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Friday, September 23, 2016

*Grabby Hands* Release & Review - A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes #2) by Sabaa Tahir

Title: A Torch Against the Night
(An Ember in the Ashes #2)
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publication Date: August 30th, 2016
Category/Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

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.

Buy Links:  Amazon
Title: An Ember In the Ashes
(An Ember in the Ashes #1)
I would
  • Befriend: Helene
  • Go out on a date & kiss: Harper
  • Take to a desert island and leave behind: Keenan 
  • Travel to Vegas and let Elvis Presley marry us: Elias
4.5 “Helene & Elias against the world” Stars

I did *not* expect to like this book this much.

Yes, I enjoyed “An Ember in the Ashes” quite a lot when it came out last year, and I’d been anticipating its sequel, but I’m still surprised at how good this book was. Maybe even better than the first.

Last year, I fell in love with Elias, I started to feel something for Laia in the end (because she annoyed me a lot throughout most of the book) and I knew I only needed more time with Helene to fall hard for her, too. Let’s just say I was more than happy to learn Sabaa Tahir had chosen to use Helene’s POV for the second book. Smart choice, lady. Really smart.

Let’s start with the bad so we can jump to the good, because there are far more great things about this book than need-to-work-on-it aspects.

The first thing I noticed was that the POVs weren’t distinctive enough to allow me to identify the narrator without looking at the chapter title first. While I LOVED the chance to be inside Helene’s head, I can’t say her voice was that different from Laia or Elias’. Is it a huge problem? Nope. But it was something I definitely noticed in more than one occasion, especially when I had to stop and go back a paragraph or two to figure out whose head I was is.

The second little problem I had with this sequel was a character named Cook. In my review of “An Ember…”, I mentioned how much I had enjoyed the side characters, Cook included. While I still think she’s an intriguing character, I don’t understand how she turned into this super-skilled warrior/killer. It doesn’t make much sense that she was powerful enough to surprise Helene, but couldn’t find a way to kill the Commandant after so many years being her slave. I mean… did something happen with the Cook after the end of the last book? When did she turn into such a badass? Maybe I’m missing something (or maybe I need to reread the first book since it’s been so long), but her attitude doesn’t make sense to me.

Now… Everything else about this book was yep-so-awesome-gimme-more!

I’ve seen some people complain about the pacing, saying the book was too slow, and I’m like: WTF are you talking about? I didn’t think it was slow at all. With three POVs there was always someone moving, something happening, people going for allies to enemies, getting killed or killing. This story was darker than the first, and I thought it moved fast enough to keep me turning pages and wanting to read more.

“A Torch…” didn’t suffer from the second-book-is-a-filler syndrome at all. It brought a lot of important information, showed us more of old characters and introduced us to interesting new ones, all while improving the world Sabaa Tahir created.

Though this is an action-driven book, I loved how well the author explored her characters, their flaws and many qualities. Even with most of them going from one place to the next the entire book, there was also enough time to just pull back and show layers of those characters we hadn’t seen before.

Elias was his usual noble self. He hurt when he hurt someone else. He wanted to do what was right even when his life was at risk, and he did everything possible to push the darkness within far away. But when he let the darkness take over just a little bit he was sexy AF. Just saying… I loved how what happened with him early on didn’t stop him from being true to himself and to the goodness in him. If nothing, it highlighted how Elias is willing to do anything in his power to do the right thing. A man trained to be a monster who refuses to give up his humanity will always have my heart. Elias will always have my heart. He's too good for that horrible world, so I'd be more than happy to bring him to my world and, you know, keep him for myself. Deal with it. He's all mine.

Laia was a little bit better here. I couldn’t stand her for most of the first book, and there were moments in this book that she turned into that girl again, especially when she was around Keenan. But she was a stronger, bolder character when she was with Elias. Around him, she kept her focus on her mission and made tough decisions. As soon as Keenan showed up, though, she started showing traces of the slave girl who did nothing and wanted nothing. The twist – I did *not* see that one coming – might have something to do with why Laia was acting that way again, but I still would’ve liked to see her move forward without having to take two steps back every now and then. At least she made up for it in the end. Again. I’m seeing a pattern with Laia here.

Truth be told, no matter how much progress Laia had, she still wouldn’t have gotten anywhere close to Helene’s importance to this book and to the series overall. This was her book. She was the torch against the night. She was the main character here. Helene had the highest stakes, the strongest arc and the most interesting personality. Much like Elias’ inner battle in “An Ember”, Helene’s internal struggle in this book was stellar. Love or loyalty. Friend or family. Fight or die. She was surrounded by vultures, unable to trust anyone, away from the one she loved the most, and thrown in the middle of the chaos that was the Empire. I really, really loved Helene. She made me feel. Tear up, even. She broke my heart when she broke. I cannot wait to see what happens to her next.

Helene was also responsible for introducing me to my new favorite character in this series. Harper. Damn. I like him. Really like him. He seems like the kind of character who’ll just grow more important as the story progresses. He already turned into someone important when he revealed his secret to Helene. Plus, he’s super shippable.

Helene and Harper, anyone?

Well, I can’t help it. Helene is shippable with everyone. So is Elias. Which makes it impossible to pick a ship for this series. I want Elias with Laia and with Helene. Then I want Helene with Elias and Harper. And I’m sure I’ll ship Harper with someone else by the end of the next book. Maybe Helene’s sister? That’d be a bit messed up, but…So many choices…

Speaking of Helene’s sister, the Aquilla family was a huge part of this book and I couldn’t be happier about it. I mean, I could… All I’ll say for now is that I loved Helene’s relationship with her parents, especially with her father, and I predict great things for her sister.

As you can see, Helene took over this book and made it a hundred times more special just by having her own chapters and by allowing us inside her head. While I still love Elias so very much (how can anyone not love Elias?), he’ll have to deal with sharing my attention and love with Helene, because she's here to stay.
*If you liked this review (or not), if you read the book (or not), come say hello and leave your comments bellow.

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