Continuing in the same vein as the first book in the series, A Torch Against the Night is full of vivid description of the fantasy world that almost straddles the border of fantasy and historical (there are surely some comparisons to be drawn between the Martials and the Roman Empire). This book is full of action from the very first page, definitely more so than its predecessor, which was more of a slow burning ember, if you’ll excuse the pun. The plot, on the whole, is very quick paced with a remarkable amount of development in the plot when this is essentially a cat and mouse story, with Elias and Laia on the run. However, I did find that Helene’s chapters dragged just a little more than Laia and Elias. This might just be me, personally I’m far more invested in the love story than I am in the political plot, and since Helene’s chapters were politics heavy that may have been why. There are three main plot lines, with a fourth brought to the forefront in the final chapters. The first is Laia attempting to free her brother from the most secure prison in the empire. I really enjoyed this aspect, though it’s definitely not as heist-y as it could have been, which is a shame after so much build up. The second is the love triangle between Laia, Keenan and Elias, which isn’t really important enough to class as a love triangle. This was a really interesting no depiction, which was sort of hinted at in the first book but fully resolved during this one. Then there was the political aspect, mostly concerned with Marcus’ new found emperor ship, of which his claim is tenuous to say the least. And, finally, it was touched upon in the first book, hinted at in the second before being brought to the forefront and that was the supernatural aspect. The Nightbringer was finally revealed and I’m assuming that will be where the next book is going. I re-read the first book before reading this one, and I have to admit the way Sabaa Tahir has manages to juggle all of these plot lines so far has been masterful. Towards the end of the third part there is an enormous plot twist, I mean I did not see that coming at all and then suddenly I was hit in the face with this revelation. I almost dropped my book. It’s been a while since I’ve truly been shocked at a reveal and I love it when an author manages to pull something like that off. I never would have guessed it, but once it was revealed everything made sense. Also, in the last few chapters something happened to my favourite character and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call that a plot twist too, since although I didn’t anticipate it I also wasn’t completely shocked. Again, it was masterfully woven throughout the plot, so subtle that you didn’t see it until it was staring you in the face. The second I finished I wanted to read it again (and then like the bright spark that I am I went and left it at home when I returned to uni).
As I mentioned before, the POV’s are split up between Laia, Elias and Helene, a new addition since the first book. Elias’ were my favourite, as was the case in the first book, and I though Tahir did a fantastic job of keeping every chapter interesting even when at times there was a bit of overlap because of the changing situations. All three of these were really well defined and easily differential from each other, which is want you look for when there are multiple POVs. There was also a lot of character development from side characters like Izzi, and to some extent Cook, and the newer characters like Harper (a new favourite) and Keenan (definitely from Keenan).
Going forward I would love even more POV’s in the next book including Harper, who reminds me so much of my baby Zane from The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson. I think the fantasy elements are going to get even more intense, something which is being built up slowly, like easing into a hot bath, in these last two books. I’d really love a Nightbringer POV but I’m not sure how exactly that would work without a hell of a lot of exposition. Also was it just me who imagined The Nightbringer to look like the Night King from Game of Thrones?
So, to recap. Sabaa Tahir has snuck her way onto by auto-buy author list with her masterful handling of the plot. This book gave everything I didn’t even realise that I wanted, and got a full five stars for it’s execution 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟. I mean the first book was good, but now I am definitely on this bandwagon. Things are heating up for the next book in this quartet and I can’t wait! I’ll definitely be pre-ordering that gem. Thanks again to Harper Voyager for this ARC!