Book: A Torch Against the Night
Author: Sabaa Tahir
My Rating: 3.5/5
Summary: (from Goodreads)
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.
3.5/5 stars for A Torch Against the Night. I’ll be honest, I do truly enjoy this story and I read it quickly, but for some reason it seems to fall flat for me. It’s fun to read and I certainly don’t dislike it, but I’m just not that impressed. Here’s why: (mild spoilers below)
WHAT I LOVED:
- Helene. While I didn’t love her chapters as much as I thought I would, I did appreciate the insight! In book one, Helene was one of my favorite characters. I didn’t love her as much in this one – mainly because the storyline depicted her as weak and incapable, which just doesn’t fit with how she was developed in book one to me – but I’m hoping she’ll continue to grow and develop in the next book.
- The evilness! Same as in book one, Tahir pulls no punches. The Warden and the prison are pure evil, and the Commandant doesn’t disappoint either (although I was disappointed we didn’t learn much more about her, but it seems to be set up for more info in book 3!).
- Elias. While I didn’t love him in the first book, I genuinely enjoyed his chapters in this one. He is much less angsty, although this may be because he’s passed out in the Waiting Place for half the book, but I’ll take it. I was really rooting for him, and Tahir did a great job at really letting his empathy and selfless character shine in this book.
WHAT I DIDN’T:
- THE LOVE TRIANGLE. WHY IS THIS BACK. Keenan, I thought we got rid of you, and unfortunately I was wrong. I am just not a big fan of love triangles that are presented in this way: where the girl seems to just be in love with whichever one she’s with at the time. Grow a pair, Laia! Make a choice! The bouncing back and forth is just annoying to me. Also, the foreshadowing about Keenan was so heavy-handed that even though I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen, I didn’t trust him from the get-go. Don’t make a character look suspicious and shady and then try to swing the love triangle in his direction!
- The magic. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good fantasy storyline just like everyone else who picked up this book. But… it’s so nonchalant in a world where everyone doesn’t really believe in these creatures or magic anymore. WHY IS NO ONE SURPRISED THAT LAIA CAN DISAPPEAR? Even Laia herself is just like, eh. cool. I’m gonna master this myself and then use it to blow up a high security prison. THE PLOT HOLES ARE ENORMOUS. And this nonchalance, lack of set-up and explanation for the fantasy element is carried through to Helene and Cook as well. Speaking of Cook: WHO IS THIS CHICK? She just pops up everywhere with no explanation and again, no one seems surprised. This feels like lazy plot set-up to me.
After the first book I expected to like this one more, but I was misled. I do want to continue with the series, but I’m going to try to not get my hopes up for a large improvement.