Friday, June 29, 2018

Book Review: A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir

Title: A Reaper at the Gates (An Ember in the Ashes #3)
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publication Date: June 12, 2018
Publisher: Razorbill
Pages: 464
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Reviews for book 1 and book 2

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.

An Ember in the Ashes has long been one of my favorite series and, like everyone else, I have (im)patiently waited two years for A Reaper at the Gates. This book had a lot to live up to - there was a LONG wait and a ton of hype, definitely made worse by the tiny number of ARCs released into the world. When I finally got my hands on it, I dug in immediately, but somehow this still took me over a week to read...

Reaper picks up right after the end of Torch, with Laia and Elias still together, while living in separate worlds. I have loved their relationship since book one, and it's no different here, although there were moments when I wanted to cry over decisions made. Sadly, outside of this romance, I found myself not caring much about Laia and her journey. As Sabaa Tahir has said elsewhere, Laia visits new locations in this book and I'm honestly not what the point was.

Thankfully, Elias' point of view was fascinating! I hated the way Torch ended with Elias in his Forest, but I really enjoyed the way everything was set up during his chapters. His personal journey was hard to read, but I loved the character growth. Elias, Shaeva, and Mauth were an interesting dynamic and I felt like I got to know the true meaning of the Soul Catcher so much better, where it was much more cryptic in A Torch Against the Night. Although I would have preferred Elias and Laia to stay together through A Reaper at the Gates, I did at least enjoy his chapters.

Which brings me to Helene. I will freely admit that I completely hated her in the first two books in this series. Like, I would have cheered if Marcus had had her offed awhile back... However, I finally feel like I'm warming up to her. A little. I was nervous about reading her POV, but it was actually really informative to get her perspective on her duties as Blood Shrike and to understand the reasoning behind her actions. Still, there were SO MANY TIMES I wanted to reach into the pages and shake this woman! She's infuriating. And I get it. I understand loyalty and risks and all of that, but my god. Just kill Keris two books ago! (Keris remains Keris, by the way. I know a lot of people love to hate her, but I still just hate her.)

A Reaper at the Gates has also brought our second villain, The Nightbringer, a lot more screen time. While he was a constant looming presence earlier in the series, here he finally has a backstory and can be seen as a direct threat. This does bring me to an observation, since I can't really call it a problem. An Ember in the Ashes had a fantastic story with a setting that seemed pieced together from Roman and Middle Eastern cultures with a couple mentions of magic. By Reaper, we are in full on magic territory. This book is hugely focused on jinn and ghosts and other various fae, which is absolutely NOT where I thought this series was going after book one. I don't hate it, it just seems like a strange, gradual shift.

While I didn't dislike this book, a huge chunk of the middle of it feels like filler. To be honest, it seems that most of Laia's part of Reaper could have been left out. Her actions don't really feel like they accomplish much at all. She does a lot of running and escaping, only to see no real payoff. There is a lot of talking to random people who, like I said, I'm sure will be important in book four, but seems pointless here. And, while there are plenty of new characters, old ones are completely wasted - Darin is barely mentioned. There is one big twist, though, that was perfect in every way and caught me completely by surprise!

Overall, I did enjoy A Reaper at the Gates and am happy with the way it ended up. I do feel like there's a quite a bit of filler that could have been left out and I did hope to see more of certain characters, but these aren't big enough problems to affect my love for this amazing series! If you loved the first two books, you will also enjoy this one. Here's hoping book four isn't two years away!