Nov 21, 2016

Review: A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

TitleA Torch Against the Night
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Razorbill
Publishing Date: August 30, 2016
Pages/Format: 452, Hardcover
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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.

Book in One Word: Ehhh

Despite what my review may imply, I did like An Ember in the Ashes--I just failed to see what all the love and fuss and hype was about. And I was actually looking forward to reading the sequel, seeing where the story would go next and hoping that the series would improve as it went on. I think there was still a part of me wishing to see the worth of this series. So you might be able to imagine my disappointment when I say that A Torch Against the Night fell far from being lit.

My feelings--or lack thereof--toward A Torch Against the Night may not be entirely the book's fault. Though I was in the mood to read it, I made the mistake of reading it after finishing my most anticipated book of the year, Empire of Storms. I thrust myself into Torch while still trying to absorb my feelings about another book--a big book--and that may not have been fair: my mind and emotions were elsewhere. But if I'm being completely honest, I'm not so sure that not reading this when I did would have made that much of a difference.

A Torch Against the Night wasn't bad (I think there's an arguable variation between a bad book and not liking a book), but it just did not work for me and was a struggle to get through. One of my biggest issues was (possible spoiler alert?) the addition of a new point of view: Helene. I'm SORRY, but I DO NOT GIVE A DAMN ABOUT HELENE'S POINT OF VIEW. It slowed down the story and put me where Helene was when I only wanted to be where Elias and Laia were. (Though I will admit that I became more okay with Helene's POV when I started shipping her and Harper because I SHIP IT.) Not that Elias and Laia's points of view were super fantastic themselves, though Elias is definitely the better of the two. It's just...I don't know. And the romance is just befuddling, because while I do ship Elias and Laia, I think there's a bit more of a connection between her and Keenan? Honestly, it's all just a mess.

There are THINGS that happen in this book, and I either feel like they're all pointless, out of character, or put in simply for dramatic effect (which backfires). For example, something happens with Elias, and I think it's just stupid and what's the freaking point? Laia does a thing and says a thing and, based on the Laia I'd been reading about and whose POV I'd been in? Both those things were out of character and I wasn't buying it. Then there's a Thing that happens with a character, and are you kidding me? No. Was it shocking? Yes. Did it--did anything I'm vaguely mentioning in this paragraph, and things I'm not even mentioning--benefit the story? I'm going to go with no, Commander.

I'm not sure that I can really say A Torch Against the Night was a disappointment since I didn't really go into it with expectations, so to speak. And I did like parts of it, okay? But this book utterly failed to accomplish what I hoped it would. It was not better than its predecessor, and most certainly did not show the obsession and frenzy writhing between the pages that so many other people seem to see. Maybe these books just aren't about what I thought they would be about? I just struggle to connect with the characters and really, really care for them and root for them, and I feel like the story needs some work. Do you want to know what the real kicker is though? I'll probably still give the third book a try. (This was originally a standalone, then a duology, and now it's a four-book series--maybe all that has affected the quality of the story.) Maybe--hopefully--the third time's the charm.

Did I like it? Yeees.
Did I love it? Nope.
Would I reread it? Ehhhhhhhhhh.
Would I purchase it? I already have it, but otherwise I wouldn't really be needing it.
Who would I recommend it to? Fans of fantasies that have messy romance, multiple points of view, and twisty-turny plot points meant to hit hard.

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