Last year, Sabaa Tahir’s debut, An Ember in the Ashes came out and was an instant hit. It was easily the best- If not one of the best, releases of the year. Ever since, everyone has been waiting on the edges of their seats for the second book in her series. By some miracle (thank you so much, you know who you are), I was able to snag an advanced copy and got to read it.
I have to admit, my expectations were very high thanks to her debut, and for the most part I was not disappointed. If you haven’t finished An Ember in the Ashes, I advise you to stop reading here. A Torch Against the Night begins right where An Ember in the Ashes left off and switches between Elias, Laia, and Helene’s perspectives. Elias and Laia are making a mad dash across the Empire to get to Kauf and rescue Darin while Helene, the new Blood Shrike, is tasked with hunting down and killing Elias. This is all while revolution is rumbling in the belly of the Empire with everyone trying to claw their way up to steal Marcus’s crown.
Helene Aquilla has always stood out as a character, but in A Torch Against the Night, she really shines. She must kill Elias in order to secure Marcus’s grasp on the crown. Unfortunately, she has many powerful enemies, like Elias’s mother, The Commandent. There is also Avitas Harper, her former torturer, the Commandent’s spy, and a possible ally. Helene has a lot on her plate, but she never loses sight of her loyalty- whether it may lie with Elias, her family, or the Empire. Tahir writes Helene so complexly and beautifully written one cannot help but fall in love with her.
“The Blood Shrike is not lonely, for the Empire is her mother and father, her lover and her best friend. She needs nothing else. She needs no one else. She stands apart.”
As we follow Laia and Elias through the Empire, we get to see a lot more of the tribes and the different creatures that lurk in the Empire’s forests and mountains. Although there are many new characters and storylines introduced into the story,it never seems like an info dump, rather a gradual and natural reveal of different people. And just like her characters, her storylines are nuanced and compelling.
“Children are born to break their mothers’ hearts, my boy.”
A Torch Against the Night is as memorable read as An Ember in the Ashes. The complexity of every character’s relationships is stunning and written with talent. It is a must read for anyone looking for a book that will leave you long after the last page has been turned.