A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir is Book 2 in the Ember in the Ashes series. There are a total of four books and the series is complete.
I began A Torch Against the Night immediately after finishing An Ember in the Ashes. I enjoyed the first book so much that I had high expectations for Book 2, especially considering how Book 1 left off.
For the most part, Torch met those expectations. But there was a significant lull in the middle of the book that had me trudging along rather than thirsty for more.
Let’s jump straight into the review.
A Torch Against the Night Review
A Torch Against the Night reminds me of Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets. No, not in its contents, because the books are not even remotely similar, but in how I feel about it.
The first Harry Potter book is fantastic and one of my favorites in the entire series. Chamber of Secrets, coming right off one of my favorite books simply failed to capture my imagination the way that the Sorcerer’s Stone did.
And I find the same to be true here.
The only character I particularly enjoyed was, you guessed it, Helene again. Elias was moderately interesting, and I find myself not liking Laia’s perspective yet again.
A Torch Against the Night Summary
A Torch Against the Night picks up right where An Ember in the Ashes left off, with perhaps a 15-30 minute delay. Maybe not even that long.
Laia and Elias are on the run, trying to escape the Commandant’s clutches. Serra is in turmoil since the Blackcliff Masks are using the rebellion as an excuse to kill every last Scholar alive and the streets run red with blood.
The Commandant catches our heroes in their mad dash to get out of the city, but she lets them go. Why she lets them go is a big mystery that is explored for a good portion of the book, and the “how” it all is a major tension point.
Helene’s job in Torch is to chase down Elias and Laia, but she’s assigned one of the Commandant’s spies as a required tag along. She knows the individual is a spy, and she treats the individual with open contempt, which I just love.
There are some pretty high stakes in this book, but they’re off page stakes. What I mean is that we don’t feel very present in this situation, though it’s talked about a lot.
We begin Torch knowing that Laia’s laser focus is on getting Darin out of Kauf prison. So as soon as our heroes are free of Serra, that’s their heading. They have to make a lot of side treks along the way to throw off the Emperor’s pursuers, namely Helene.
These little detours can be rather tedious and boring, which is why the middle of the big lagged a bit for me.
On top of that, Laia’s absolute lack of interest in doing anything but rescuing Darin, despite the world around her falling apart, makes her seem self-centered and whiny to me.
However, there is a strategic purpose in releasing him as well, which is to save the knowledge of how to craft Serric Steel and Teluman weapons. That’s not at all what drives Laia. That’s what drives Elias. Which makes his plan far more level-headed than hers.
Of course we know from Ember that Helene is one of the good guys. But the Augers told her to remain faithful to the empire if she wants Elias to live. So, unfortunately, she can’t just turn tail and join Elias and crew.
Marcus and the Commandant have no shortage of devious plans against Helene because they both want her out of the picture, but can’t do so through means of assassination.
I won’t go into any further details about this, but know that Helene has little choice but to comply with their demands, yet she still finds ways to be compassionate toward Elias and crew.
Notice how I call them Elias and crew, instead of Laia and crew, because I much prefer Elias to Laia.
The Big Twist
There’s a huge twist in A Torch Against the Night that makes up for the lack of happenings earlier in the book.
I had my suspicions earlier on, and while the foggiest idea of my suspicion was true, the full details of the matter will rock your socks off.
So hang in there, the last 25% of the book really starts to answer a ton of questions, and once you reach that point in the story, it’ll fly by and Torch will be over before you know it.
The good news is you still have 2 books to go!
While I wholeheartedly loved An Ember in the Ashes, A Torch Against the Night can’t hold a candle to Book 1. It’s still a great story, and I’m happy to give it high marks.
Reaper at the Gates is waiting in the winds to be read, but I’ve got some other obligations that need to be finished first. Thankfully, Torch doesn’t have a super huge cliffhanger, so it’s easy to hold off on Book 3 for a few weeks.
Looking for more great books?
Check out my review of Dark Skies by Danielle L. Jensen.