A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

25558608Elias 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 love that Laia is coming more into herself and gaining more and more confidence now that she’s no longer under the Commandant’s control. I think her relationship with Elias has a lot to do with that, and I can definitely appreciate that. When he leaves to go be all noble and save her brother before he dies, and she’s left with Keenan, we can still feel her missing him and she starts to realize that she was becoming the girl she was meant to be with him; he helps her feel strong. I just don’t feel that connection with Keenan. Logically, I know they spend a lot of time alone together after Elias leaves, but most of their “bonding” we don’t see, so I don’t feel it.

I liked Elias a lot more in this one than the first one. I wanted to like him in Ember but his total idiocy with Helene made me angry. So, I’m definitely not as annoyed by him. The fact that he’s slowly dying ramps up the angst factor, and because I’m predictable, I love it. While I wish there was still more about the Augurs, I liked that we’re getting to know the fey and the Nightbringer through Elias and his trips to the Waiting Place.

I think I love Helene’s struggle the most. Always the devoted friend, and certainly one of the most faithful to the Augurs and their system, she’s definitely learning what it means to believe in them and what sacrifices she will have to make. Her internal struggle with her belief in the Augurs and whether or not she should save Elias, even if it means her family’s lives is written so well. I never know what she’s going to do or she’s going to react and I think that makes her a wonderful character to read.

The story itself is excellent, enough magic and intrigue to keep you guessing, but also non-stop action picking up right where Ember left off. There are a couple slow parts throughout the book, and there are times when it jumps too fast from one time to the next. It seems like it’s still trying to find a good rhythm.

Overall, four bards.
fourbards

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