A Torch Against the Night (Ember Quartet, #2)
Warning: Description is a spoiler for An Ember in the Ashes.
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.
Author: Sabaa Tahir
“Failure doesn't define you. It's what you do after you fail that determines whether you are a leader or a waste of perfectly good air.”
So often, the second book of a series is the most boring, or the most uncomfortable. It's the bridge between the excitement at the beginning and the end. I'm happy to say that this is not the case with A Torch Against the Night. It had some second-book elements, but it was done in a way that didn't make them feel tedious or painful. Instead, it's engaging, answers small questions while raising bigger ones, and draws you in so that you can't escape no matter what you do.
I hadn't intended to read this during my 25 in 5 readathon, but as soon as I finished An Ember in the Ashes, I needed this book and downloaded it immediately.
“So long as you fight the darkness, you stand in the light.”
*Spoilers for book 1 in the following plot description*
To readers' delight, this book picks up right where the last one left off: Elias and Laia are running through the tunnels under Blackcliff, trying to escape with their lives. They have to get to the prison where Laia's brother is being held so that they can save him.
They eventually get on their way, but not without significant...complications. They are soon joined by other friendly faces, and the long, arduous trek ensues.
Meanwhile, Helene has no choice but to hunt them. I loved that her POV was added into the rotation. She faces an entirely different sort of battle, trying to do right by her duty and also her heart and family. We also meet a new character, Avitas Harper, who is anything but flat.
“It takes only a split second for life to go horribly wrong. To fix the mess, I need a thousand things to go right. The distance from one bit of luck to the next feels as great as the distance across oceans. But, I decide in this moment, I will bridge that distance, again and again, until I win. I will not fail.”
I truly couldn't put this book down. Besides the movement of the plot, which was fast-paced and enthralling, the development of the characters was fantastic. Helene is a masterpiece.
I downloaded book 3 as soon as I finished this one.