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Brought into the world by: Sabaa Tahir
Series: An Ember in the Ashes #2
Published by HarperVoyager on September 8th 2016
Genres: New Adult, Fantasy
Source: the publisher
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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.
I loved the first book in this series, An Ember in the Ashes, so getting my hands on the sequel, A Torch Against the Night, was like winning the lottery. I’d like to start off by thanking Harper Voyager for giving copies away to lucky winners at YALC and for everyone else in the crowd for not getting in my way while booklust consumed me. I was filled with adrenaline and shaking for quite a while after I got my hands on this beautiful book!
If you’ve read the first book, you’ll know it ends with a lot of excitement, setting up the next book perfectly. And this book started exquisitely, picking up right at the end of the first and kick-starting my heart rate immediately. All my feelings about Laia and Elias came rushing back in full force, along with my intense hatred for the Commandant. The intensity of the book didn’t let up at any point, with non-stop thrills until the very end. There were SO MANY twists; looking back, I should have seen so much coming, but it felt like I was constantly having the floor collapse underneath me.
“But you are dead,” she says. “You just don’t know it yet.”
While all of the characters were developed well, two in particular really blossomed for me. Helene had to step up and fill the role of Blood Shrike for the sake of the Empire and her family, even when it put her family, friends and herself in danger. (However, there is a very odd ship that may have set sale for Helene…) Supposedly the second most powerful person in the Empire, Helene was actually powerless in many ways, and I’m glad her chapters were including to show her working through her hidden struggles.
“A Mask is not made. She is remade. First, she is destroyed. Stripped down to the trembling child that lives at her core. It doesn’t matter how strong she thinks she is. Blackcliff diminishes, humiliates, and humbled her.
“But if she survives, she is reborn. She rises from the shadow world of failure and despair so that she might become as fearful as that which destroyed her. So that she might know the darkness and use it as her scrim and shield in her mission to serve the Empire.”
Laia had her own difficulties, with Elias and Keenan bringing out different aspects of her personality. I was genuinely torn in this love triangle for a little while (though of course end-gaming Elias), so when things took a certain turn, I had to put the book down and focus on breathing for a couple minutes. Laia really had to grow and learn to trust and believe in herself, even if she wasn’t a trained Martial. (She’s so much more…)
“Failure doesn’t define you, he said. It’s what you do after you fail that determines whether you are a leader or a waste of perfectly good air.”
It’s also worth noting that this book hurt me. There were a couple scenes that made me cry, and others that were simply painful in an achey way. It’s a sign of a good book when it brings out so many emotions in full force, and none came out stronger than anger and disgust, particularly at the Commandant and Marcus. So often, books have villainous characters that I know are bad and don’t agree with their actions, but the “bad guys” in this one brought out visceral, real emotional reactions from me.
So much has been left open with the end of this book, so while we’ve been thrown a small bone, I am in desperate need for the next one. With all that’s been revealed in A Torch Against the Night, I have a very good feeling book 3 will be bigger, better and even more devastating.
“So long as you fight the darkness, you stand in the light.”
Guest review contributed by Dani Reviews Things. A well traveled reader, Dani likes to review books from multiple different genres. She provides a little something in each review for the long and the TLDR reader.