Perhaps grief is like battle: After experiencing enough of it, your body’s instincts take over. When you see it closing in like a Martial death squad, you harden your insides. You prepare for the agony of a shredded heart. And when it hits, it hurts, but not as badly, because you have locked away your weakness, and all that’s left is anger and strength.
Title: A Torch Against the Night
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Series: An Ember in the Ashes # 2
Publication: August 30th 2016 by Razorbill
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.
Last year, An Ember in the Ashes quickly became one of my favorite books and a new favorite series. It was brilliant, brutal, and breathtaking. Fast forward a year, an extremely painful year of anxiously waiting for the second installment, and here we are. A Torch Against the Night far exceeded my expectations. It ripped my heart out until there was nothing left. It made the events of An Ember in the Ashes look like child’s play. A Torch Against the Night throws us headfirst into the reality of war, grief, horrific politics, and most importantly of all, hope.
So long as you fight the darkness, you stand in the light.
Reading A Torch Against the Night can only be described as willfully inflicted torture. You just know it’s not going to end well. There is an increasing sense of hopelessness and dread that looms over you as you flip through the pages. You just know…. and you wait. Each time something happens, you think: this is it. Shit’s hit the fan and my heart can’t possibly take any more. Then it gets worse, then better, and then infinity worse. One of the most beautiful things about A Torch Against the Night is it’s delicate balance between complete and utter destruction and the little spark of hope everyone clings to. Sabaa Tahir has choreographed a graceful dance flirting with everything that can possibly unmake you and the inspiring notion of fighting for what you believe in and love.
Failure doesn’t define you. It’s what you do after you fail that determines whether you are a leader or a waste of perfectly good air.
I’m not going to lie. This book is not easy to read. There were a multitude of moments where I had to put it down and walk away so I could mentally prepare myself for whatever was coming my way next. It was hard, but it was so, so worth it. If you thought the Commandant was awful, just wait until you sink your claws into this beautiful masterpiece. The villains have come out to play. Yes, villains, plural. There is so much at stake for Laia, Elias, and Helene. So much. Each has their own villain, their own path they must travel – and it’s heartbreaking. I honestly cannot decide who I hate the most: The Commandant, Marcus, The Warden, or the Nightbringer. I have my reasons for hating them all, BUT I CAN’T PICK THE WORST ONE. It will make sense when you read it, to be honest. It’s like trying to pick the lesser of the evils, like picking between Voldemort, President Snow, Dolores Umbridge, etc. These have to be some of the most terrifying antagonists I have ever encountered, and the story is far from over.
True suffering lies in the expectation of pain as much as in the pain itself.
Part of the reason these books are so wonderful is the fact that everyone is so real. The villains have motives, multiple facets to their character, and an abundance of innovative ways to make the reader and our heroes suffer. Laia, Elias, and Helene are masterpieces handcrafted from hours of hard work, dedication, and research. They hope, love, fear, grieve, and fight. There is a small piece inside every single character that inexplicably ties them to their fate in the book and to you. You hope with them, you fear with them, you love who they love and hate who they hate. Nothing in A Torch Against the Night is straight forward. There are so many different levels and sub-levels to the characters, the plot, and the little details. Everything has a purpose in the grand scheme of things – and when that purpose comes to light, surviving the aftermath becomes just as much a part of the story as the story itself.
If your sins were blood, child, you would drown in a river of your own making.
A Torch Against the Night is one hell of an adventure. We see new places, meet new characters, encounter unfathomable creatures and scenarios. It is a thrill ride of pain, longing, and the desire to set things right. You will question everything you think you know, for you will never see what’s coming until it is too late. You will cry, scream, and laugh. You will want to cling to everything you hold dear for fear the horrors within the book will come to life and rip them away. A Torch Against the Night, and its predecessor, are the epitome of what books ought to be.
It takes only a split second for life to go horribly wrong. To fix the mess, I need a thousand things to go right. The distance from one bit of luck to the next feels as great as the distance across oceans. But, I decide in this moment, I will bridge that distance, again and again, until I win. I will not fail.