100-Character Breakdown: A worthy sequel bursting with high-stakes story, multifaceted characters, and an imaginative world.
Genre: Young adult, fantasy
Publisher: Razorbill (August 2016)
A reader of Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes would expect nothing but excellence from the book’s sequel. And somehow A Torch Against the Night manages to meet those high expectations. After managing to escape Blackcliff Academy, Scholar Laia and former Mask Elias still need to escape the city of Serra. They must find a way to avoid the throngs of soldiers pursuing them, all in the midst of a Scholar rebellion; however, this is just the beginning of their journey. Elias has promised Laia that he will aid her in her mission to save her brother Darin from the Empire’s most notorious prison. Meanwhile, Helene, the woman who was once best friends with Elias, is now Blood Shrike to the Emperor. While Elias’s mission is near impossible, Helene’s mission is one she never even wants to embark on. But her orders are clear: she must eliminate Elias.
If Tahir’s first novel’s stakes felt high, the sequel’s are near-astronomical. Tension crescendos with burning intensity as the plot deepens. The story altogether is incredibly elaborate. The sheer number of characters, complex allegiances, and mystical nature of this world—the mystical parts of this world are compelling to say the least—make it hard to keep up. But this breathlessness is a part of the story, and the intensity of the story brings the reader closer to the characters. And the characters are truly multifaceted. The impossible decisions they must make and the deftness of Tahir’s writing bring them to life. As new struggles appear before them, readers will rally more behind them. Even as the novel is bursting with its high stakes, the characters burst with hope. And that is what this book is about: even as these characters face loss and guilt that tears them apart, they grasp the notion of hope that comes with being alive. It is the light in this grim story, and it is the heart that makes A Torch Against the Night the powerhouse book that it is. Readers will be eager for their next chance to dive into Tahir’s elegantly written world.