Series: An Ember in the Ashes #2
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publication Date: August 30, 2016
Synopsis: 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.
Let me start off by saying that I’m so excited that I finally read this book! After reading and loving An Ember in the Ashes last year, I knew I had to read the sequel. (If you’re interested, check out my review of An Ember in the Ashes by clicking here.) After many failed attempts of getting the ARC, I ended up reading A Torch Against the Night after release day — immediately after rereading the first book in order to jog my memory.
Something I immediately noticed was that the tone of this book was completely different than in the first book. This was most likely because of what the main characters had endured in the first novel and because of how high the stakes have become. I thought that this urgent tone would make the book more intense — and in turn, more interesting — but I found the pacing of the story to be extremely slow in parts. This was something that wasn’t present in the first book and it unfortunately took away from my overall enjoyment of the story.
In addition to the pacing problems, another reason why I didn’t like this book as much as its predecessor is because I didn’t feel very emotionally connected to the characters for some reason. In the first book, I was really attached to the characters. I felt for them, rooted for them, and wanted the best for them. In this book, I still wanted things to work out for the characters of course, but I didn’t feel as passionate towards them as I should have been.
Now that we got the negatives out of the way, lets focus on some positives!
Something I liked about Torch was that it had chapters from Helene’s POV. I managed to really feel for her in the first book — even without her own POV — so I was very excited to get inside her head in this book. While reading from her perspective wasn’t always interesting, it did give us readers a lot of insight into her family, the different Illustrian gens, and Helene’s Blood Shrike duties.
Something else I enjoyed were the twists that were placed throughout the novel. Just when I was feeling a bit bored because of the slow pace — BAM! Something huge and unexpected happened. I won’t give any specifics because of spoilers, but there were some definite surprises in this novel! One of these surprises explained why I was never able to connect to a certain character, even in the first book.
Lastly, I enjoyed the introduction of additional magical themes in this book. There was some magic in the first book (i.e. Helene’s magical healing ability) and I was hoping there would be even more in the sequel. Let’s just say, I definitely got my wish! We were introduced to numerous magic-related story lines in this book and they were super intriguing! I’m very much looking forward to seeing where they go in the future.
Bottom Line: Even though I didn’t like this book quite as much as the first book in the series, I still really enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with the characters and the story as the series progresses!