If you’ve read An Ember in the Ashes but haven’t got around to this yet I’m just going to warn you that this book features genocide. If scenes of that nature or talking about it upsets you, you should be aware before reading because it’s brutal. There’s also torture and a bunch of other possible triggers so please be aware and if you want info ask me.
Where the first book was very much about the military parts of the world and getting to know how the world worked politically, this book was about really beginning to get a feel for the magic system, through the absolute nightmare happening to the people.
I felt like I finally really got a feel for the characters in this book. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so bad for a character as I have for Helene Aquilla; she has to hunt down the boy she’s in love with so she knows he’s okay but somehow along the way figure out a way to keep her job and family in tact that doesn’t require her killing Elias. Elias has to try and figure out how to beat his mother whilst he is slowly dying. And Laia is along with him trying to just live while the rest of her race are being murdered in cold blood. This book is not your nice teen fantasy, there is so much heavy stuff going on. It took me a while to read just because I had to keep putting it down and taking a breath.
The magic system in this book was honestly so strange. Like it felt like magical realism inside a high fantasy world at times. It was dark magic that wasn’t just commonly used, it wasn’t a system I was used to. It mostly dealt with death and destruction whist was really interesting to read.
For a lot of this book I felt it was moving quite slowly but then the end happened and it just completely threw me and I needed to read it all. I’m not really sure about the pacing to be honest, but I’m now desperate to read the next book after it was left off the way it was.
I loved this book. I loved the characters. I loved the writing style. I loved the world. I just loved it.
In order to save her brother’s life after he is arrested for treason Laia makes a deal with the rebellion to become a slave to spy for them so they will find him. Elias is in training to be the governments version of police but no longer believes in the cause and wants to leave but can’t due to his family. The two find their lives intertwined in more ways than they think.
I don’t understand how this is a debut. It’s so good?
I really loved the characters in this book. Every single person was so well developed, the main villain was so believable I wanted her dead. It’s hard to get me to feel like that about a villain, many have redeeming factors but the commandant didn’t have any. She’s an awful person and that’s only highlighted by the way she treats her son. I loved how Elias was a bit morally grey at times, he obviously wants to get out of the life he’s living but to begin with didn’t seem to have the ambition to do so and it was great to see him grow. He was my favourite POV to read from because not only did you have his internal struggles but you also got to see him taking part in the trials and the few fantastical elements. It made me excited to see where Tahir goes with it as I enjoyed getting to get little snippets of the magic without being overwhelmed. There was times where Laia was really naive but she grew from her errors and you could really feel her need to save her brother. She isn’t your typical “strong” female YA lead, she’s strong in her own way but she’s not a bold character, she’s not a big fighter, itwas really nice to read a character like that.
THE PACING WAS SO GOOD. It wasn’t ridiculously fast that it missed or skipped over things but it wasn’t slow. It slowed down when it needed to slow down it sped up when it needed to. I could not put it down.
There was romance but it wasn’t central the plot in anyway, it just happened and was a thing but didn’t become to the only thing that was important. Tahir could’ve made it so much more but didn’t preferring to focus on the actual story and I really respect her for that.
The world building was so good, I could perfectly imagine everything. As I previously said I loved getting to see the magic in little ways instead of being thrown in the deep end. I also really liked learning about the different lands beside the one focussed on in this novel, I can tell that in A Torch Against the Night that there is probably going to be travelling to the different lands and getting to see the cultures hinted at. There were some really horrible themes dealt with in this novel, like slavery and rape but it never once felt like Tahir was glancing over them, they were shown in a bad light and never romanticised. This world is brutal, it’s so violent but that’s part of the world.
I went to my library when I returned it and was like “so hey do you have the sequel in stock if not ORDER IT NOW”.