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.
A Torch Against The Night follows Elias and Laia on their journey to free Laia’s brother Darin from Kauf prison, as well as Helene’s hunt for them.
Like An Ember in the Ashes it’s a fairly straightforward fantasy narrative. The plot twists didn’t exactly surprise me, if they weren’t obvious I saw them coming thanks to the plot, which made them really obvious to me, which makes for an easy read, if not one that has me on the edge of my seat because I really have no idea what’s next and I want to find out.
I feel like at least some of Tahir’s characters suffer from a lack of depth. Marcus is probably one of the best examples for that. While there’s a moment or two where Helene suspects he might have some sort of emotion because of the death of his brother, he is mostly just shown to be completely evil, almost a complete monster. There’s nothing really complicated about him, nothing that makes him human, and I’m just not really into that.
I’m also not exactly fond of the relationship between Laia and Keenan. First of all, I’m a little fed up with love triangles, but most of all, I just don’t think a relationship with a guy who makes his partner feel weaker than they are and actually makes them feel guilty about the choices they made is anywhere near healthy. I had serious alarm bells ringing in my head for that part. And regardless of any theories Laia has by the end of the book, I honest to god hope that Tahir won’t go down that path ever again. It would take some serious character development on Keenan’s part, and even then I don’t think it would be truly healthy.
Something I still remembered fondly from the first book and that didn’t disappoint me this time either is the world building. It’s still interesting and I really like the Roman focus, as opposed to the medieval-style worlds we usually get. I also really liked how magic seems to be seeping into the narrative and the world without taking over, it’s a great touch, and a great way to bring magical elements into the story. The only thing that was a little disappointing was that I thought that the Tribes felt as little underdeveloped. It seems like Tahir has great ideas for them, but there was just never enough detail to satisfy me. It was a bit sad, because I really like the Tribes (or maybe that’s the problem).
Another massive annoyance was that the UK edition didn’t have a map. Maybe it’s just my personal obsession with maps and geography, but it really annoyed me. Especially since there was a map in the first book, so what was so hard about including it in the second book as well?
Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 Stars)
Publication Date: 8 September 2016
Page Count: 454
Genre: YA, Fantasy