A Torch Against the Night Book Cover
A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir
August 2016
An Ember in the Ashes series (2/4)
After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt Elias and Laia as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire. Laia is determined to break into the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison to save her brother while Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom. 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.
Adapted from : GoodReads

During the school week, I drive a fair amount: about an hour and a half a day on average. And what I realized is that while I love busting out to a Bastille tune, I was losing a lot of potentially productive time. So I thought about it and decided to look into Audible, Amazon’s audiobook platform. I’m planning on talking more about my experience with Audible in a later post, but for now I’ll simply say that it’s pretty great. Mind you, I might be biased seeing as it led me to the amazing performance of An Ember in the Ashes and A Torch Against the Night.

One of my goals for 2017 has been to read more diversely and responsibly. Now, I know some people have spoken out about how this shouldn’t be a goal, and we should just do this, and I see where they are coming from. That being said, I think that by consciously picking books, I’m making sure that I’m supporting diverse and own voices representation that I otherwise might not read simply for lack of exposure. I might stumble across these books by accident, but I much prefer the idea of seeking them out with purpose.

That was one of the reasons that I picked An Ember in the Ashes to start off my audio book experience. I wanted to pick a book that was written by a POC and also get the most out my credit (because Audible gives you a credit for any book each month, and An Ember in the Ashes was one of the most expensive of the choices I narrowed it down to, so I figured I would get the most out of the credit this way, and could buy the cheaper audiobooks myself #ReadingOnABudget).

Now let me tell you how wonderful a decision this was.

“You are an ember in the ashes.”

Be still my shipper heart

“You will spark and burn, ravage and destroy. You cannot change it. You cannot stop it”

I first read An Ember in the Ashes and then moved on to A Torch Against the Night (logically), and originally was going to review both separately, but ultimately decided to talk about them together. It’s one thing to review part one in a series when you haven’t read the sequel(s), but now that I have, I find it hard to talk about one without the other.

Let’s start with what I loved:

Character diversity

Refreshingly, not every character in this book is white. In fact, I would even argue that few characters are white (It’s clear that Helene is, but I can’t think of anyone else off the top of my head) and that’s a pretty awesome thing to see. There are enough books out there that have white representation, it’s time that we see more non-white representation in publishing.

Sadly however, when I looked into fan art (because when I fall for a series, I fall hard) I noticed that a lot of it whitewashes the characters. This bothered me a lot and if I had any art skills whatsoever, I’d help rectify that. So consider this a call to arms for any artists who love this series!

Excellent characters

Izzy: I really love Izzy. She’s strong willed, kind, hopeful but (SPOILER) her ending broke me.

Elias: He is a sweetheart who needs to be protected at all costs.

The Commandant: Despite the fact that she’s despicable, she’s a very well written villain.

Helene: I’m sort of on the fence about Helene. She bothers me for moral reasons (SPOILER-ish?) I get that a lot of it is learned, so I shouldn’t 100% blame her, but it bothers me all the same., but she is a kick ass woman and for that, I appreciate her. Also, she’s dealt with a lot of crap and is remaining strong through it all ; her inner strength is amazing.

Laia: She’s a good hero, and though her single-minded determination is commendable, I found myself thinking that she needed to relax a little. Then again, (SPOILER) the first time she does, she oopsies with Keenan so maybe not…

The Romance

The romance in this series is faaaaantastic. There are a couple little pairings [I was so anti Keenan and Laia throughout and though I feel bad that (SPOILER) she has to live with the fact that she slept with The Nightbringer, it makes me feel a better about disliking the ship so much. Not that she slept with him but that Keenan was The Nightbringer all along].

Then there is Elias and Helene which makes sense, but lacks the firey burn that Laia and Elias have. Laia/Elias is swoonworthy.

Be still my shipper heart

The story

Between the way the scholars are treated and The Commandant’s master plan, this story [especially Torch] gave me major WWII vibes. It is pretty heart wrenching and at times, I felt sick to my stomach reading about what was happening. With the current political climate, I think we need to be thinking about our history to make sure it isn’t repeated.

The Ending

I get the sense that Sabaa Tahir wasn’t sure if she’d get to write book 3 [and now 4], because she leaves Torch on a very comfortable note. If that were the end of the series, I’d be pretty content ending it there. Sure there are loose ends, but none feel urgent.

What I didn’t like

Torch seemed to drag on a tiny bit. It felt like we had 2 or 3 narrative arcs going on at once. By the end, I was quite exhausted. That being said, I loved all that happened, so maybe I should have simply broken down my reading sessions a little more.

Not much else. Truly. Sabaa Tahir is masterful at what she does.

So what are you waiting for?

Go buy this book. Read it. Share it. And then cry because book 3 isn’t slated to come out until 2018.