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A Torch Against the Night    by Sabaa Tahir order for
Torch Against the Night
by Sabaa Tahir
Order:  USA  Can
Razorbill, 2016 (2016)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Here's the second episode in a series that's a treat for older teens and adults who enjoy fast-paced, action-packed fantasy. Sabaa Tahir's An Ember in the Ashes was acclaimed as a NY Times bestseller. A Torch Against the Night is the stunning sequel.

In this world, the Martial Empire rules with a heavy hand, in particular over the Scholar people. The Empire's legionnaires are feared, especially the dreaded Masks, but a Resistance fights back against impossible odds. Young Scholar Laia worships her elder brother Darin. The rest of their family was killed by the Martials and Darin was arrested and imprisoned. Laia infiltrated the Martials' Academy as servant to its brutal Commandant. She met Elias, the Commandant's son, though her treatment of him is especially vicious.

As the first episode ended, Laia and Elias fled together. Elias' nemesis Marcus was declared Emperor, and his closest friend Helene was forced to vow fealty to him. Now Marcus orders Helene to locate and execute the man she loves, her family held hostage to her actions. Elias and Laia escape the city Serra but the Commandant could have stopped them - why did she not? Turns out that her blade that scratched Elias was poisoned and there's no cure. His illness pulls Elias in and out of the Waiting Place where he converses with the Soul Catcher.

Elias and Laia are joined by her friend Izzy and redheaded Keanan. They have many adventures, with much more bloodshed, as Laia seeks to free her brother from prison. They are helped by people who suffer for it, and are betrayed. There are captures and escapes. The Empire slaughters Scholars by the thousands. The plot thickens considerably after we meet Darin's jailer, Elias talks with Darin, Laia with the demon Nightbringer, and Elias makes a bargain with the Soul Catcher. Though they succeed in saving Darin, their peril remains very real.

Overall, A Torch Against the Night is just as engrossing as the first episode, though this series is definitely not for the squeamish!

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