Goodreads Summary: 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.
Hold onto your hats, folks, because I’m about to say something totally blasphemous. I…wasn’t completely aboard the massive Ember hype train before this book. I mean, I enjoyed An Ember in the Ashes–I even thought it was above average. But I didn’t exactly think it was the best thing to grace the earth since sliced pie, ya know? In particular, I just didn’t find the characters especially compelling in that they seemed a little flat. But this book? A Torch Against The Night? Let’s just say I’m so aboard the hype train, I might as well be driving the gosh darned thing! Because this book? It was absolutely stunning. A Torch Against The Night left me with so many visceral emotions. I’m in love. I’m angry and vengeful. I’m heartbroken. Most of all, I’m desperate for more.
Let’s start with the characters because oh my freaking god. I completely fell in love with the characters this time around. To me, they felt so much fuller and rounder! And I was so happy with the addition of Helene’s point of view! Elias and Helene are my babies!!! I swear if Sabaa even touches them, if I spy even one hair out of place, I will die of heartbreak! I feel like in particular, Helene’s character was very full. We learn a lot about her and her motives and motivations and her background. I swear each bit of new info we got on her and each action she took and every emotion she felt just made me love her more–my poor baby Helene!!! And Elias! I just love him so much!!! He’s such a good guy and you can sense that his kindness and honor is so deep and genuine and heartfelt and real! It broke my heart to see him struggle and continue to do the right thing no matter what. Which brings me to Laia. She was the odd one out of the main characters for me in that I really started to dislike her in this book. I just feel like she was so selfish and she didn’t really actually do anything, but in the end she got all the credit–from other characters and from the author. She wasn’t horrible she just wasn’t exactly…likable.
The secondary characters were also full of incredible depth and I have so many questions about them and want to know more! I feel like this is the kind of book series where each and every character–big or small–has an important role in the overall story. I’m particularly interested in Cain, Harper, and Sheva (? is that how you spell it??? I listened to the audiobook so I don’t know but the woman who is the Soul Catcher). I feel like they’re are going to play really important roles in the upcoming books. Of course, I also loved Afya and her tribespeople! They added such color to the story and I don’t think we’ve seen the last of them either.
The one character that felt kind of awkward and throw in at the end was the Big Bad. If you’ve read the book, then you know who this is, but I don’t want to spoil anything if you haven’t. The Big Bad just felt like they were kind of tacked on as an afterthought to fit some plotlines together. I don’t know but I guess we’ll see.
Moving on from the characters to the world! It expanded so much in this book! We get to see beyond Blackcliff’s halls and to journey across The Empire. That’s largely due to the fact that this is one of those “journey books.” Ya know–the kind of book where you spend the vast majority of it traveling? Anyways, back to the world. We got to see a lot of interesting places. By far my favorite is The Forest of Dusk. I just love that it’s kind of this place between worlds where the spirits wander. I feel like Sabaa did a great job with her descriptions–she built the world little by little, managing to avoid the infamous info dump while still giving readers enough information to color their imaginations. It was superbly done!
Now on to the plot! It was absolutely excellent! It was so delicately and beautifully crafted! Like I said before, the majority of this book is spent on a journey, but the story doesn’t fall into the trap of dragging or getting dull because the entire time–and I literally mean right up until the very end–we’re learning vital pieces of information and the whole time Sabaa is weaving those strings of info together and planting clues. There were also a ton of plot twists from the get-go. From the start the plot kept me engrossed, entertained, and on the edge of my seat!
The writing of A Torch Against The Night was absolutely excellent! I felt like Sabaa grew so much as a writer and that this book was totally a notch above the last in the writing arena. In particular one technique I noted that Sabaa expertly utilized was dramatic irony, especially in Helene’s chapters. For those of you who might not be familiar with this term, dramatic irony is when the audience/readers know something that the characters don’t know. Sabaa used a lot of dramatic irony to drive the tension and the plot and it made me so emotionally invested in and engaged with the characters.
Let me take a second to talk about how great the audiobook of A Torch Against The Night is because…wow! All of the narrators–Katherine McEwan, Fiona Hardingham, and Steve West–did an amazing job! Each of their voices was soft and lyrical and had this musical quality that was just so incredible! Each POV had a different narrator and all of the narrators were so in character that I’m convinced if I heard their voices in a crowd, I’d truly believe they were actually Laia, Helene, or Elias! All of them used just the right amount of emotion for the characters–not too little, not too much, just perfect! And the voices they did for every character! Incredible! Their pacing and rhythm was also perfect! I never felt like they were talking too fast or too slow! I highly recommend you listen to A Torch Against The Night on audiobook if you get the chance because I can honestly say it was one of the most stunning audiobooks I’ve ever listened to!
That’s it for the non-spoilery section of this review! Let me know in the comments if you’re planning on picking up A Torch Against The Night! If you’ve already read the book, what did you think? Any conspiracy theories over what will happen in future books? BE SURE TO MARK SPOILERS!
Now. I usually try to keep my reviews spoiler free BUT I have so many feels after reading this book that I just can’t not talk about it so….
WARNING! THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD! PLEASE PROCEED WITH CAUTION! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
So I need to get out my feelings on this books because,as I said, I have so many so this section might be a little jumbled, but I will try to keep it as organized as possible.
Let’s talk about shipping. At the end of An Ember in the Ashes I was pretty on board with the Elias/Laia ship. However. With the addition of Helene’s POV, I switched over to the Elias/Helene ship pretty quickly. Part of that was because I just fell in love with Helene, part of it was because Helene’s and Elias’s relationship seemed better developed whereas Laia and Elias’s relationship felt more like instalove, and part of it was that I started to dislike Laia (which I’ll get to later). Unfortunately, I don’t think that Helene and Elias will be endgame because of Helene’s comment about how Elias’s and Laia’s songs are counter melodies. Soooooooo…
Let’s come back to the subject of Laia. I felt like she was sooooooo selfish and honestly kind of useless. She did nothing throughout the book yet at the end everyone was like “Laia’s so important! People are going to tell legends about how Laia saved everyone all on her own!” Um, excuse me, but when exactly did she save everyone? Because to me, it looked like most everyone else was doing the planning and work while Laia kind of sat around sulking. I’m just sayin’…
Anyways moving on! The ending totally broke my little Elias enamored heart! I can’t believe he’s stuck as Soul Catcher now! I hope he’ll be freed and brought back to life because he deserves a happy ending, especially after all he’s done for Lazy Laia! But then again, maybe having him as Soul Catcher will increase his role in the overall plot. Idk. Whatever happens, I need Elias to have a happy ending. As for Helene’s ending, I thought it was so powerful! I can’t wait to see her and Livia get their revenge on Marcus and The Commandant because I have no doubt it’ll be brutal and epic and absolutely glorious! My theory is that it’s endgame for Helene to become empress. What do y’all think? Do you think she will?
What do you guys think of the addition of The Night Bringer as the ultimate Big Bad? I honestly thought that plotline was kind of weak. I understand that his addition tied together a lot of the plotlines, but it feels…flimsy. I don’t know why, it just doesn’t feel as epic or solid as the usual addition of a Big Bad is…Ya feel me?