My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publication Date: August 30th, 2016
Point of View: 1st Person & Alternative
Recommended Age: 13+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Magic, War
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.
This is Helene’s book.
Well not quite, but she plays such a grander role than she did in the first book. In fact, she annoyed me to no end in the latter, but in this sequel we learn more about her and are shown different facets of her personality.
The fact that her family is in danger is not a positive thing, but somehow it made Helene look more humane to my eyes. She isn’t the rigid, rule-abider soldier I saw her as before being witness to her softer, vulnerable side anymore.
There’s much running around in this. It’s no wonder we see Laia and Elias running for their lives on the cover. It’s a lot of moving around, falling into traps and then getting out of them. Elias and Laia want to free Darin from prison, so most of the story centers on them trying to reach the prison.
But then there’s Helene who is assigned to capture Elias alive. You may think, lucky her, she finally has the status she most likely dreamed of all her life and hundreds of soldiers ready to follow her anywhere, but it’s not so easy. She does, after all, as we know, love Elias. Or not?
Sabaa Tahir writes so, so well. If any other author had written this book, chances are I would have given up on it after the first couple of chapters, because it’s very, very slow and filled with dialog that could easily have been cut or exchanged for some action scenes. But because Sabaa Tahir wrote this, I had no choice but to finish it.
This series is not one that doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s not silly or unfathomable. The way Sabaa Tahir writes makes everything seem probable, like these characters could truly be alive in an alternative, magical universe. At first, I was befuddled by the inclusion of magical abilities, because it’s not as if the world-building needs them, but they sure come in handy and I’m eager to see how they will develop within the characters.
I sure do wish it were faster paced, but otherwise, A TORCH AGAINST THE NIGHT is flawlessly-written and extremely intricate.
PS. Was anyone else reminded of the video game ‘‘Rise of the Tomb Raider’’ featuring the unique Lara Croft when they read this?
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