A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

Trigger Warnings: Violence, slavery, torture

SynopsisElias 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.

Review: I enjoyed A Torch Against the Night quite a lot. My opinions of the main characters didn't really change, but we meet Afya and Mamie who are definitely my favorite characters. They are both so strong and dependable. The thing I loved about Mamie specifically was how well she countered the Commandant. The Commandant is Elias' mother, but Mamie was just as much of a mother figure to him. There is a great scene where Mamie commands the respect of other tribespeople which is a different way of ruling to the Commandant who demands obedience through fear. I love this because of how these two vastly different people influenced Elias. You can really see how he struggles with how he wants to lead people. Afya is just an incredible person. She's sexy and sly. She isn't afraid to use her feminine charm to get her way. Generally, I don't like that, but she does it so well. She's also very smart and she'll do whatever it takes to protect her people.

As far as the story goes, it was just as fast paced as the first book. I will say, there were some parts that I saw coming. I greatly enjoyed getting to interact with some of the magical creatures in this world. Learning more about the jinn was incredible. And every variation of them felt truly unique. The Soul Catcher and how she ties into Laia and Elias was particularly interesting. I'm excited to start Reaper and see how things progress in this world. There were more chilling bits in this story. There are discussions of genocide and I couldn't help but think of how Nazi's treated Jewish prisoners. I know there are more examples of genocide in the world, but that will always be the thing my brain thinks of first. Any sort of mass genocide is heartbreaking, and that doesn't change when you're reading about characters in a work of fiction.

Great second book in a series, and I love some of the new characters.

4 howls