A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir is the sequel novel to An Ember in the Ashes by the same author, which is part of a young adult fantasy quartet series of the same name. The novel is an #OwnVoices fantasy novel that is woven with many subtle South Asian elements as a part of its world-building and fantastical qualities. The novel was originally published in 2016. I read the UK edition published by Harper Voyager (imprint of HarperCollins) that came out in 2017. You can check out my full review for the first novel here.
*Please Note: The synopsis for the book shall have spoilers for An Ember in the Ashes.
In A Torch Against the Night, Laia and Elias flee the Empire as the Scholar Revolution breaks out. Together they embark on a journey towards rescuing Laia’s brother from a terribly fortified prison. Meanwhile, Helene is left to pick up the pieces of Elias’ treasonous decisions, pieces that will test not only her loyalties, but that of her family’s, all whilst having to adjust to a new sadistic Emperor and the devious conspiracies stirred by the Commandant.
🕯️ The writing is effortless with pacing to match a storm–gradual as it becomes untamed, consuming you entirely, and chilling you to the bone.
🕯️ The storytelling itself was hit-and-miss in regards to the actual plot progression.
🕯️ The first half of the book is laced with conflicting emotions as the characters all struggle to get a handle on their romantic affiliations in the midst of calamity, which I found to be a bit off-putting.
🕯️ I didn’t care for the repetitive nature of particular descriptives used; i.e.: the words dark or golden would be used often to describe a person’s eyes, or an individual’s hair colour would be emphasised every single time. It was grating and unnecessary. I get it, Laia has gorgeous eyes with a deep stare. I don’t need to read about it each time she makes an appearance.
🕯️ The relationships in the book were also a bit disappointing, as most boy-girl bonds have some sort of romantic connection. It would have been really nice to see some platonic, friendship based bonds.
🕯️ The love square thing was irritating, however upon reaching a pivotal point in the novel I understand its importance. But this makes me realise the overall execution (i.e.: how it was developed) of it could’ve been much better.
🕯️ The second half of the book uncovers actual, serious political intrigue that ends up becoming the best damn part out of everything else going on, however the shift from almost no political intrigue to full-on political intrigue was rather abrupt.
🕯️ The government conspiracies are calculated, unpredictable, and fierce with a tenor of malevolence that makes it unbelievably stupefying.
🕯️ Towards the end of the book, I found myself bored and uninterested in Laia’s and Elias’ plight (dragged on too much), but hungrily focused on the fate of the Empire, specifically where Helene is concerned.
🕯️ Helene has the best goddamn character development; I’m undeniably hooked to her story. (Not bad considering how much I’ve hated her since the first book).
🕯️ The fantasy qualities that were severely lacking in book one, are more fleshed out in book two, however the overall world-building is still rather vague and lacklustre.
🕯️ All in all, the twists and turns in this sequel were fantastic; I love being surprised where allegiances and political warfare are concerned.
🕯️ If you enjoyed the first book, then I recommend the sequel as there are some vast improvements.
🕯️ 3.75 betrayals outta 5!