My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Actual Rating: 2
I put off reading this for so long. I had LOVED An Ember in the Ashes and I just wanted the story to pause there for a little while longer. After reading this book, I haven’t changed my mind. In my opinion, book two suffered – terribly – from second book syndrome.
After the events in An Ember in the Ashes, Laia and Elias are on the run and heading towards Kauf to save Laia’s brother, Darin. But an infinite amount of obstacles stand in their way, ranging from otherworldly spirits to Elias’ childhood friend, Helene.
The book also contains chapters from Helene’s perspective this time – and it follows her emotional struggle between herself, her family, Elias, and the Empire.
I’ve read several reviews and they all seem to agree that Helene’s part in this book was powerful. I have to agree; there was a lot of character development for her especially, and I loved seeing how she tried to fight back even when the entire world was against her.
Other than that, I’m afraid I liked book two a LOT less than its prequel. The pacing was a lot slower, firstly; while the first one was full of action and I felt like the story was going somewhere, the first half of A Torch Against the Night just felt like Laia and Elias were running away over and over again, never really getting anywhere.
It’s true that the book did start to pick up a little later, but it still just didn’t have the same spark for me that book one did. Many of the twists were predictable, and when the book ended, it just felt like a bit of progress slowly drawn out over 500 pages.
Due to the slower plot, I felt like Tahir’s writing style was also less engaging. There were definitely several beautiful quotes, but in the long run, I just wasn’t as captivated.
Another thing that really bothered me was the romance. In book one, I felt it. I felt every emotion between Elias and Laia, and I just LOVED them together. Their relationship felt a lot weaker in this book, and while I understand the circumstances, it made me feel as though all the emotion I had invested into their relationship was being put on hold, or even slowly erased.
Tied in with that was Laia’s flip-flopping love life, a.k.a. the return of the love triangle between Keenan, Laia, and Elias. It felt almost carelessly thrown in, perhaps to use as a plot device for one of the bigger reveals, but I had a lot of issues with this because it felt a little out of character for Laia, and the romance aspect was simply weaker and less cohesive.
Overall, I would say that my main issue was with the pace and the sparse plot. To be honest, I feel as though reading this made me want to read the next book LESS, but I probably will anyway, since I’ve still got some sort of mild curiosity going on.