I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
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This was so good! I loved An Ember in the Ashes and was hoping for so much from this sequel and it didn't disappoint. A Torch Against the Night is a dark and intense rollercoaster with a lot of twists and turns to keep you guessing throughout. I found the pace to be even better than its predecessor and I couldn't get through the chapters quick enough.
4 main reasons I loved this sequel:
Oh how I love Elias. I love his desire to fight for his freedom and how unwavering he is in that. He knows that there is a better life for him away from the brutality of the empire and he's determined to get there. He and Laia are finally on their journey to rescue Laia's brother from Kauf Prison and it's not an easy ride for Elias. Things happen that make this a complicated and really difficult journey for him in particular but he doesn't give up and does his best not to break his promise to Laia. It was interesting to see their relationship grow with all of the hardships that they are facing and I think there's still a lot more to develop there too. Elias has an admirable strength and I think his development in this book is very much in character with what we saw of him in the first book. I admire his strength when put in impossible situations and I think he might just be one of my favourite male characters.
Helene's point of view is added into the mix this time which I was really thrilled about. I thought she was an intriguing character in Ember and seeing things from her point of view this time around was really great. Whilst Laia and Elias are on the run, Helene's view gives us an insight into what is happening in the empire through her new role as Blood Shrike. She's having to battle her new role and getting the men to respect her with the sickening Marcus watching her every move, whilst trying to fight her feelings for Elias who she has been ordered to hunt down. We also see more of her family and what her role as Blood Shrike means for them. Whilst Helene might not be the "main girl" of the story, she's by far my favourite. There's nothing particularly unlikable about Laia but she's very "clean" whilst Helene has an edge that I love to read in female characters. She has to make decisions that result in bad consequences for the people she cares for whatever way she chooses and I found her complexity much more interesting to read about.
Expansion of the world
Elias and Laia's journey allows for more of the world to be explored. One of the most fascinating aspects of this was learning more of the tribes where Elias grew up. I really enjoyed learning about their culture and way of life. The supernatural side of the world is also expanded on a lot. We find out more about the Nightbringer and his motivations as well as wraiths and jinn. The Soul-Catcher also plays a large role in this book. I'll admit the supernatural side isn't my favourite compared to the brutality of the empire but the characters interacting with this supernatural side was intriguing. The further exploration of the gens through Helene's point of view and the intricacies of how they operate was also compelling.
Villains and their complexity
One of the best things about this series, for me, is the complexity of the villains. Not only do we not know who we can trust (and so new villains can present themselves at any time) but they are all developed in a way that gives them a story. They are not bland or cut-out caricatures of what a villain is but each have a complexity that just makes them all that more evil. Marcus and the Commandant in particular reach new levels of brutality and violence and it makes for real intense reading. I love villains that aren't afraid to carry out their threats and that is very much the case here. If there's one thing you shouldn't do it's underestimate just how vile and harsh these villains can be.
I loved the continuation of the dark brutality coupled with the great plot and character development. The romance isn't as much of a focus this time around; there is still a love triangle and some poor choices that had me internally screaming at a certain character but I like where it is at now. There are still some questions and possibilities (including potential new romances) to be explored so it'll be interesting to see where that leads next.
The ending is satisfying although there are still some questions and plenty of areas left to explore. With the news that there are going to be two more books in the series, I can't wait to revisit this world and get some answers to my burning questions.