Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Title: A Torch Against the Night
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Narrator(s): Fiona Hardingham, Steve West & Katharine McEwan
Series: An Ember in the Ashes, book #2
Length: 15 hrs 9 mins
Publisher: Razorbill/Listening Library
Publication Date: August 30, 2016
Source: ARC and audio from publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

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A Torch Against the Night takes readers into the heart of the Empire as Laia and Elias fight their way north to liberate Laia’s brother from the horrors of Kauf Prison. Hunted by Empire soldiers, manipulated by the Commandant, and haunted by their pasts, Laia and Elias must outfox their enemies and confront the treacherousness of their own hearts.

In the city of Serra, Helene Aquilla finds herself bound to the will of the Empire’s twisted new leader, Marcus. When her loyalty is questioned, Helene finds herself taking on a mission to prove herself—a mission that might destroy her, instead.

What is up with the publishing deal for this series? First, it was going to be a stand-alone. Then a second book was announced, and unless I was misinformed, it was to be a duology. Right before I started reading Torch, it was announced that a third book is in the works. Which makes sense, now that I've finished this sequel, but damn, son. I like to know going into a book whether I'm risking a series or not. I mean, I guess I should count myself lucky that neither of the books in the series so far have ended on completely awful cliffhangers, but still.

That said, I did enjoy this sequel a bit more than Ember. There were some predictable developments but there were also jaw-dropping revelations that really ramped up my anticipation and enjoyment overall. The first half plods along, and if I hadn't been listening to the audiobook as well as reading the ARC, I might have set it aside for a bit. But once the journey aspect is more or less over, things really pick up, and I found myself turning the pages faster than the narrators could read for me.

Torch is no less savage than its predecessor, but I felt like it had more tender moments...more instances where you could see people weighing right and wrong and coming out on the side of good more often than not. Creepy villains are still creepy, but you also get a little more insight into them, and I was able to actually see them as human for a change, not just monsters with human faces.

I also felt like I got to know the three main characters a lot better in this installment, even if it was no easier to connect with them than in the first novel. But I think they got to know themselves better in this book, too. They know what they could die for and who they can't live without and they've come to terms with all of the mistakes they've made. And knowing all of that, maybe it's best that I can't connect with them all that well.

The narrators did help with that somewhat, though. Steve West and Fiona Hardingham are the perfect complement to each other, as far as audibook narrators go. And they're kind of my favorites, especially since they narrate one of my favorite (audio)books ever. But then Katharine McEwan was added in as the voice of Helene in this sequel and that just makes the audiobook version of this novel nearly perfect.

I wanted to give this book five stars, especially as it's so rare for a sequel to surpass the first installment. But I subtracted half a star for the slow start. Then added half a star back for the amazing narrators. And the took another half star away because I just wasn't able to connect to the characters the way I'd like, which is a problem I remember having with the first book, too. But the writing is lovely and evocative and brutal, and it's impossible not to visualize the world Sabaa Tahir has created. I know I was hoping for a stand-alone when I set out to read this series, but I am so glad that Laia, Elias, and Helen's stories didn't end with Ember. If you're on the fence about starting these books, know that it is worth all of the pain, brutality and violence to see the beauty in what these characters are trying to do for their people and Empire.


GIF it to me straight:
Okay, maybe not THE most brutal, but it's pretty brutal.

About the author:

Sabaa Tahir grew up in California’s Mojave Desert at her family’s 18-room motel. There, she spent her time devouring fantasy novels, raiding her brother’s comic book stash and playing guitar badly. She began writing An Ember in the Ashes while working nights as a newspaper editor. She likes thunderous indie rock, garish socks and all things nerd. Sabaa currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family.

Find Sabaa:

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  1. I'm laughing over that gif choice. Excellent. I can't wait to read this one! I'm really glad you enjoyed it and think that it is an improvement on the first. Sooo looking forward to checking this out for myself.

    1. Hehe. It made me giggle, too. I hope you enjoy the book, too, and find that it was even better than the first!


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