A Torch Against the Night
by Sabaa Tahir
read in January 2018
might contains spoilers for An Ember in the Ashes
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.
The year has just started, yet I think I’ve already found one of my most disappointing reads of 2018. I absolutely loved An Ember in the Ashes, but I don’t think I’ll continue this series.
Don’t get me wrong: A Torch Against the Night wasn’t a bad book, but I really struggled reading it. I started it back in March 2017, made multiple attempts to finish it and even considered DNF’ing it.
Even though I didn’t like the audiobook’s narration, I ultimately decided to read it by listening to the audiobook, otherwise, I don’t think I ever would have finished this.
I love Laia, but I detested the way she was narrated. I don’t know whether it’s because of the audiobook or the writing, but something seemed disjointed: the conversations and the transition between different scenes was awkward.
While reading Labyrinth Lost, another young adult fantasy, I realised I don’t tend to enjoy books where characters have to travel from point A to point B. It’s tedious because you know that they’ll most likely reach their destination. That’s why A Torch Against the Night seemed to drag.
At the same time though, the plot was all over the place. There was too much going on. I didn’t think Helene’s point-of-view was necessary.
In An Ember in the Ashes, the love “square” didn’t bother me. In this instalment, however, I just wanted Keenan to go away already! As if he could stand a chance against Elias!
While I applauded the way Tahir wrote the Commandant in the first book, I wasn’t a fan of the villains in the sequel. The Nightbringer was a boring character, and it was a lot of ‘tell instead of show’. The Warden on the other hand just seemed evil for the sake of being evil. I absolutely dislike characters who are cruel for no reason, it’s lazy writing in my opinion.
Content and trigger warning for anti-fat remarks, ableist language, PTSD, panic attacks, slavery, imprisonment, death, descriptions of dying, sex, sexism, seizures, murder
Clearly, I didn’t enjoy much about A Torch Against the Night. It saddens me to say this because I loved An Ember in the Ashes, but I won’t be continuing this series. I’d actually like to find out how the story continues, but since I struggled so much reading the sequel, I don’t think the third instalment is going to be any different.
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