WELL. LOVELY READERS. I’ve been talking about this book for a while now. I’ve been super, super, super excited for it. I’ve been so excited for it that I was a little nervous I would be let down by my own expectations.
I was not let down. Sabaa Tahir managed to make the sequel into An Ember in the Ashes just as powerful and captivating as the original. Torch perfectly continued Ember’s storyline while expanding itself to other stories and the bigger picture. I was amazed.
However, if you haven’t read the book yet (and that’s totally possible.. since it only came out two days ago…) don’t read my review! Bookmark it for later. I couldn’t think of how to do this review without adding MAJOR, MAJOR spoilers.
REVIEW: A Torch Against The Night, Sabaa Tahir
Plot: Laia has saved Elias from execution and now they’re on the run from… well, everyone. Can they escape Serra and make it to Kauf Prison to save Laia’s brother, Darin, before it’s too late?
Most Memorable Line(s): “‘You are my temple,’I murmur as I kneel beside her. ‘You are my priest. You are my prayer. You are my release.’ Grandfather would scowl at me for sullying his beloved mantra so. But I prefer it this way.”
-You guys know I’m a hopeless romantic already. But reading this passage, that Elias says to a sleeping Laia, literally almost made me cry. Their relationship, and how it grows and how both of them question but want, is one of my favorite aspects of this series.
What I liked: Um, everything. No, seriously. I loved this book. I loved this book SO much. It was agonizing to read at some parts, but that’s how you know a book is really good, right? When it stomps mercilessly on your heart? But really, this book was phenomenal. Tahir is incredibly talented, and her ability to create a larger story while still sticking to the first book’s narrow focus – saving Darin – was impressive and, for me, so appreciated. So to make sure I really get in all of my thoughts, I’m going to split up what I loved by character:
Helene: Part of Tahir’s success of creating a larger story was done by adding Helene’s POV. Now, I’ll admit outright that I don’t seem to love Helene as much as other people do, but I thought her POV was a pretty fantastic addition for this story. Being able to see the beginning of Emperor Marcus’ reign, as well as the backlash to it, through Helene’s eyes was interesting and informative. I also loved how Helene’s faith was tested. I loved watching her struggle – because in Ember, it seemed as if she didn’t struggle, as though at times she was emotionless. Seeing her rankle in her head about decisions and why she’s making those decisions was such a wonderful glimpse into this character. Her faith in the Augurs and in the Empire is one of the most fascinating aspects of her character, so it was great to see it explored.
Laia: I loved Laia’s continued growth in this book! I also love that she was at her best, true self with Elias. Laia is quickly, very quickly, jumping up my list of favorite characters ever. She is constantly challenging herself to be more, to be better, and to be braver. What she doesn’t realize is she’s already all of those things. She’s so pure and selfless even her selfish desires are rooted in selflessness. Her selfish desire to make Elias vow to help her is rooted in the fact that she feels she didn’t give enough to save Darin in the first place. It’s not even about what she wants, it’s about what her brother needs. And I think that’s great. I also love how she begins to stand her ground more. Elias and Keenan defer to her and allow her to make the decisions – big and small – regarding her journey. Now, are they always the “right” decisions? Probably not. But she’s making them, and that’s what matters. Her POV voice is also still impeccable. I could read her life all day. I love the way she falls for both Elias and Keenan and doesn’t let the guilt of caring for them both fully overtake her – but I also love that she has the guilt. Laia feels so effortlessly -in such a seeming contrast to Helene. Also, we can’t forget her SUPER COOL SUPERNATURAL ABILITY to literally disappear. How awesome! I love the way Tahir has put magic and myth into these stories. Also, the fact taht she can’t use this ability around Keenan? Cleeeeeeeever.
Elias: Oh, where to start with Elias. I love him. I adore him, and I blame Sabaa Tahir for it! She created this wonderful empathetic and strong character that I can’t help but enjoy reading. Like Laia, he tries to do the “right” thing every time he makes a decision. Despite his aversion to killing, he will if it means it will save a more innocent life. His journey in this book was incredible (and terrifying… but I get into that below). To learn so early on that Elias is likely going to die and then watching him lose his strength and have to depend more and more on Laia and others for help was an experience I’m so glad I got to have. I loved seeing how Elias changed throughout the book. Because by the time it was time for him to die – even though he wasn’t ready – he had cleansed himself of his past guilt, and was reborn into such a selfless being. It was great. I loved seeing him struggle with his friendship and love for Helene and his pure love for Laia. I’m also so glad we got to meet his Tribal mother and learn more about their bond. The last scene of the book, where Elias and Laia are together and Darin wakes, he’s literally described as having joy on his face. I don’t think Elias of Ember could have even felt joy. To know that he’s reached happiness is amazing, no matter what happens.
Keenan: OKAY, SO THE TWIST. WE HAVE TO TALK ABOUT IT. What an incredible moment! I was at work reading, so I couldn’t physically scream,but boy did my keyboard get a workout! Tahir truly, truly proved she’s an amazing storyteller in this moment. While we knew the Warden had gotten the information Keenan used to woo Laia from Darin’s interrogations, I literally NEVER would have thought that he was *actually* the Nightbringer, king of the Jinn! WOW. It was just amazing. To learn that we were always just slightly uncomfortable with Keenan because he’s actually the biggest baddie we’ve got in the series is a twist I doubt anyone would have ever imagined. I just figured he was a spy and working with the Nightbringer. TO BE THE NIGHTBRINGER. TO SEE HIS PAST AS KEENAN. GAH. I can hardly control my emotions, clearly. That Keenan needed to get Laia to fall in love with him (and love her in return) before the Nightbringer could get her to willingly give her the silver is SO interesting and I can’t wait to see how this bit of the star plays out in future books.
And finally, I love that Tahir made the story larger by literally expanding our setting. I’m so glad we got to travel to Nur and Kauf and learn more about the geography of this Empire we’re living in.
What Makes Me Nervous: I’m not going to lie, I had to change the little title for this section because there was nothing I specifically *didn’t like* about this book. There are things that make me nervous for future books or that I don’t necessarily want to happen. But I honestly couldn’t say that I didn’t like anything. I loved where Tahir took her story, but I’m scared about it! Particularly, I’m scared about Elias’ role in future books. I adore Elias, as I said above. I think his character is the second best character in the series (yes, Laia is number one and that’s not debatable). I’m scared of what his deal to become Soul Catcher means for him in later books. If he can’t leave the Forest of Dusk, how can he help Laia and Darin in the coming civil war? How can he still have a POV that matters to the story? I loved that he essentially sacrificed himself and his future to save Laia’s brother and all of the other Scholars and slaves at Kauf. Elias was never meant to be a Mask. This proved it. Hopefully, Elias will still be in future books as he tries to protect the Forest and the world from the jinn who are trapped? OR SOMETHING. Because I still prefer Elias’ POV to Helene’s, and it makes me nervous that Helene’s storyline is obviously growing while Elias’ seems to be diminishing.