over heals for a girl he just met, and ruin it all.

When I say superficial, it's not just that people keep falling for each other, it's just that they fall, move on, fall again, and cycle again. I mean Keenan hated your guts then pledged his all undying love for you two second later and that didn't surprise you one bit? Even better, while mooning over him you start becoming infatuated with the son of the Enemy? All the while whining about how tough life is? Really?

I think being quite honest, minus the characters, this book had a very red rising, hunger games, and Red queen with a touch of ancient Persia mixed with the Roman Empire. It was quite compelling and interesting, even the side characters were interesting enough, just not the ones the book revolves around. I mean even their mourning was superficial. You watch your grandparents get hacked to pieces and your only living relative in chains and your first thought is that you are a coward? This isn't about you! God!
Being honest the only character that had an influential role that I didn't absolutely hate was Helene. She was the only character with any semblance of a spine. She's probably the only reason I read the second book. Which took an eternity to get through. My disinterest was diminished for the last fifty pages of book two. But I literally had to read two whole books to get to a good last 50 pages, which doesn't soften the blow much.
Overall I don't think I will continue this series, even though so many people seems to love it, I was most definitely not one of them. Perhaps it was going in with such high expectations that shattered this book for me. Either way, not a memorable book for 2017,
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Katerina.
420 reviews16.7k followers
May 24, 2018
I’m deeply, truly underwhelmed.

An Ember in the Ashes is one of my favorite YA fantasy debuts; Sabaa Tahir’s world was mesmerizing yet brutal, and it was so easy to lose myself in the bloody story of an Empire inspired by Greek and Roman culture. Sadly, in A Torch Against the Night I didn’t manage to fully grasp that flare of magic I was confident I’d find.


“So long as you fight the darkness, you stand in the light.”

A Torch Against the Night follows Elias and Laia’s quest to free Laia’s brother from the Kauf prison, and Helene’s struggle to serve a loathsome Emperor and be the Blood Shrike everybody fears. Their paths are intertwined, their feelings tangled, their loyalties divided. Elias faces the cost of freedom, Laia the burden of crucial decisions, Helene the devastating choice between her best friend and her family, her duty, her honor. Ancient demons shadow their steps; the genocide of the Scholars drowns the streets in blood; a mad emperor’s reign of terror stifles every opposing voice; and an overly ambitious Commandant, a mother without love, a soldier serving a dark force, wreaks havoc, tortures and murders for her own agenda. In the Martial Empire, darkness prevails. But somewhere, between hopelessness and frustration, there's a torch against the night, which may be the guide to light.
“You are a torch against the night – if you dare let yourself burn.”

There is no doubt that Sabaa Tahir’s pen is exquisite. The world she built is rich, full of Asian based lore, creatures of immense power and ruthless games. I can’t help but repeat that she succeeds in combining beautiful moments and sentiments with savage murders, raw brutality, loss of innocence and despair. As Laia and Elias traveled though the Martial Empire, with Helene high on their heels, we explored cultures, magical beings, heartache, and a major, jaw dropping plot twist that made the wait for A Reaper at the Gates almost unbearable.

Helene’s chapters were my favorite part of the second instalment of this series. Her inner battle, and her eventual, foretold breaking made her a character that shattered your heart, piece by piece. Sometimes I cringed at her choices, but given the circumstances, and what she would lose if she failed the horrible emperor she served, I couldn’t help but sympathize with her. Her storyline was laced with politics, bloodshed and mistrust, and the horrors she witnessed forged her into a mighty weapon to shatter her enemies.
“Your emotions make you human. Even the unpleasant ones have a purpose. Don’t lock them away. If you ignore them, they just get louder and angrier.”

Well in this context, I have to get it out of my system before it festers. I hate love triangles. I hate insta-love. And most of all, I hate instalovetriangles . They are a plague that makes good stories turn sour, and characters you once respected insufferable. While the instalovetriangle was present in the previous book, it didn’t bother me that much because I was certain Laia and Elias were made for each other. In this one, though, I rolled my eyes so many times they still hurt. Laia is so precious, Laia is so brave, Laia is such a special snowflake we should worship the ground her holy feet touch oh my God just stop it already! I didn’t find anything special about her. She was a girl that tried to deal with all those things that went wrong in her life by lusting over every good looking guy she encountered. She forgot how Keenan belittled her or suffocated her because he was so warm and familiar and I couldn’t help but shout YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW HIM DARN IT, GET OVER HIS WARMTH! Who she loved depended on who was physically closer, that thing called brain didn’t function with all those hormones throwing a disco party! And Elias my love had fallen under her spell. I rooted for them, part of me still does, but Laia’s stupidity somehow tainted what I thought was pure.



Moreover, the fact that the majority of Elias and Laia’s arc took place on the road was rather tedious. I wanted something more, something I can’t put my finger on, but the magic of the first book, the glorious radiance that made An Ember in the Ashes shimmer and sparkle and burn was not there. There was only a shadow of its potential.

Notwithstanding the above, A Torch Against the Night was an engaging story featuring diverse characters and war, where civilizations collided and villains had the upper hand, ravaging and destroying. I just hope that A Reaper at the Gates will meet the standards of the first book, and resurrect my somehow shaken faith in these characters and their respective quests!

Review also posted on BookNest!

BEFORE

Guys guys GUYS WE HAVE A COVER!!



Elias baby, I've been waiting for you

Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,099 reviews44.1k followers
November 28, 2016
To keep up with the times, and not fall into a dark chasm of old school fantasy, nineteenth century literature, Buddhist philosophy and postcolonial theory, I make sure I read one popular Y.A book a year. I mean I’ve got to keep my cool trendy hip image going right? I wouldn’t want you guys to think I’m some kind of reclusive romantic poetry obsessed bookworm who sits around reading books all day then writes about them on a book review website. Cool, I’m glad we’ve cleared that up.

So I did have fairly high expectations going into this one. The first book in the series was very good, and although it did replicate many of the tropes we keep seeing across the young adult genre, it did have a fair bit of originality. The world was based on Ancient Rome reworked with some fantasy elements. I liked it. It had a solid definition before the plot began. This one began in a very different way. It was much faster, for one, but that’s not always a good thing: it felt like plot had been sacrificed for action.

A good chunk of the book is a perusal. Granted, the protagonists did escape a rather messy situation last time round, but the chase dragged on for far longer than I wanted it to. At one point I actually put the book down and considered if it was going anywhere in particular. The idea of the poison was just lame. It seemed like the author had included it to prevent Elias from being such a successful killing machine, that way there was a change of him being capture or even killed. I really didn’t like it.

So what did I like?

Not much. Well the inclusion of a Helene point of view was great. It made the story remotely interesting. It broke up the terrible switching of point of views between Elias and Laia. Last time round it didn’t matter when they switched; their stories were in different places, but when two people who are travelling together swap back and forth it becomes slightly redundant. The romance became annoying, too blatant, and tiring. By the end I found myself rooting for “the bad guy” just so I could finish with this story and see no more of this nauseating so called “love” the characters thought they had for each other.

Perhaps it’s me? Perhaps I’ve gone beyond a reading stage where I read books like this. I’ve always had an eclectic taste. I can enjoy a children’s book as much as I’d enjoy a highbrow piece of writing. But this just felt cheap. It took me almost two months to get through and it felt like an absolute slog. I won’t be bothering with the third book. I think I may just return to my chasm now.
Profile Image for jessica.
2,477 reviews29.6k followers
December 26, 2018
is it possible to be simultaneously infuriated AND absolutely enamoured with a book? because im stuck in a constant struggle between wanting to throw this book across the room and clinging onto it for dear life. its making me begin to feel very emotionally unstable.

just to give you an idea, heres a basic summary of my reactions whilst reading this book:

*laia does something*
me: ughhhhh. you stupid, stupid girl. c’mon, get it together - im rooting for you!

*elias does something*
me: noooooo. i cant believe youve done this!! whyyyyy!?!? but i still love you anyways, babe. ;)

*helene does something*
me: disappointed, but not really surprised. (rolls eyes but secretly thinks about how savage she is)

as you can see, the characters aggravate me off beyond belief in this book. but gosh, i would be lying if i said i didnt enjoy it. because this book is such a wild ride. it has the perfect balance of action and adventure (most of which stressed me out), with also enough teasing/hinting at things yet to come (so much so that ive turned into a crazy conspiracy theorist).

i am just so in awe at the level of depth and the amount of various layers there are in this book/series. i know for sure this will be a re-read for me down the line because im positive there are so many things i have missed this first time around. so even if i disapprove of many things the characters did in this book, i am just so fully invested in them at this point that there is no turning back now. on to book three!!

4 stars
Profile Image for She-who-must-not-be-named .
179 reviews1,141 followers
May 7, 2021
DNF

Giving this book 2 stars largely feels like I'm being liberal. I'd rate this less than one if not for Helene's chapters. The story was mostly confined to roads, as the leads barrel their way, away from the Empire's clutches. The romance felt forced and extremely annoying.

There are many more reasons why I despised this book like Laia turning invisible only to throw sand on her enemies, Elias and Laia almost getting caught but sneaking away (which happened like a million, gazillion times), romance, 250+ pages of irrational, ludicrous, gormless drama (what happens after about 250 pages, I don't know) and Keenan himself. But the main reason boils down to my expectations. I should've entered with an open-mind, I'll make sure not to expect anything next time.
Profile Image for Reading_ Tamishly.
3,938 reviews2,162 followers
May 30, 2022
I love this book so much! The world didn't want me to finish it up while I was reading it. The sleep demon came. The hunger gods knocked. The toilet jinns grimaced. Yes, nothing serious. Let's not blame the world when you love a book a little too much!

⚔️ Ten bleeding hells! 🗡️ Helene, my heart is breaking into a million stars 🌌

"Most people 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."

(Yes, so well written, Sabaa Tahir. Exactly what I wanted to tell her from the very beginning!

And yes, I did the happy mind swirl when I come across the exact book title in the writing knowing what it means and for which character it's meant for.)

****🌻****🌻****🌻****🌻****🌻****🌻****🌻****
I am so dead now.... This sequel is the best ever!

Well, the ghosts, the jinns, the soul reaper, the magical beings, the bad emperor, the Commandent (I want to burn her soul arghhhhhh!) got stronger and more bloodshed this time made the reading much more nasty and I WAS TOTALLY SOLD.

Moreover, introduction of more intriguing characters like Mamie (you define strength), the Warden (hate him with all my book collection), Tas (boy, my precious, I want to adopt you so bad!), Afya (the one who made honor so honourable), Helene's parents and sisters (love you, Livia and I don't like you, Hannah).

Sabaa Tahir built up so many big secrets and magic to discover. She does reveal each of them with all the power a human mind can imagine and she does make each of them BIG. Each of the betrayals would maim your mind, each moment of 'I trust you' delivered so real. I freaking love her writing!

I seriously cannot believe Helene has not been mentioned in the blurb. While all other things are happening for Elias and Laia, it's also the story of Helene. Her part is so big in this sequel and her story is just growing big.

This sequel is going to be my most favourite I guess. I laughed a lot during the unexpected moments of humour; cried my heart out like there's no tomorrow. I cannot believe I would cry this much while reading the series after I read the first book.

I repeat. The betrayals. They will own you. They will shatter you. Damn, I trust convincing characters so easily.

I hope there's more part of Keenan (get ready to be impressed with this character while reading this book) in the next books.

I love how the characters have been developed so real and good. The plot is getting thicker and more darker.

****🌻****🌻****🌻****🌻****🌻****🌻****🌻****

I wish..... I was there in the story only to adopt Tas. I found my fictional child.

Damn.... I am obsessed with this series.

Godddddddddddddd.........

****🌻****🌻****🌻****🌻****🌻****🌻****🌻****

Thank you, author for some of the most beautiful and meaningful lines ever:

"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?"


****🌻****🌻****🌻****🌻****🌻****🌻****🌻****


My life is so blessed. I cannot wait to know more about the Nightbringer, the Blood Shrike, and the obvious two 💝
Profile Image for ♥ℂĦℝΪՖƬΪℕÅ.
230 reviews3,934 followers
June 8, 2020
5 Ten Bleeding Hells STAR'S

"But you... are no swift-burning spark. You are a torch against the night – if you dare to let yourself burn."

“Failure doesn't define you. It's what you do after you fail that determines whether you are a leader or a waste of perfectly good air.”

Buddy read with my VK/GR besttie Tania Parvin

*Reread*
Simply AMAZING!!! Everything about 'A Torch Against the Night' was done so masterfully! It has everything that makes a book great and I couldn't love it more. From the plot to the writing, to the world-building and to the characters, everything was so incredibly thought out and Sabaa Tahir takes us on one hell of a journey :D I loved having POV's from Laia, Elias, and Helene. This series has such strong characters, you easily fall in love with them and hope for there happiness. My heart was broken so many times throughout 😭. I loveee Elias so much, he is EVERYTHING! I really enjoy the darkness and brutality of this world. A Torch Against the Night had me completely captivated from the very first page! There is a certain “eeriness” to it that makes it very alluring. This is one of my favorite series and I am never left disappointed! So yeah, that alone says a lot!! I am utterly addicted and obsessed with this beautifully dark and mysterious universe! I CAN'T freaking wait until next month!! I'm dying to read A Reaper at the Gates (#3). I'm getting more and more excited!

*Another beautifully done cover!!! And that title is just perfect!*

“Laia is curled in a ball on the other, one hand on her armlet, fast asleep.
"You are my temple", I murmur as I kneel beside her. "You are my priest. You are my prayer. You are my release."- Elias”

Profile Image for Candace.
1,174 reviews4,130 followers
August 22, 2017
Picking up where 'An Ember in the Ashes' left off, 'A Torch Against the Night' proved to be every bit as suspenseful and action-packed as the first book. Laia and Elias find themselves fighting to survive, as they try and evade the cruelty of the Commandant and the new emperor. There was never a dull moment.

One thing that you should know going into this series is that the author isn't afraid to kill off characters. There were several surprising deaths along the way. Don't be surprised if some of your favorite characters get nixed along the way. As a result, there is a constant feeling of uncertainty. I was afraid to get too attached, fearing that I'd risk an emotional meltdown in the upcoming chapters.

This second book provided a deeper look into the events that led up to the rise of the Martial Empire. The details were very enlightening and cast a different light on current events. It became clear that there were far more players and influences than were previously known.

As more and more of the backstory was revealed, I began to realize that things were not what they seemed. Friendships are put to the test. The true enemies are not always obvious. Secret alliances and betrayals kept me guessing the entire time, while supernatural influences became more prominent.

Even though I still have a million questions, I enjoyed this book immensely. I cannot wait until the next installment to see how things work out for Elias and Laia. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that things will heat up a little, because I'm dying for some romance. Nonetheless, I'm loving this series!

Check out more of my reviews at www.bookaddicthaven.com
Profile Image for ELLIAS (elliasreads).
478 reviews37.2k followers
October 22, 2020
(Reread September)

Guys. I have no idea what the fuck I was talking about in the review four years ago. Like....what???

Anyways, still 5 STARS BABY!!!!

Forgot how good this was.

Reading Vlog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEldQ...

Twitter | Bookstagram | Youtube |


__

(First read August, 2016)

AIYEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

EMBERLINGS UNITE!!!!!

AIYEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

EPIC IN EVERY WAY!!!!!!

AIYEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

SO MANY TWISTS AND TURNS, MASS DESTRUCTION, and NO-HOPE-FOR-OUR-BABIES-BUT-THEY-STILL-KICKED-HELLA-ASSES!!!!!!

AIYEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

KEENAN IS ANNOYING AS HELL(not sorry Keenan/Laia shippers). TAKE HIM AND HIS FLARING BRIGHT ASS RED HAIR OUTTA HERE.

AIYEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

5/5 STARS.
Like the usual: full review to come (when, idk).

But.....


AIYEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

EMBERLINGS UNITE!!!!!!!
Profile Image for Simona B.
883 reviews2,950 followers
July 19, 2018
*Fellow readers, please, for your own good, go read Kat's, Sarah's, and Nastassya's reviews- I just did it, and I know I will be laughing for hours. Besides, you know I always mention them, and I don't do it only because we discuss the book together: it's because they know what it means to review a book and analyze it with humor and intellectual honesty. I was almost cut out from the world for the past week and the only reason I wanted to leave the wonderful place I'd gone on vacation to was to read their opinions with my leisure. Turns out it really was worth the wait. And I also recommend, just as enthusiastically, Minni's review, because I'm just speechless. These are all professionals' reviews, my friends. (So, yes, no need for you to bother with mine.)

---

Ladies and gentlemen, mesdams et messieurs, signore e signori, I welcome you to the cliché fair –with quotes.

"The poor little boy getting vengeance for his lost youth. Pathetic, Elias."

I almost feel like this is too low a blow. Just read “redemption” instead of “vengeance” (I daresay it’s even more pathetic) and you have the truth about Elias. He is the king of clichés: repented soldier, insta-love stricken young Adonis, volunteered martyr. There is nothing, absolutely nothing about him that can be considered unexpected or unpredictable, nothing that isn’t perfectly in line with the type of person it was at the beginning of book one. Not even his fate at the end of this book could surprise or thrill me, probably because it felt like a random choice. (I am convinced that I had this impression due to the lacking world building. I’ll get to it.)

“We can’t just leave them.”

Laia, sweetie, if your own neck is on stake and there’s absolutely nothing you can do to help those poor people you don’t even know personally, like hell you can. I think no one would ever dare judge you on that. Stop being such a freaking bleeding heart.

Which leads me to one of the immediately apparent flaws of this series: the lack of progress in the character development. After everything these characters have been through, it would be normal (it would be essential) for the reader to perceive how they have have grown, how their experiences changed their minds and spirits. In fact, however Tahir’s character development is so weak and defective, I don’t think I would have noticed if the personality of any of the characters had underwent any change that didn’t concern who loves who, Laia’s do-goodism or Elias self-centered desire for redemption.

But while it’s true that Elias and Laia are inexcusably static, the third main character, Helene, gave me more food for thought. She is deeply torn between her due loyalty to her family and the Empire and the strong relationship that binds her to Elias, and from the very beginning she resolves to act according to the obligations of the first. Since she’s but a human being, she questions her decision again and again. I totally agree with the author’s choice to give Helene doubts about her doing, since seeing how strong Helene’s attachment to Elias and her loyalty to the Empire were, any other path for her would have felt like a bit out-of-character. The thing is that Tahir does not know how to give a character its due depth. Helene is complex only on the surface: deep down, she’s flat as paper, just like the others. She is the only interesting character of this book, and I could not care for her less than what she does.
In my review of book one, I said the Commander was the one character worthy of notice. I apologize for myself: she is only stereotypical and caricatural, and the same description may be applied to all the secondary characters of the series, none excluded. I don’t know if she was so in An Ember in the Ashes as well and I simply didn’t see it, or if in fact she is different in A Torch Against the Night, but she is. She’s evil inside. End of characterization.

"Disappear, Laia."

Yes, the truth about Laia’s power: she can read minds. In this case, she read mine.
Another of my perplexities about Laia’s character is linked to her supposed powers and, more generally, to the world building. I am of the opinion that explaining half of what the fuss is about to create suspense and explaining nothing at all are two very different things. Hint for the aspiring authors out there: the first is good (if you know how to do it) the second is bad (even if you think you know how to do it). Why? Basically, because since I haven’t got the littlest clue regarding why on earth Laia is turning into a special snowflake, I just perceive it as the most random thing I’ve ever read. Sorry not sorry.

And now, what everyone was waiting for (except me. I’d actually like to be able to erase all this shit from my mind.): the romance.

"My hands are filled with her-waist, hips, that cloud of sugar-scented hair."

After days and days of travel through forests and deserts, I wouldn’t bet Laia’s hair smelled like sugar if she had a cotton candy machine implanted beneath her scalp. Maybe she magicked Elias’s scent receptors into a stupor.

“Was it … wrong?”
“To find an hour or two of bliss in such dark times?” Keenan says. “That’s not wrong.”


What’s wrong, Laia, is that, as I’ve previously said and repeated ad nauseam, you are a goldfish whose memory resets itself every 30 seconds. Keenan’s not here, let’s hit on Elias; Elias’s not here, let’s have fun with Keenan. I cannot second this behavior. What’s worse, . I see that she probably needed a shoulder to cry on, and if she wanted to , she can help herself, but spare me the “I love him. Don’t I?” rigmarole later. It’s pathetic and unnecessary.

“You are my temple,” I murmur as I kneel beside her. “You are my priest. You are my prayer. You are my release.”

I keep being insensitive and simply not seeing where this declaration comes from. It still felt as if they knew nothing about each other, and their chemistry is so non existent the only fire I felt was in my head- my brain cells imploding.

➽ I am 90% sure I won’t continue the series. A Torch Against the Night was downright embarrassing. I would rate it one star, but I reserve the single star to books I find offensive or excessively badly written even for my obstinacy, and I think this book is neither of those things, but I personally found it tasteless and worthless. It had potential, no doubt, but oh, if it was wasted. If it was wasted.
Profile Image for Maureen.
484 reviews4,218 followers
August 23, 2016
Well I wasn't planning on finishing this book tonight but here we are. This is the only book in a while that has kept me reading past my bedtime because I just needed to FINISH!
I really enjoyed ember when I read it but I think the hype got to me a bit too much and I didn't LOVE it. Not the case with this one. I. LOVE. THIS. BOOK. I was also not 100% on board with it becoming a 4 book series at first (I love duologies! I want more of them!) but after this book I so am. I need more. There is so much more to exPLORE! I just hope it all connects well and isn't rushed and doesn't feel tacked on.
The world building in this book was so much better than book 1, probably because you see more of it. The characters got a lot more fleshed out, especially Helene, and I'm so glad they did.
The plot was great, albeit slow at times, but that's my only complaint and it is a very small one.
It was just a really good sequel and great setup for more books.
Profile Image for Sue (Hollywood News Source).
781 reviews1,603 followers
November 17, 2016

A Torch Against the Night is simply the superior YA Fantasy of the year. Hands down, there's no competition.

An Ember in the Ashes was merely a prelude to the sinister follow up. The story remains about oppression, but unlike the first book this is where readers could vividly see the resistance at first hand. The stakes are higher. There is more gore, and violence.

My heart is very delighted with the intricate political prose, but there are truths in it as well that parallels our past and contemporary times.

There are scenes that would undoubtedly take a dig at your heart such as this:

I look to the little boy in his arms. Ayan. Tiny dark crescents curve beneath his lower lashes. His eyes meet mine, and I touch his cheek, soft and round. He should be innocent. But he’s seen things no child should. Who will he be when he grows up? What will all this violence make him? Will he survive? Not another forgotten child with a forgotten name, I plead. Not another lost Scholar. 

 

Characters

If it’s a story of war, it’s going to be a story of survival as well. A Torch Against the Night touches that, but truly, the heart of the story is the girl who dared and the boy who rejected his destiny that is built on systematic oppression.  

We have a tyrannical emperor who is beyond ruthless, and a commandant who is also beyond salvation.

Let’s talk about Helene Aquilla’s dangerous feminism.

I could understand the allure of her character. She’s a woman who carved a path for herself in an environment that undermine women. She’s a sword-wielding soldier, loyal to the empire-to her duty, family, and Elias. But, her firm stance on Scholars are threaded with racism and classism. This is very important, since I’m getting the vibes the narrative is brushing it off under the rug. This is not the first time she made an offhand comment about the oppression of the slaves. She made countless of remarks on book one as well.

“Didn’t the Scholar rebels understand what they would unleash when they revolted? Didn’t they realize the death and terror the Empire would rain down upon them?

“I’ve never seen the Scholars as enemies, exactly. An enemy is someone you fear. Someone who might destroy you. But the Scholars will never destroy the Martials. They can’t read. They have no steelcraft. They are a slave class-a lesser class.”

If there’s one thing I got from Helene’s character is she thinks the martials are the superior race than the Scholars and the tribal people. To her Scholars, who are canonically brown people, who has been enslaved and systematically murdered on their own land are subhuman. For Helene, they should merely accept their destiny as slaves. To her, they don’t deserve to uproot their lives and dream. This is what makes Elias and Helene different. Elias with his given maternal’s privilege and station, he saw through everything. His eyes are wide open and conscious with the imperialism that is going on around him. Like Helene, he was brainwashed by the empire too; but he stopped himself before he become a harbinger of destruction. Helene had that chance. He showed her the terrifying lives of the Scholars. She chose not to be moved.

To me her “empowering” arc isn’t truly empowering. She might be powerless and marginalized when she’s surrounded by the Martials, but she has her white-empire cloak that protects her. Helene’s suffering is nothing significant compared to the ethnic cleansing of Scholars. I want everyone to remember that.

I’m in awe of Laia and her strength. She’s a fun character to read. She grows and learn from her mistakes. We should revolutionize that.

Romance

The romance didn’t take over the plot. (sad face) It was barely there. Though, it was enough to keep me going. Who would ever have thought Elias is romantic at heart?!? Who noticed those suggestive metaphors? I am swooning.

“You are my temple,” I murmur as I kneel beside her. “You are my priest. You are my prayer. You are my release.”


If you’re on the fence about picking it up, you still should consider. There are lovely resurfacing characters, women that doesn’t need protecting, tight knit friendship and family dynamics. It’s basically my wet dream.

Without doubt, A Torch Against the Night is a revelation and revolution. Given the political climate right now, this story is more relevant than ever.

Review also posted at Amazon and Hollywood News Source.
Profile Image for Mikee (ReadWithMikee).
203 reviews1,273 followers
February 9, 2017


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❝You are a torch against the night — if you dare to let yourself burn.❞

I'm a little undecided on how I feel about A Torch Against the Night. I really liked it but at the same time I wasn't blown away by it...? I guess to put it simply, it was good but nowhere near as good as An Ember in the Ashes. Or maybe I was just expecting too much. I'm not too sure.

I loved some parts and some of the things I wanted to happen DID happen but other parts left me a little bored and unsatisfied. When I saw that Helene would be getting her own POV, I was ecstatic! I mean what more could I really ask for? But to be honest, I was probably bored with Helene's chapters the most. I found myself... not really caring and sped read through her POVs throughout the whole book. It's like I was interested in what was happening with her storyline and with the Empire but I didn't want to hear this story yet. I kept wanting to go back to Elias and Laia's chapters because that was the story I wanted to keep reading about. I've been waiting for Darin to be rescued since Ember and after that cliffhanger, I just wanted to get a move on! I loved Helene in Ember and I love her even more now as her character continues to evolve. I know many readers will enjoy Helene's POVs but personally, I just wanted to get back to Darin's rescue mission.

As for Elias and the Soul Catcher, I was a little hesitant at first going into that storyline because I wasn't really sure how it fits into the big picture but I slowly began to grew accustomed to it. I was really intrigued by the magic and how it all worked, and I really can't wait to learn about it in the next book.

I really enjoyed Laia's development in this book. She's definitely not the same girl we first met in the beginning of Ember! And I was never a huge fan of her and Keenan, and I still wasn't in Torch but I LOVED the storyline between them in general. Well, actually I just love Keenan as a character. And KEENAN. Oh man. I love him but I hate him. I feel bad but I'm like BOY YOU DESERVE IT. That is all I'm going to say.

In terms of the romance in this book, I'm 100 percent on the Elias/Laia ship since before I even picked up the first book. I've been wanting them to happen and I suppose they do. Kinda. Not quite there yet. So... that left me feeling a little unsatisfied lol. The tension has always been there and as much as I hate instalove, this slow-burn romance is KILLING ME. Lord have mercy on my poor soul because I can't handle another book without my ship officially happening.

OKAY. This book was far from perfect but I had one specific issue that left me absolutely fuming. This issue alone would've been enough to dock off a whole star because it's honestly so upsetting...

Overall, I liked Torch but I didn't love it. The pacing was a little slow in a lot of parts and I didn't really enjoy Helene's chapters as much as I hoped to, but this was still a fairly good follow up to An Ember in the Ashes. I was expecting a little more from this book because the story I was actually hoping to read happens on the very last page but I guess that just means that the next book will be even better. Hopefully!
Profile Image for Beth.
657 reviews567 followers
June 8, 2022
Spoiler Free Review.... I've now added to this review and it's only at the very end there will be spoilers (which is marked in capitals and in bold, so here is your warning)

ALL OF THE STARS!

”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 fell anything?

Buddy Read with these lovely ladies!
Fathima
Tânia
We were not ready!

Where to even begin with this review… After reading An Ember in the Ashes, I was so excited to get my hands on this. I can now safely say I was not disappointed in the slightest! This book continues exactly where the first one left off and it was done so beautifully, even within the first few chapters my heart was nearly bursting from my chest at the suspense and worry for all of the characters! We got so much more information in this book that I was NOT ready for! I mean the twists and the turns had me screaming at my book like OH MY GOD! I honestly had to put the book down and just sit there and then message Fathima and Tania being like Can you believe it!

We get so many new and intriguing characters brought into this book, not only that but we get the point of view from Helene. Initially in the first book, I wasn’t Helene’s biggest fan, but I liked her so much more in this book and the fact that we can see her thought process makes things so much better! The character progression in this book was done BEAUTIFULLY, we seem the grow and become stronger. Though mistakes are made we see how they learn from them. I think what was so well done, was Elias’s realising of what he should and should not take on as his own. I seriously have all of the heart eyes for Elias I’m not going to beat around the bush here!

Characters

”I know what is to do things that you don’t want to for the greater good."

Laia develops SO much in this book. When we first see her in AEITA, we see a scared girl who seems to be dependent on others. This time around she really comes into her own and leads others on what to do. We see things begin to emerge and let me tell you now I want MORE! I need these answer! Although things don’t always go to plan, we see how she deals with these things and overall it makes her stronger.

"You always think everyone is your responsibility… We;re our own people, and we deserve to make our own decisions.”

Oh lord. Elias, why am I having heart eyes so much right now? His relationship with The Soul Catcher was so intriguing, and his time at The Waiting Place. It was a really interesting concept and how he figures certain things out. His time there and with certain people nearly ripped my heart into pieces. His relationship with Maime was just ADORABLE, and the fact he took no shit from Afya when collecting, I was like YOU TELL EM’!

Loyal to the end.

We FINALLY got Helene chapters! (hoorahhhh!), I absolutely love strong female characters and Helene is everything! I loved how she figured how to handle certain situations and when it comes to disrespect she has none of it! I liked her friendship with Harper, and even though she is Blood Shrike she listens to the people who know best. I am SO intrigued to find out what is to come of her!

For the longest time Keenan was on my radar, he really really wound me up, (not to mention he was messing with my ship!) the reason why he annoyed me so much was that he seemed to undermine everything that Laia would do, and I was having none of that!

What I liked?
- That mother-fucking twist… BAM, BAM, BAMMMMM!
- I have the biggest soft spot EVER for Tas, like come on, how could I not?! THEN we have Elias consoling him, it was too sweet!
- I know I just mentioned Tas, but when he slapped Elias and was like You named me, I want to hear my name on other peoples lips I was SCREAMING
- Maime! Her speech was riveting and I got goosebumps e’rywhereeeee
- I am a sucker for evil type characters, we have so many in this: Marcus, The Commandant, The Nightbringer and The Warden we have such a sense of Good vs Evil and I love it
- I need more cook!
- ALL OF THE HEARTBREAK!
- Afya, I need you in my life more pleaseeeee
- Izzi literally doesn’t miss a thing!

What didn’t I like?
- The only thing that put me off with this was the pacing of the book, at times it felt slightly scattered, things seem to move very very quickly but not always making sense.

Overall, I can truly say this is becoming a much loved series of mine, I’m enjoying all aspects and the characters are so well done, I need more and I’m really really looking forward to reading A Reaper at the Gates. It's a good job I pre-ordered on Amazon. However I have different dates coming up so if someone wants to let me know when it will officially be released I will love you forever!

"Failure doesn’t define you. It’s what you do after you fail that determines whether you are a leader or a waste of perfectly good air.”

---------

After thought ramble...

THIS. I love this so much. This is slowly becoming a well loved series, like one of my favourites...
I have so many questions, I need to know things!

What an absolute rollercoaster of a ride, I was up and down and up again, all of the curveballs, the DECEIT!
I NEED MORE!

Is my ship sailing?!
Who's in the next book?!
What is going to happen?!
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SPOILERS AHEAD

19.10.2019
I still love this series, love all of my favourite characters, but I have so much I want to say. My main thing/person I want to talk about is Keenan. During my re-read I noticed so many little things leading up to the big reveal, and I'm honestly stunned that I didn't even realise. The manipulation used throughout was SO subtle and each time I noticed it I'd be screaming into my book.

I'm just going to point out I still absolutely love the majority of the characters and each re-read fills me with so much love. Going into this I had a lot of knowledge of what happens in Reaper At The Gates, and there are so many subtle hints of what's to come.

07.07.2020

1. I still love Elias
2. My girl Hel goes through SO much shit, and just thinking about my re-read of Reaper I’m already dreading so much
3. Laia... WHYYYYYYYY U DO DIS
4. I hate Keenan, The Commandant, Marcus...
5. I love Harper.

———

25.11.2020

Honestly I just want everyone to be happy, and I just live in dread

Elias Veturius, you are a complete and utter babe.

————

03.06.2021

This book is the start of all of the heartbreak, literally it’s never needing heartbreak and those last few chapters are just something else.

It’s absolutely insane how far the characters have progressed from Ember until Torch and then going forward what’s to come.

I think there are so many moments in this that are just so cleverly done, and I think the relationships in this are just *chef kiss* I think because if the characters it just makes me love the series more and all of the different groups that seem to form... I’m looking at you Hel and Cook! Forever a favourite series!

07.06.22

Honestly I’ve read this series so many times and I always notice something new each time.

Just the unraveling of it all and all of the twists. I just looooooove this series 😊

An Ember in the Ashes - 5 Stars
A Torch Against the Night - 5 Stars
A Reaper at the Gates - 5 Stars
A Sky Beyond The Storm - 5 Stars

A Thief Among The Trees - 5 Stars
Profile Image for Nazeefa.
238 reviews52 followers
September 9, 2016
OH MY GOD.
Did I ever think Sabaa Tahir would let me down? Because if any part of me did, swiftly punch it to non-existence. Thanks.

I'm literally on the floor crying yet my heart feels so full.

An Ember in The Ashes lingered on suspense and brutality. The stakes have been high since the beginning. A Torch Against the Night is even more brutal, more heart racing and oh yeah, lots more deaths and twists that really had me worried for my heart.

The pacing is different to that of AEITA because there's no trials of course. You could consider this a travelling adventure with lots of show downs. There's no lack of heart palpitating scenes and even heart breaking ones. My favourite part of this book was the exploration of the Martials, the scholars, the tribes and the fantastical beings. The different facets of this world actually make you understand the Empire and it's importance.

I love Elias, Helena and Laia with all my heart. Each character has a different perspective, a different story to tell in this world. They're so much more than a romantic connection and that is clearly evident by the end of this book.
Laia really grows into a spark of hope in this sequel. Her emotions and character really touched me and I found myself rooting for her even more than I was before.
Helene, my one true love, my heart broke for her and she also broke mine a couple of times. Helene is the most complex character but not from a lack of understanding mind you. You understand her every motive and every emotion and that's how Sabaa Tahir weaves her tangled webs.
And finally, Elias. My heart ached for him since the beginning of this book and it's aching still. Make of that what you wish. I just love him with all my heart and I need a better fate for him plz Sabaa pleeeeeaaaaaseeeee.

I can't wait for the next book. I need it now.
-------------
Before reading
THANK YOU PENGUIN AND SABAA FOR THIS BLESSING.

Now the wait begins. ELIAS I WILL WAIT FOR YOU.
Profile Image for Kainat 《HUFFLEPUFF & PROUD》.
293 reviews718 followers
May 17, 2017
Full review to come. I might change my rating later. I need to process what i just read for a few days.

Another book with my favorite buddy reader: Hayley!!
Better get used to seeing her here. ;)



Profile Image for Ashley Nuckles.
190 reviews7,303 followers
June 6, 2018
I’m so glad I waited until right before the third books drops to read this because OH MY GOD. I’m dead. I can’t. I just—I ASPIRE TO WRITE STORIES AS GOOD AS THIS ONE. SABAA YOU ARE FOREVER MY INSPIRATION!
Profile Image for Warda.
1,088 reviews17.4k followers
July 24, 2018
Okay, as much as I am loving how fast paced these books are, I’m getting tired of the constant heart palpitations. I need proper character arcs, development, background, detail! Basically, more focus on the characters!

We’re in their head for 2 seconds, whilst they’re expressing their worries and insecurities, but I still can’t fully connect to them.

I loved the first half of the book. I was speeding through it, like you do with these books, but man, my heart isn’t connecting to the characters and the world as much as it would like.

Too much plot. Not enough of everything else.

Book3 better fix this shit up.
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