Book Review: A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

Genre: YA Fantasy


You’ll like this if you like: Rome, Supernatural Elements, Plot Twists, and Compassionate Warrior-Type Heroes.


Cleanliness: At one point, Laia has premarital sex. It’s completely skipped over. There’s a lot of supernatural involvement, with one type of creature sometimes referred to as “demons.”


Hero Type: Virtuous Hero


Favorite Profound Quote: Failure doesn’t define you. It’s what you do after you fail that determines whether you are a leader or a waste of perfectly good air.


Favorite Descriptive Quote: My mother hides her anger with practiced cunning. But I see it in her eyes. Smoldering at the fringes, like the corners of paper blackening just before they burst into flame.


From Amazon

Elias and Laia are running for their lives.
After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.
Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.
But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.
Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own—one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both.


To be perfectly frank, while I adore this book, the characters, the world, and the story, the less desirable elements became too much for me, and I stopped before reaching the end (though I read the majority). After Laia’s indiscretion, I did keep reading, and though it was something she came to regret because of how and when she did it, the premarital sex was never displayed as wrong in and of itself. Overall, the plot in this book is heart-wrenching and suspenseful as the relationship between Laia and Elias develops. The development of their relationship is definitely what I’ll miss out on the most. Elias and Laia are both brave, honorable, compassionate, and relatable, and I was so looking forward to seeing them interact more. Of course, I’m not going to be so presumptuous as to say that this book itself is bad or wrong, because it’s a phenomenal story with beautiful writing. This is simply a decision I’ve made for myself and shared with all of you.


Buy A Torch Against the Night


Where do you draw the line in stories? After you get hooked on a good book, is there anything that can make you put it down after that? What YA Fantasy books would you like to see reviewed?

Recent Comments

  • Hannah
    September 19, 2016 - 1:28 pm · Reply

    Honestly, I have never had to put down a book for moral reasons. Throne of Glass was actually the first and only secular teen book I have ever read. The others have been secular children’s books (which have to be very clean) and Christian teen or adult books. I should probably figure out where my line is, though, because someday I am bound to read a book that will force me to decide whether to put it down.

    The only book I have had to stop in the middle per se was the Left Behind (kids) series. It was forty books long and so well-written that I couldn’t put it down. Plus, it made me mad, but there was never any resolution at all. I got each book individually for a while but later bought them in four-in-one sets, where it felt like one book instead of actually four. I could not tell where one book ended and another began, because there was no resolution or satisfaction at any point. That made it even harder to put the series down: the use of cliffhangers through each and every chapter and book break was masterful and infuriating.

    I can’t really pinpoint logically why those books were so bad for me, but I will try. The suspense was so intense with no breaks, and it was just too much for me. And I think the overwhelming darkness just burdened my spirit, because the absolute oppression, hopelessness (God had withdrawn from earth, after all, and teens were fighting against an all-powerful, evil government – another peeve of mine), and lack of any relief and resolution just raked over my nerves. I understand the authors wrote the books that way to emphasize a point, but honestly, I don’t even really agree with their theology, and the books themselves were just too rough for me. I was even physically sick reading them. But I couldn’t put them down, so around the tenth book I made my sister lose the thing for me so I couldn’t keep going.

    Another book, Breath of Angel, was a fantastic story (with terrible theology, but still enjoyable) and I really enjoyed it … But the problem was, I felt the same oppressive darkness in my spirit while reading that that I had while reading the Left Behind, so I didn’t continue to the second book.

    I know it sounds weird to say “my spirit was burdened with the evil” but I don’t know how to say it better. In both cases, the evil the protagonists were fighting was so real and so demonic and so oppressive that the darkness was nearly tangible to me. It’s just a personal thing, though, since I don’t know anyone else who has had the same response to either book.

    Sorry for the super long comment… 😉 Have you ever read a book that just felt wrong to you?

    • Elizabeth Newsom
      September 21, 2016 - 12:58 pm · Reply

      Well, I think that’s good. It’s not fun to run into a book that you’re tempted to put down for moral reasons, especially half way through or more 😛 But it’s a learning experience, even if I think I was being overly cautious later.
      Wow. It does drive me nuts when books in a series have no sense of resolution. It doesn’t make you feel right. And a dark world setting would wear on me too. I can’t stand worlds where they’re trapped in a doomed situation, even if they’re only in that world for the beginning of the book.
      Hmm. Frankly, it doesn’t sound weird at all. I try to avoid certain songs that aren’t purely uplifting, because I don’t want to weigh my spirit down. Some of the poems I write, like Sunflower and Sunshine, actually do weight me down temporarily. I usually prefer poems that deal with my darker emotions, but end in an uplifting note.
      Oh, don’t apologize! I enjoyed reading it, and you bring up an excellent point. Even if a book in it and of itself isn’t bad, sometimes it just doesn’t feel right, as was my case with this book. I figure it’s better to be overly cautious and guard your spirit than to not 😉 Thank you so much for sharing such a thought provoking comment!

  • Brenna
    September 19, 2016 - 9:06 pm · Reply

    To answer your question, Hannah, I have. Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card, is supposed to be really good, and it was on the list for my book club. But somewhere near the middle, I just had to stop because reading it was too emotionally painful. I couldn’t bear the thought of the protagonist (a six year old!) being in that horrible environment with all of the violence and rough language. As soon as he managed to settle in a little or make some friends, the authority figures would completely overturn his life again. I don’t normally have to put down books because tragic things are happening, but add to all that that there was not one character I liked… even Ender, who I was weeping for, was not very likable to me. Anyway, I definitely understand about books just “feeling wrong.” I’m not saying it’s not a good book, but it was just too much for me.

    • Elizabeth Newsom
      September 21, 2016 - 12:59 pm · Reply

      Frankly, I loved Ender’s Game, but I can completely understand that. I suppose different books affect people in different ways.

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