in an ember in the ashes we were introduced to the world of martials and scholars, with our narrators elias and laia giving voice to the struggles of each faction. in a torch against the night the world expands, with helene's voice added to the narration. a choice that makes sense given that elias has seemingly thrown his lot in with laia's.
the novel picks up moments after an ember in the ashes closed. elias and laia are in the catacombs of the city trying to escape the martials on their tail. elias seeking to get them both out of there and figuring out a way to kauf prison, where laia's brother darin has been taken and whom he has promised to do all in his power to rescue.
elias must not only evade helene, installed as the emperor's blood shrike and tasked with capturing and executing him, but also the commandant, his mother who has made it her life's work to give him hell. keris veturia is plotting something, she's always plotting. her ultimate goal is to take control of the empire. she's made a deal with the nightbringer and she'll deal with the devil himself in order to get the power she wants so desperately.
keris manages to injure elias, she poisons him with nightweed and elias knows he doesn't have long for this world. as hard as he battles to stay close to laia he keeps finding himself pulled to the waiting place, where he is tasked by the mysterious shaeva to help anguished spirits pass through to eternity. this waiting game has a deadline, and as he runs out of time his focus on getting to darin and getting him out of kauf prison intensifies. when he chooses to leave laia behind in an effort to save himself some time he doesn't realize the danger he leaves her in.
it's not until too late that he realizes who keenan really is. and what his true goals are. even laia was taken in, and what she gives up, she soon regrets. when her eyes are opened to the truth of who keenan really is, she realizes how she's been played, but what saves her is that she's always been drawn to elias. that spark between elias and laia never really extinguishes even when they are apart. and that's what keeps them fighting. these books are not really a romance, but that push-pull between laia and elias is necessary because why would they fight so hard to honor their promises to each other if there wasn't something else between them. it's always been between them, and watching it grow keeps us interested. or at least keeps me interested. there is so much that is happening, but i love the way the characters develop--we learn more about them as individuals, but we also learn more about them in their relationships with others. elias is good, kind, giving and laia is trusting, loyal, loving--these qualities get them in trouble, but also makes them worth rooting for.
as the novel closes, everything remains up in the air. it's no wonder it will take four books to tell this story. luckily this is a world i enjoy spending time in.