A Reaper at the Gates
Author Sabaa Tahir
Publisher Razorbill | 2018
Beyond the Empire and within it, the threat of war looms ever larger.
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. (from Goodreads)
Caution: This review has sliiiiight spoilers (not really tho) for the first two books in the series!
“In this fiery hellscape of a world, this mess of blood and madness, justice exists only for those who take it. I’ll be damned if I’m not one of them.”
THE SWEET RELIEF of finally finishing this series, not getting spoiled, and immediately getting to follow Sabaa on all her social media to stalk all things Ember 4! Huzzah! Seriously though, it took me awhile to get the motivation to start this, because I knew Ember 4 was at least a year away and I DID NOT WANT THIS SERIES TO END. I love it so much. The plot is so masterfully structured and the characters keep growing in directions I could never have guessed. The second half of these books are always the best, and this one did not disappoint!
“Your mother–my mother– we can never understand their torments. Their hurts. We may suffer the consequences of their mistakes and their sins, but we should not carry them on our hearts. We don’t deserve that.”
As with the second book in this series, this book didn’t quite reach the same level that Ember did. It definitely hit its stride faster than Torch, which was a shock to me because Elias and Laia separate much faster than they did in the previous book. It seems that I am cursed to love book series that insist on taking the characters I’d most like to stay together and splitting them up for a majority of the book. Sigh. So it’s surprising that I still managed to enjoy this one so much, but it’s mostly due to the pacing of the plot and the amazing characters!
“I wonder if my entire life will be a series of moments in which I realize I’m an idiot long after I can actually do anything about it.”
Ah, Elias. My poor sweet boy. Elias took a bit of a backseat in this one, and while I’m allllll for everything and anything Elias (which I better get in book 4, just sayin) it wasn’t too much of a blow because of two things: 1) to be completely honest, I’m still not super confident in what he’s actually doing in The Waiting Place for most of this book, and 2) Helene and Laia’s chapters save the day. I won’t go into my confusion with Elias in detail, but just know that my misgivings didn’t take me out of the story much.
SO, Helene and Laia. Let’s start with Helene. Boy, did Helene struggggggle in this book… like, she fucked up so. many. things. Every single time she set out to do something, it was immediately compromised and she was put in an even worse situation. Like, gold star for trying but yikes. It got a bit hilarious at one point to see how badly she was having a go at things. BUT, though sometimes Helene drives me absolutely insane, I begrudgingly am still sort of rooting for her and I am really happy to see where she ended this book. Laia went through a lot in this book, too. But she’s getting things done! She’s finally getting some answers and I’m excited about her new position! The ending of this book really sets up the final book and I’m super hyped about all the alliances that have formed! Elias… poor bby but we’re gonna get you outta there.
“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.”
The side characters are one of the great parts of this series. I loved Musa! He was a great new addition. And old friends take on larger roles and only make me like them more (it’s seriously making me worried about the death toll in the final book because I HAVE TOO MANY PEOPLE I NEED TO PROTECT); Harper was great as always, Livia was awesome, Cook reached new levels (!!) and I also really like Dex and Feris! All of the reveals in this were amazing (and shocking like my GOD) and there’s some really great details to build on going into the final book. I really enjoyed the Nightbringer’s increased role in this one. His story is so fascinating and it was fun to get the first and last chapters in his perspective. I cannot wait to see how everything plays out (though I am also terrified) and I am counting down the days until the finale! Ahh!