A Reaper at the Gates
- Author: Sabaa Tahir
- Genre: YA Fantasy
- Publication Date: June 12, 2018
- Publisher: Razorbill
- Series: An Ember in the Ashes #3
TRIGGER WARNING: torture, domestic violence, mention of slavery and rape
Beyond the Martial Empire and within it, the threat of war looms ever larger.
Helene Aquilla, the Blood Shrike, is desperate to protect her sister’s life and the lives of everyone in the Empire. Yet danger lurks on all sides. Emperor Marcus, haunted by his past, grows increasingly unstable and violent, while Keris Veturia, the ruthless Commandant, capitalizes on the Emperor’s volatility to grow her own power — regardless of the carnage she leaves in her path.
Far to the east, Laia of Serra knows that the fate of the world lies not in the machinations of the Martial court, but in stopping the Nightbringer. During the hunt to bring him down, Laia faces unexpected threats from those she hoped would help 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. However, in doing so, he has vowed himself to an ancient power that demands his complete surrender — even if that means abandoning the woman he loves.
I definitely should have started reading this right after finishing the first two books in the series. I took a little break between the second book and this one, and had forgotten some things that were important to remember. I ended up having to visit a site that offered a full recap of the other books, but it still left me with a vague sense that I was missing out on the full experience.
The story itself immediately drew me back in, with the same familiar characters that I love (and love to hate), political maneuvering, and intricate web of intrigue that is occurring on all sides. The story has great diversity, and while the world itself is strongly Roman-inspired, there are also Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern elements that make it unique and very interesting. In addition, the writing itself is beautiful, and immerses me right in the story:
“Which is when I realize that the walls, which appeared to be a deep black stone, are something else entirely. They reflect the flame like water reflects sunlight, transforming the entire room to a gentle sapphire blue. Though the massive windows are open to the elements, the thunder of the storm outside is muted to a murmur.”
Previous books offered POV chapters from Laia, Elias, and Helene, but this one also offers a couple from the Nightbringer, which surprised me. It gave a little insight into his character. I didn’t really want to read his POV, since I knew it would humanize him a little, and he’s one of the characters that I despise the most (other than Keris). Instead, it offered a little understanding of his motivation.
As for the three main characters, I still love them all, even though they’re each so different. However, they’re all put into the most impossible situations and none of them can really do anything about it other than to do what they must. Laia is forced to try to take down the Nightbringer in order to save her people and her world. Elias is struggling to give up his humanity, but if he doesn’t, the consequences could be devastating. If he does, he’ll have to turn his back on Laia and everyone he cares about. Helene is torn between her duty to the Empire and her love for her sister.
This was probably the most tense book that I’ve read in the series. I was completely invested in the story, and all of the subplots that ran through the storyline. As Elias and Laia’s romance wanes, another slow-burn romance simmers in the background. I was waiting for something to come of it, and I wasn’t even fully sure that it was actually going to happen. Something did come of it, but I’m hoping that more comes to pass in the next book. I also loved seeing Darin’s journey of healing after his own ordeal in the last book. That poor boy had such a rough road, and it was a beautiful thing to see him slowly come back to himself.
I’m eagerly awaiting the release of the final book in this series. The ending of this book felt a bit unfinished, and I was left with so many questions! Thankfully it’s being released next month, so I should be able to get my hands on it while this book is still relatively fresh in my memory (hopefully). But I really love Sabaa Tahir’s writing and this series overall.
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 22
Categories: Book Review