Please note that before you read this review that I am reviewing this publication for Harper Voyager UK. I received an advanced readers copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. In no way is my opinion influenced by the fact that I received this free of charge. Now on with the review!
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Harper Voyager UK
Publication Date: September 8th 2016
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Elias and Laia are running for their lives.After the thrills delivered in An Ember in the Ashes, Sabaa Tahir showed the world her potential in crafting an original, mythic concept within a troped, Young Adult type setting. It explored roman design and democracy in a brutal system, and alas Sabaa concocted originality in its simplest form. With A Torch Against the Night, Tahir brings a whole new level of excitement to the table with the second installation in this saga, this time merging the classic themes delivered in Ember with a fantasy lined undertone.
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.
The book kicks off where we left our beloved characters, observing them on the run from the new Emperor, Blood Shrike, The Commandment and their band of viciously trained Masks. Their target? Escaping to the prison in Kauf to liberate Laia's brother. From then, their journey unfolds, as we as readers explore with our two heroes, the perils and excessive trials they face and the compromises they have to make along the way to survive.
Whilst Embers focused in the duel narrative perspective, Torch delivers us a third perspective from Helene who has her own perilous journey of her own - tracking down Laia and Elias and ending them. Fighting for honour and sacrifice, both very traditional traits, and tradition and loyalty is a theme that runs throughout and identifies heavily in all characters in this novel. Helene relies heavily on her determination for her wellbeing and her family, Laia has the loyalty to her brother and Elias is loyal to his own freedom.
Although, whilst character development is something that Sabaa identifies heavily with in this novel, she could also be seen as taking a sideline with it, as she spends less time exploring the deeper emotional states of her characters and focuses more on the crafting of her expansive world. As aforementioned, our main protagonists venture across this newly developed world on a quest to free Laia's brother and we get to explore not only the expanse of the world but also of the power dynamics of the world. Through Sabaa's development in writing, we also are exposed to the internal struggles and how the uncertainty of navigating politics can have an effect on characters and the world around them.
One of the other elements that has slowly been building its way up since the beginning of the series is the aspect of myth and magic. It becomes very evident in this book with Laia's character developing some unique gifts that throw a new edge into Tahir's world. With the development of the 'Nightbringer' on the imminent horizon, it is curious to wonder just how great of a threat this foretold villain is going to pose, considering how ruthless the antagonists have been thus far in Sabaa Tahir's work. It will be interesting to see how the current characters at play weave into the story of the Nightbringer and how it will develop against the whole plot. So how do I rate this instalment in Sabaa's saga? Well as confusing and mystifying as some of the more elaborate fantasy elements woven into the story had me, A Torch Against the Night is a solid sequel to Embers and I award it a 4 out of 5 stars on my classification scale.