Book: A Reaper at the Gates
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Series: An Ember in the Ashes, #3
Genre: High Fantasy
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
“Curse this world for what it does to the mothers, for what it does to the daughters. Curse it for making us strong through loss and pain, our hearts torn from our chests again and again. Curse it for forcing us to endure.”
I never thought a politically driven book would warrant a five stars from me, but I love when books surprise me in a good way. I waited two years for this book. TWO. But I’m happy to say the wait was worth it because A Reaper at the Gates was spectacular.
Laia, Elias, and The Blood Shrike are on a journey. All on separate paths, all have their own agenda. Laia, finally with her brother Darin, is plagued with guilt over giving their enemy the upper hand. Now she fights to free her people and destroy the Nightbringer in whatever way she can. Elias is trapped. After vowing himself as Soul Catcher, he has to learn the hard way what it means to put duty above all else. Even if that requires leaving his humanity behind. The Blood Shrike has to take the Commandant down. There is too much riding on this mission for her to fail. The life of the only family she has left, being in danger, drives her to do whatever is necessary.
What I love about this series and what I love about Sabaa Tahir’s writing, is that the plot, the characters, and the way it’s all executed, allows me to easily fall back into the story, despite the two year drought. I struggled at the beginning, only because remembering certain plot points that were very quickly mentioned in the first few pages took time. I’m not the type to go back and reread previous books, so I was worried when reading this new instalment started off with a challenge. But the events of the previous book did get revealed in my memory the further I got.
There was so much action right from the beginning, leaving barely any room for anything in between… and yet it worked. I’ve flagged this very thing recently in another book, plot and action is not as important to me as the characters, but the difference is that I actually care about this story, so the constant action didn’t bother me. Tahir’s writing is great because she doesn’t add fill-in scenes. Everything is there for a purpose and it leaves no room for anything boring.
Something I kept asking myself through this reading experience was, when did I start enjoying The Blood Shrike’s chapters? Don’t get me wrong, I love Laia and Elias, and I genuinely enjoyed reading their chapters too, but there was something about the Shrike’s chapters that had me desperate to get to them when the point of view switched. It’s funny because you’ll find that in my review for A Torch Against the Night, I mention that I started listening to the audiobook because I couldn’t get through Helene’s chapters on my own. And Avitas Harper definitely played a significant role in my intrigue. Her sister and the baby did too. The Shrike had many interesting plot-points going on in this book.
This series is not romantically driven. My love for romance has never turned me off from these books. But comparing Reaper to the previous two books, this one definitely has more romance. I mean Elias and Laia are in love and it totally had me giddy, until it had my heart breaking.
“I’m not—” I consider. “Never mind. I am jealous. Tell me he’s old, at least? Or grouchy? Or maybe a bit stupid?”
“He’s young. And handsome. And smart.” I snort.
“He’s probably rubbish in be—” Laia smacks me on the arm. “Battle,” I say quickly. “I was going to say battle.”
“You are cruel, Elias,” she whispers against my mouth. “To give a girl all she desires only to tear it away.”
“This isn’t the end for us, Laia of Serra.” I cannot give up what we could have. I don’t care what bleeding vow I made. “Do you hear me? This is not our end.”
“You’ve never been a liar.” She dashes her hands against the wetness in her eyes. “Don’t start now.”
The Shrike and Harper? Well there were subtle hints here and there with these two, and I was grasping onto whatever they provided. If their romance develops any further, it will be slow, but hey, I love me some slow-burn romance.
“Reading lips again?”
“Only yours Shrike.” Harper’s green eyes drop to my mouth so quickly I almost miss it.
I want him.
But I cannot have him.
In each book the stakes get higher and higher, politics get messier, characters find themselves in tough situations, the world-building exceeds my expectations, and I am left with no room to breath.
I am no doubt always on the edge of my seat with this series and I can’t wait for the final installment.
Quotes that stuck with me:
-“If the Emperor is the heart of the Empire and the people are its lifeblood, then the Hall of Records is its memory.”
-“The cruelest anger comes from the deepest pain.”
-“Mariners walk the streets with a surety I fear I will never possess. The freedom of this place, the ease of it – it feels like none of it is for my people. All this belongs to others, to those who do not abide at the crossroads of uncertainty and despair. It belongs to people so used to living free that they cannot imagine a world in which they are not.”
-“Our stories have purpose. Souls. Our stories breath… The stories we tell have power, of course. But the stories that go untold have just as much power, if not more.”
-“The paradox of the magic tears at me. I need it to save the people I care about, but I can’t care about them if I want to use the magic.”