99% sure this book was written to torment all of us poor dragon readers who hoard the feels and become far too attached to main characters. *
A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes #2) by Sabaa Tahir
Published by Razorbill on August 30, 2016
Genres: YA Fantasy / Pages: 452
Format: Book / Source: Purchased
Rating: 5 stars
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.
*aka ELIAS! Not OKAY. Ahem. I had some choice words about that, but luckily I speak dragon and my family knows when that happens they need to feed me chocolate covered oreos and let me wreck the kitchen in a baking frenzy.
THIS CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR BOOK 1 (An Ember in the Ashes!) : ) You can see my review for that here.
The main characters
Elias is the sweetest character who is just continually undermined by evil plot bunnies bent on devouring his soul and led by his mother, who is evil incarnate. (<- I think part of it is anger over her face being eaten by her mask, but she really needs a psychologist.) At the end of the last book, he promised Laia that he would help her break her brother out of Kauf Prison…. and that is about as easy as sneaking into Smaug’s lair while wearing tap dancing shoes and bells woven into your neon-dyed hair. This is ALL OF THE NOT EASY, but he still does it anyway because he’s a precious pumpkin who believes in saving people.
Laia has moments of reverting back to the timid woodland creature she was at the beginning of book 1, but luckily they are few and far between. Spoilers happen and cause Elias to be … an unconscious pumpkin for a while, but Laia takes the initiative to try and save him even though she’s never done anything like it before. Her drive to save her brother wasn’t quite as vibrantly in your face as I expected it to be. Yes, she is willing to sacrifice things/people (and let poor precious Elias do the same) to reach her goal, but RARELY does she think about the state her brother might be in?!? At some points they plot the rescue, but never how to care for him afterwards? This is really me being a persnickety dragon, because I do like Laia quite a bit, but this was a bit of a glaring omission for me.
Helene is confusing. To us and to herself. She’s still part of the Elias fanclub (membership cards need to be designed!), refusing to give up any details immediately at the start of the book about his and Laia’s escape. BUT she also plans to capture him when ordered. The poor chica is not happy about it, but that seems to be all part of the Augur’s plan for her. Elias is an ember and she is the TORCH (<- so is Elias the spark that starts the torch burning? I’m not quite sure I like that analogy….)
Again there are lots of important secondary characters but even writing for the MCs was hard due to ALL OF THE SPOILERS. 😦
The good stuff
- We get to see more of the Empire! And a bit more of the mythology/fantasy aspects, which play a role in how the plot falls out.
- My previous characters ❤ ❤ All of the horrible things happen to them, but they have each other (ok, well, Laia and Elias have each other for at least part of the time. The rest get imaginary friends.) leading to ALL OF THE FEELS for the reader. It makes for a fabulous plot, but also makes you want to pet the poor characters’ heads and feed them cookies with milk.
- We get to meet Elias’ foster family! I’ve been wanting to meet the tribes ever since they were mentioned in book 1, because they sound far more fascinating than the Roman-based Empire (they remind me of the Germanic tribes). I was not disappointed although we only got to be with them for a short while.
- The twisty, evilness of the plot. Let’s be real, sometimes the best books tear your heart out unexpectedly, play volleyball for a bit and then hand it back with a lollipop hoping you didn’t notice. WELL I NOTICED. I will acknowledge the fabulousness while plotting all the multiple ways I’d like to see the author save my precious characters in book 3.
The bad stuff
- I basically feel bad for all the characters. >.< None of them get happy party time.
- THAT ENDING!!!!! ELIAS!!!!!
Have you read ATATN?? What type of culture do you like seeing in Fantasy books? Or would like to see in Fantasy books?