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A Torch Against the Night
Cover of A Torch Against the Night
A Torch Against the Night
Ember in the Ashes Series, Book 2
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    "Spectacular."Entertainment Weekly
    "Fresh and exciting...Tahir has shown a remarkable talent for penning complex villains."A.V. Club
    "Even higher stakes than its predecessor... thrilling." Publishers Weekly, starred review
    "[An] action-packed, breathlessly paced story." —Booklist, starred review

    Set in a rich, high-fantasy world inspired by ancient Rome, Sabaa Tahir's AN EMBER IN THE ASHES told the story of Laia, a slave fighting for her family, and Elias, a young soldier fighting for his freedom.

    Now, in A TORCH AGAINST THE NIGHT, 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.
    From the Hardcover edition.


  • From the book I: Laia

    How did they find us so fast?

    Behind me, the catacombs echo with angry shouts and the screech of metal. My eyes dart to the grinning skulls lining the walls. I think I hear the voices of the dead.

    Be swift, be fleet, they seem to hiss. Unless you wish to join our ranks.

    "Faster, Laia," my guide says. His armor flashes as he hastens ahead of me through the catacombs. "We'll lose them if we're quick. I know an escape tunnel that leads out of the city. Once we're there, we're safe."

    We hear a scrape behind us, and my guide's pale eyes flick past my shoul­der. His hand is a gold-brown blur as it flies to the hilt of a scim slung across his back.

    A simple movement full of menace. A reminder that he is not just my guide. He is Elias Veturius, heir to one of the Empire's finest families. He is a former Mask—an elite soldier of the Martial Empire. And he is my ally—the only person who can help me save my brother, Darin, from a notorious Martial prison.

    In one step, Elias is beside me. In another, he is in front, moving with un­natural grace for someone so big. Together, we peer down the tunnel we just passed through. My pulse thuds in my ears. Any elation I felt at destroying Blackcliff Academy or rescuing Elias from execution vanishes. The Empire hunts us. If it catches us, we die.

    Sweat soaks through my shirt, but despite the rank heat of the tunnels, a chill runs across my skin and the hairs on the back of my neck rise. I think I hear a growl, like that of some sly, hungry creature.

    Hurry, my instincts scream at me. Get out of here.

    "Elias," I whisper, but he brushes a finger against my lips—shh—and tugs a knife free from the half dozen strapped across his chest.

    I pull a dagger from my belt and try to hear beyond the clicking of tun­nel tarantulas and my own breathing. The prickling sense of being watched fades—replaced by something worse: the smell of pitch and flame; the rise and fall of voices drawing near.

    Empire soldiers.

    Elias touches my shoulder and points to his feet, then mine. Step where I step. So carefully that I fear to breathe, I mimic him as he turns and heads swiftly away from the voices.

    We reach a fork in the tunnel and veer right. Elias nods to a deep, shoulder-high hole in the wall, hollow but for a stone coffin turned on its side.

    "In," he whispers, "all the way to the back."

    I slide into the crypt, suppressing a shudder at the loud crrrk of a resident tarantula. A scim that Darin forged hangs across my back, and its hilt clanks loudly against the stone. Stop fidgeting, Laia—no matter what's crawling around in here.

    Elias ducks into the crypt after me, his height forcing him into a half crouch. In the tight space, our arms brush, and he draws a sharp breath. But when I look up, his face is angled toward the tunnel.
    Even in the dim light, the gray of his eyes and the sharp lines of his jaw are striking. I feel a jolt low in my stomach—I'm not used to his face. Only an hour ago, as we escaped the destruction I wrought at Blackcliff, his fea­tures were hidden by a silver mask.

    He tilts his head, listening as the soldiers close in. They walk quickly, their voices echoing off the walls of the catacombs like the clipped calls of raptor birds.

    "—probably went south. If he had half a brain, anyway."

    "If he had half a brain," a second soldier says, "he'd have passed the Fourth Trial, and we wouldn't be stuck with Plebeian scum as Emperor."

    The soldiers enter...


  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from June 6, 2016
    The sequel to Tahir’s bestselling An Ember in the Ashes picks up where the last installment left off: Laia and Elias, fresh from the Trials that made them both traitors, barely escape the city of Serra with their lives as a Scholar rebellion tears the city apart. Elias is sworn to help Laia rescue her brother, Darin, from the prison of Kauf, held there for his knowledge of steelmaking secrets that could bring the end of the Martial empire. But Helene Aquilla, the new emperor’s Blood Shrike and Elias’s best friend from childhood, has orders to hunt down both of the fugitives or forfeit her own family’s lives. Watching them all is the commandant of Blackcliff, ruthless in her hatred and hiding a sinister agenda of her own. The shifting network of alliances and betrayals can almost be too elaborate to follow at times, but Tahir’s skill with her characters is more than enough to hold readers’ attention. This sequel has a darker tone and even higher stakes than its predecessor, setting the stage for a thrilling conclusion. Ages 14–up. Agent: Alexandra Machinist, ICM Partners.

  • Kirkus

    July 1, 2016
    Tahir's follow-up to An Ember in the Ashes (2015) picks up right where Volume 1 left off, ratcheting up the tension (military and sexual) as well as the magic, the violence, and the stakes. Laia (golden-eyed, dark-haired, magically gifted) and Elias (gray-eyed, "golden-brown"-skinned soldier extraordinaire) have fled Blackcliff, determined to rescue Laia's imprisoned brother and potentially spur a Scholar rebellion, while icy, Aryan Helene, now Blood Shrike and second in power only to sadistic Emperor Marcus, must determine where her loyalty lies. Complex plots and counterplots exist in every corner, and all three main characters, but especially Helene and Elias, must constantly grapple with the cost of power and the price of victory. Powerful females in charge of their lives and their bodies abound, even if their boy-laden conversations rarely pass the Bechdel test. Tahir pulls few punches: brutal deaths occur and characters make choices that cause pain and suffering. But hope exists, and readers will be torn between the vivid, oppositional characters. Laia, shaping up to be a chosen one, ironically has the least compelling arc, but there are hints that her future will change that. Diversity exists in this Roman-Arabian fantasy world, but racial categories do not have one-to-one correspondence with our own. An excellent continuation of a series seemingly designed for readers of the political, bloody fantasy style du jour, set apart by an uncommon world. (Fantasy. 14 & up)

    COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    August 1, 2016

    Gr 9 Up-In this sequel to An Ember in the Ashes, Martial Elias and Scholar Laia are trying to escape from Serra and reach the prison of Kauf, where Laia's brother has been imprisoned for having secret knowledge of Martial weapons. Their journey will be extremely hazardous, since Helene Aquilla, childhood friend and fellow Mask, who is now Blood Shrike for the Emperor, has been ordered to hunt Elias down. Elias and Laia are also trying to evade Elias's ruthless mother, the Commandant, who is scheming to seize power and is willing even to poison her own son to achieve her ends. Most dangerous of all, however, is the grim prison of Kauf, where their attempt to rescue Laia's brother leads to further horrors and some surprises. Told in the alternating voices of Elias, Laia, and Helene, this book is even darker and grimmer than the first, which readers will need to be familiar with in order to follow the twists and turns of the plot. Strong and compelling characters, particularly Helene, who is fleshed out more than in the previous volume, and a number of action-packed sequences help keep things moving. VERDICT This one is bound to be popular with fans of the first installment, making this a must-purchase.-Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJ

    Copyright 2016 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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    Penguin Young Readers Group
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A Torch Against the Night
A Torch Against the Night
Ember in the Ashes Series, Book 2
Sabaa Tahir
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Sabaa Tahir
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