Review: Reaper at the Gates | Sabaa Tahir


Book Details

Series: An Ember in the Ashes, #3

Hardcover: 480 pgs.

Publisher: Razorbill

Publication Date: June 12, 2018


The Blood Shrike, Helene Aquilla, is assailed on all sides. Emperor Marcus, haunted by his past, grows increasingly unstable, while the Commandant capitalizes on his madness to bolster her own power. As Helene searches for a way to hold back the approaching darkness, her sister’s life and the lives of all those in the Empire hang in the balance.

Far to the east, Laia of Serra knows the fate of the world lies not in the machinations of the Martial court, but in stopping the Nightbringer. But while hunting for a way to bring him down, Laia faces unexpected threats from those she hoped would aid her, and is drawn into a battle she never thought she’d have to fight.

And in the land between the living and the dead, Elias Veturius has given up his freedom to serve as Soul Catcher. But in doing so, he has vowed himself to an ancient power that will stop at nothing to ensure Elias’s devotion–even at the cost of his humanity.

I wish I had read this book sooner or had at least reread A Torch Against the Night because I was struggling. There were so few things I remembered going into this book that for the first hundred some pages, I had to reacquaint myself with the characters and their current situations. This time around I found myself far less interested in Laia and Elias, and far more invested in Helene.

Laia is a strong character, no question about that, but her role in this book didn’t amount to much. There was a noticeable lack of action in her chapters and I only became interested once a new character, Musa, was introduced. It was also strange that her brother wasn’t allotted much attention after his rescue.

Elias’ chapters were intriguing when it came to the magical/paranormal aspect of the plot. His relationship with magic, the Soul Catcher, the djinn, and the undead, as well as his changing nature, are interesting though not always so clearly developed. And though I’m all for a relationship between him and Laia, I was oddly detached from their budding romance. I think this boils down to the fact that after three books, I don’t truly know much about either character. I understand their motivations, but without their missions to achieve a greater good, there isn’t much left in terms of personality.

The only narrative that fully captured me was Helene’s, and this is due to the tragic nature of her life as well as the politics that play into her position as Blood Shrike. This series is at its strongest when the characters engage in mind games and strategize how to overcome the Commandant and Emperor Marcus (both of whom are hideously villainous, almost exaggeratedly so). Even though I don’t particularly LOVE Helene, I completely understand why she does what she does.

No matter my misgivings, A Reaper at the Gates is a solid entry in this series. The writing keeps you hooked, the politics pull you in, and the plot twists really do take you by surprise. I’m not fully on board with the increasing focus on magic and the paranormal, since I’m more interested in the story when it focuses on war and strategy, but the ending does start to head in a very promising direction.

MY RATING: 4 out of 5


2 thoughts on “Review: Reaper at the Gates | Sabaa Tahir

  1. I agree with you on the paranormal part–I was way more interested in the trials and wartime adventures of the first two books…either way, A Reaper was a solid installment as you said! Great review;)

    Liked by 1 person

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