by Sabaa Tahir
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A Torch Against the Night takes readers into the heart of the Empire as Laia and Elias fight their way north to liberate Laia’s brother from the horrors of Kauf Prison. Hunted by Empire soldiers, manipulated by the Commandant, and haunted by their pasts, Laia and Elias must outfox their enemies and confront the treacherousness of their own hearts.
In the city of Serra, Helene Aquilla finds herself bound to the will of the Empire’s twisted new leader, Marcus. When her loyalty is questioned, Helene finds herself taking on a mission to prove herself—a mission that might destroy her, instead.
…“We should talk about it.”
Oh skies. “Talk about what?”
“Whatever it is that’s bothering you. I can take a guess, but it might be better if you tell me.”
“You want to talk now? After weeks of not even looking at me?”
“I look at you.” His response is swift, his voice low. “Even when I shouldn’t.”
So…this might be the hardest review I’ll ever have to write. It’s never easy when something lets you down so harshly that you actually want to throw the book across the room. Even harder is when, surrounding those two or three moments that wreck your whole reading experience, everything you could ever ask for is happening. So why the low rating on a series that I never thought I’d ever be able to rate below a 5? Honestly, it’s simple: A couple of my biggest pet peeves happened…and even though I told myself it didn’t bother me afterwards when things were ‘rectified’, days after I find these events still haunt me and were so out of character that I can’t be bothered to give back that fourth star.
“She told me I hurt people,” I blurt out as we huddle together. “I let them get hurt.”
“Who told you that?”
“I’m going to hurt you,” I say. “I hurt everyone.”
I feel it necessary to say up front that, for those of you who worship-adore-admire-obsess-LOVE Elias, he never ONCE breaks character. He is still the most self-sacrificing, amazing, beautiful, tortured guy that we met in book one, and I truly thought this book was off to an epic start. There wasn’t a moment I didn’t clutch my heart and sigh when he was on the page. Not one single event did I feel disappointed by the boy who wanted more for himself than to be a slave of an empire forged by blood, violence, and brutality. He is still that man, and he honors every vow from book one…and he only has eyes for Laia (SERIOUSLY-I wouldn’t have thought this was huge, but boy was I wrong) even as he longs for the lost friendship of his dear life-long friend, Helene.
Right now, all I want is for that loneliness to fade-even if it’s for a moment. So I do what Darin used to when he wanted to cheer me up, and I make an absurd face.
Elias stares at me in surprise before cracking a grin that lights him up-and then he makes a ridiculous face of his own.
I LOATHE being misled. I do NOT like being led to believe that things are one way and then, in the next instant, we are thrown a totally opposite direction ‘just because’. I don’t buy that. I don’t accept that. I. Don’t. Like. BULLSHIT. So when I am fed complete and utter bullshit that shatters every wonderful thing the story has built up, you might say I get a little angry. In fact, you could say I was fucking furious. My number one pet peeve people…oh boy did it happen. And oh boy did it happen nonchalantly and out of left field.
“What about Elias? You’re always staring at him.”
“I am not-“
“Not that I blame you,” Afya continues as if I haven’t spoken, casting an appraising eye back at Elias. “Those cheekbones-skies.” My skin prickles, and I cross my arms, frowning.
“Ah.” Afya flashes her wolfish smile. “Possessive, are we?”
If any of you wanted to avoid a love triangle-whether this is legitimate in the end is beside the point-then perhaps you should pretend book one was a standalone as it was intended to be and give your heart a break. Not once did I lose faith in my dear Elias or Laia. I mean, for fuck’s sake they were traveling together 24/7 and making damn moony eyes at one another every fucking night. So when my least favorite bastard from book one showed up and ‘swept’ our Laia away with his beautiful mane of red hair *gag-seriously* and dark eyes, I was pretty confident his ass had no chance. *snorts* Yeah. Right.
I’m not going to give anything away. I feel like that’s wrong and everyone needs to make their own decision. Because, frankly, if Penguin messaged right now and offered me a copy of book three (As they did for two (though this review is ruining any chance for that)) to read immediately, I wouldn’t hesitate. In fact, if I had to BUY book three, I’d do it. I adore Elias and these stories, despite the crow I ate, the bull shit I ingested-They are extremely well written, vivid, imaginative, and without a doubt some of the best story-telling I’ve ever had the opportunity to read. So no, I would NEVER stop reading about my Elias nor would I give up on his journey or his quest to make Laia happy. But it also doesn’t change the fact that I have a right to be upset, hurt, and disappointed by about 5% of this story. It broke my heart and I doubt I’ll ever get past it.
“Your emotions make you human,” Elias says. “Even the unpleasant ones have a purpose. Don’t lock them away. If you ignore them, they just get louder and angrier.”
Oh fuck it, here is PART of why I’m upset-perhaps THE WHOLE REASON I’m upset….who knows- (view spoiler)[I’m extremely mad because whatever upset me happened while Elias is being tortured-after attempting to save Laia’s brother. (hide spoiler)] And that’s maybe 1/8 of the part and 1/8 of WHY the thing I mentioned is happening and I refuse to tell you the catalyst of my ire. Maybe when the book is released I will, but for now, I am staying mum.
Let him think he’s cowed me. Let him think he’s won. Soon, he’ll realize his mistake: He vowed to play fair.
But I didn’t.
So. Yeah. I’m fiercely protective of my BBFs, especially Elias. He holds a special place in my heart that hasn’t ceased since I met him last year. He is just everything I could ever ask for in a book guy. As for the rest of the characters, I really did still like them. I feel as though the lines are blurred at this point, though, because my heart is just still in shreds. I love the violence of Marcus, the cunning (and mercy) of Helene, the heart of Elias, the loyalty of Izzi and Cook, the poisonous personality of the Commandment, the determination of Laia (even though I’ve got my eye on her, now), and the passion of Dex and Farrus (notice I did NOT say Keenan-he was ALWAYS someone I was disinterested in). Nothing changed there. Nothing at all. I still love the beauty behind each character’s struggle and what they go through every day to become who they are. Add the story and you really did have a 4-5 star book.
Laia is curled in a ball on the other, one hand on her armlet, fast asleep.
“You are my temple,” I murmur as I kneel beside her. “You are my priest. You are my prayer. You are my release.” Grandfather would scowl at me for sullying his beloved mantra so. But I think I prefer it this way.
But add in my personal issues (DAMN IT DAMN IT DAMN IT-right or wrong I give no fucks) and a new, hmm, otherworldly….umm…thing….and it isn’t without its flaws. I never cared about that until paired with those things that bothered me. And Laia’s new ‘ability’. It’s cool, but I don’t know how I feel about it. So, the otherworldly vibe on top of the new ability….it definitely made me a tad incredulous, despite how cool it might have been had I not been a pissy pink elephant.
I think if I had loved this and my heart hadn’t been broken I’d still keep going. But, as it is, I think I’ll stop. I both loved and hated this book, so I refuse to continue the negativity. See, look:
The first half- 5 stars
The event– 1 star
The last 20% (maybe more, I forget when anger happened)-5 stars
Brutality- 5 stars
Violence- 5 stars
ELIAS-1 BILLION STARS
See? SO much love…all tainted with that horrid taste in my mouth. I love desperation. I love torture and brutality and pushing away the person you might love to keep their heart safe, I love dystopian through and through, and this series is all of those things for me. So I am going to suck it up, love the fact that I was chosen to get this book before anyone else, cherish it and squeeze it and snuggle it and remember every amazing moment (with or without Elias (but mostly with)). I may have been disappointed at one point, but it doesn’t take away from all the love and enjoyment and giddiness I experienced throughout. I literally gasped out loud at some plot twists, laughed, cried, and got so angry I wanted to rip the book in half. In the end, I consider that a win…..even with the debacle. And yes, I mentioned that about a million times-that’s how mad I am that it tainted my enjoyment.
“Laia. The Scholar girl. Another ember waiting to burn the world down,” she says. “Will you hurt her, too?”
Alright so, I don’t know what to say. I am SO conflicted about this story. It didn’t even get close to holding a candle to book one, in my opinion, and while the first 50% was a 5 star, things happened that I find wholly unforgivable. So unforgivable, in fact, that I almost rated this a three. But, as it is-and always will be-I am so in love with Elias I can’t bear to give this a three because of some dumb bitch of an MC (okay I tried to sleep on it but clearly I’m not cooled off). I will always love Laia…but she hit my protective bitch BBF switch in the matter of an instant…and I can’t see past it.
As for the rest of the story-Very dark and without remorse (which I love). And it even was mostly a five. But sometimes things just don’t go as they should and have an adverse effect that isn’t what the author intended. In my particular case, it was revulsion. I don’t like eating crow…and I feel like I had to. So. There’s that.
Not a favorite, but I didn’t hate it either. I loved so many parts of this story, and I will always love Elias..but there are so many things I can’t overlook to make this a 5. Plus-So much traveling. Sigh.
So…yeah. This just happened.