Sabaa Tahir: A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes #2)

Title: A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes #2)
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Genre: Fantasy, 21st Century Young Adult Literature
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: August 30, 2016
Source: Local Library
Format: Hardcover; 978-1-10199-887-8; $19.95
Pages: 452
Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Summary: 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. (via Goodreads)

Review: I read this quite awhile back, but forgot to finish and submit this review. I’ve been charging on reading other books. I guess that’s a good thing–a sign that my TBR is full of good books!

So….Just when I thought Tahir’s series couldn’t get any better after finishing An Ember in the Ashes, it absolutely does in this second installment with A Torch Against the Night. This book ramped up the action and tension of the first novel, with a plot that drives on in an intense flight for freedom, survival, and justice.

This volume does an excellent job of establishing and developing the world in which our characters live. Where the first book takes place almost solely within a military base–a singular setting–this one takes us on an adventure through multiple lands, introduces us to diverse cultures, customs, and people. Tahir is gifted in painting a living and vibrant world that pulses off the page. I was fully immersed to this book from beginning to end, to the point that I forgot everything around me while reading it. Tahir’s writing style is superior, detailed, emotional, and vividly colorful, making this a lyrical, flowing, and addictive narrative. One of my favorite settings that showcased Tahir’s writing and set-building were the moments in the desert as our cast travels to free Laia’s brother. I never thought a dry, hot, and dusty setting could be so life-like and interesting. I felt like I was there. The realism that I liked with the previous novel carries over and is even better-developed here in the second.

Another favorite element of mine in ATATN was the growing connection between Laia and Elias. We see two very different people, from two completely separate cultures (who hate each other) come together over common goals. They grow to depend on each other, to love each other, and to be each other’s strength and salvation. They come from completely different classes and backgrounds, but they overcome these and other prejudices to be a powerful force. Too, Helene finally gets her own chapters, which allows her to grow. We get to see her struggles with her place in the Empire and with Elias, wanting to do right by those she loves, but also wanting to do her duty. She adds a strong female voice to this book, and she’s one of my favorite characters. Overall, again, Tahir seamlessly weaves perspectives, characters, and narratives, but they connect together like silk.

This book was a heart-stopper, an addiction, and is one of my all-time favorite fantasy series. I cannot wait for book three. I’m already going through withdrawals.

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