Book Review: A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

Last year, Sabaa Tahir’s debut novel, An Ember in the Ashes, took the book world by storm. Today, the highly-anticipated sequel, A Torch Against the Night, is released into the world:

25558608After 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.

A Torch Against the Night picks up right where Ember leaves off. Elias and Laia are on the run from the Emperor, the Commandant, the Blood Shrike (Helene), and the Martial soldiers. The reader is thrown right back into the heart-racing, pulse-raising action as they travel through underground tunnels and across dangerous territory. Laia is unwaveringly set on her plan to into the Empire’s highest-security prison to rescue her brother Darin. Elias keeps his promise to Laia, and together they begin the treacherous journey to reach Kauf.

It’s not just the landscape that poses a challenge. Elias has an unfortunate encounter with the Commandant and the results of that meeting carry grievous consequences. Laia has to learn to trust herself and her abilities as Elias is unable to take the lead. This is a challenge for Laia but it helps her grow in both abilities and confidence. Sabaa Tahir really challenges Laia on every level: physically, emotionally, psychologically. But although she has some difficulties along the way, she begins to really grow into and becomes the strong heroine the Empire needs.

A Torch Against the Night is the first time we get to see some of the story from Helene’s point-of-view. As Blood Shrike, she is ordered by the Emperor to track down Elias and to kill him. Helene doesn’t want to have to do anything that will hurt Elias, but she follows orders and crosses paths with Elias and Laia more than once on their journey. Helene’s POV is an essential addition to the story. We already know that Helene is an incredibly strong character and an obedient soldier, but seeing part of the story from her side makes her human and relatable.

New characters are introduced that really shape and influence the direction of Laia’s story. A Torch Against the Night dives into Elias’s link to the Tribes, as well as the history of the Empire. We also get to learn a little bit more about the magical elements that are lingering just below the surface.

Overall, A Torch Against the Night is an action-packed sequel that will keep you on your toes and invested the entire time. Sabaa Tahir solves just enough problems to leave you satisfied, but introduces new burning questions that will have you clamoring for more.

Rating: 9/10

Lauren is a 20-year-old student living in Northern Virginia. She loves to read YA books and watch movies. Lauren is passionate about many things, but reading has always been a huge part of her life. Ever since she first learned to read, her parents have always had to pry books out of her hands when it’s time for other commitments. Lauren loves everything from The Hunger Games and Divergent, to Percy Jackson, mysteries like State of the Onion, and other YA books, like The Fault in Our Stars, and is always eager to try a new book, author, or series. She also loves music, public health, Harry Potter, and the Washington Capitals. Follow her on Twitter: @LWengrovitz.