Another Step in the Journey
“A Torch Against the Night,” Sabaa Tahir’s second novel, continues her chronicle of the brutal Empire. This time, we follow Elias and Laia on their quest to free Laia’s brother, Darin from the Empire’s deadliest prison, Kauf. During this journey, the Commandant, Eilas’ former best friend, Helene and diverse supernatural elements serve as obstacles in this fast-paced tale.
In this newest offering, Tahir shows us the evolution of Laia and Helene coming into their own as young girls who become powerful women. At various times, they both control and are controlled by their circumstances. Laia discovers unexpected strength as she escapes one life-threatening situation after another. Along the way, more and more of her supernatural power reveals itself, leading even the mysterious jinn, Nightbringer to ask, “What in the skies are you?” That is the question Laia continuously asks herself, all while soldiering on towards her goal. Similarly, Helene who becomes a narrator along with Elias and Laia shows her constant struggle and vulnerability while doing what she has to do. As Blood Shrike, she is the second most powerful person in the Empire, but as a woman, she is just as much a victim of the Empire as anyone. In the midst of the struggle, she manages to hold her own in her male-dominated sphere.
Elias has his own journey and feels compelled to break away from Laia in order to complete their task. A new element to his conflict comes into play, leading him to be captured by the Warden of Kauf, a sadistic torturer who unleashes on Elias with passion.
The common link between the villains in the novel is their passion for what they do. The Commandant and Warden enjoy inflicting pain on anyone they deem beneath them, mainly Scholars, the oppressed group in the story. While the Warden tortures them, the Commandant is mass murdering them. This characterization renders them one-dimensional. However, the Nightbringer has passion with a purpose: to protect and save his people, making him a complex and intriguing character.
Again, as she did in “An Ember in the Ashes,” Tahir creates a compelling tale that draws the reader in until the end. You are invested in Laia, Elias, Helene and those who come into their circle. She also weaves unexpected twists that surprise you and yet fit into the narrative in a seamless way. “A Torch Against the Night” is a worthy sequel that will have fans wanting more and anxiously awaiting books 3 and 4. It is a must-read.
For more, check out www.sameenakmughal.com. Also, check out Shaherazade;s Daughters and The Siddiqui Brothers in Cairo, both available on www.Amazon.com.
A Torch Against the Night
By Sabaa Tahir
452 pgs. Razorbill. 25.99 (Young Adult; ages 14 and up)