A Torch against the Night (Ember in the Ashes Series #2) by Sabaa Tahir




Set in a rich, high-fantasy world inspired by ancient Rome, Sabaa Tahir's AN EMBER IN THE ASHES told the story of Laia, a slave fighting for her family, and Elias, a young soldier fighting for his freedom.

Now, in A TORCH AGAINST THE NIGHT, 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.


The story pick up where it left off in the first book wherein Laia and Elias are trying to escape the Martials. It's nearly impossible but Elias is a mask and thus they do get away. But there's a catch. Before they could escape completely, Elias faces off with his mother, the Commandant. Still as bitchy and stiff as in the first book. While it appears that they have outclassed the Commandant they were proven wrong when Elias finds out that he has been poisoned and will be killed slowly in the process. Though they happen to find a temporary cure for his seizures as a result from the poison, it doesn't change the fact that Elias' days are numbered.

Readers are reminded that this is not only a story set and inspired from ancient Rome, but there are also otherworldly things that are going on. Every time Elias succumbs to his seizures he is brought to the Waiting Place, and there he meets the Soul Catcher which he sort of befriends. On the other hand, Laia discovers that she has a special ability to become invincible if she wills it. She discovers this skill while running away from people that had recognized her from the wanted posters.

Their plan was to go to Kauf and find a way to get Darin, Laia's brother out. Easier said than done. It takes them months to get there and between these months a lot is happening, with all of the empire, especially the Blood Shrike, Helene, Elias' best friend, running after them and the Commandant killing all the Scholars. Through the journey, Keenan and Izzie tracked them and Elias meets her adoptive mother Mamie Rila and helps them escape just when Helene was about to get a hold of them, along with other tribes people that become a part of their journey.

With this new journey a lot still happens and consequently they break apart. Elias decides to go ahead after finding out that he doesn't have much time left. Keenan and Laia as well breaks from the tribe because of an incident which caused Izzie's death. Elias gets to Kauf in time but gets caught by the sadistic Warden. He later finds out that Darin is still live and so connives with Tas, a slave in Kauf. While a romance develops between Keenan and Laia, she soon later finds out that he is not what she thinks he is. Long story short, Keenan is the Nightbringer and there's a whole other story behind his motivation to bring the scholars down along with the Commandant and the Warden and his need for Laia's armlet, which her mother gave her.

In the end, they get Darin out and all the scholar prisoners in Kauf, Elias lives but in exchanged replaced the Soul Catcher. The Nightbringer has not been heard of since. The Warden is killed by Tas. The Commandant is still at large, the Blood Shrike is waiting on her revenge against Marcus and the Commandant. And how Elias' and Laia's love story will end is yet to be seen.

In this story only Helene got my attention. Her character development was very moving and I do believe she will be the one to save the Empire. Not Elias. Not Laia. I'm thinking Elias and Laia's destiny are more towards facing the Nightbringer. I'm also curious about Cook. What is she? She can't be a normal human. Hopefully, the origins of their powers will be revealed in the next book. I guess the next book will more likely to veer on the fantastical side than of the human world. Surely Elias will find a way from getting off as the Soul Catcher, though it seems like he is doing such a great job at it. And finally, what is Darin's role in all this madness as the Artist? Will there be a war against scholar, tribal people, Mariners and the Martials? Really looking forward to the next book!

4 Stars

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