A Sky Beyond the Storm
- Author: Sabaa Tahir
- Genre: YA Fantasy
- Publication Date: December 1, 2020
- Publisher: Razorbill
- Series: An Ember in the Ashes #4
CONTENT WARNING: death, mention of genocide, mention of slavery, gore, violence
The long-imprisoned jinn are on the attack, wreaking bloody havoc in villages and cities alike. But for the Nightbringer, vengeance on his human foes is just the beginning.
By his side, Commandant Keris Veturia declares herself Empress and calls for the heads of any and all who defy her rule. At the top of the list? The Blood Shrike and her remaining family.
Laia of Serra, now allied with the Blood Shrike, struggles to recover from the loss of the two people most important to her. Determined to stop the approaching apocalypse, she throws herself into the destruction of the Nightbringer. In the process, she awakens an ancient power that could lead her to victory — or to an unimaginable doom.
And deep in the Waiting Place, the Soul Catcher seeks only to forget the life — and love — he left behind. Yet doing so means ignoring the trail of murder left by the Nightbringer and his jinn. To uphold his oath and protect the human world from the supernatural, the Soul Catcher must look beyond the borders of his own land. He must take on a mission that could save — or destroy — all that he knows.
You know the kind of book where you finish it and have to let your thoughts marinate for a couple of days in the hopes that you’ll be able to write a coherent review? Yeah, that’s what happened with this one.
This was one of those series that I loved fiercely all the way through, even though it isn’t a happy or lighthearted one. It’s full of hurt and pain and star-crossed love. I read the whole thing just waiting for the last book, which I was positive was going to break my heart. And it did break my heart, but not quite in the way I was expecting. But don’t let that hold you back, because I cried some happy tears too!
We get multiple points of view, all converging on a single point at the end of the book. The majority of the tale is told from the perspective of Laia, the Soul Catcher, and the Blood Shrike, interspersed with flashbacks of the Nightbringer’s history and one chapter from the POV of *gasp* Keris Veturia.
I was torn about the Nightbringer chapters, because I really didn’t want to get to know him. It’s so much easier to hate someone that you see as a monster, but it’s important to learn what twisted him into behaving the way that he did. It makes him more real and even (to a point) a little more understandable. As one character points out:
“All I can think of is what Cain said to me before Antium fell. ‘The Nightbringer is no monster, child, though he may do monstrous things. He is cloven by sorrow and thus locked in a righteous battle to amend a grievous wrong.’”
I’ve loved Laia’s character since the very beginning. She’s grown so much from the terrified young girl she was in the very beginning of the first book. In later books, Laia has learned how to be assertive, confident, and fierce. It feels like I’ve watched her grow from being a child into an adult who stands up for what she feels is right, and doesn’t let people sway her from her beliefs. However, this also makes her stubborn. But overall, she’s learned how to look out for herself:
“…perhaps my instinct has been honed by enough betrayal that when it sings truth, I listen. Perhaps I finally believe that my victories have been because I decided to fight, when others might have given up.”
Perhaps the character who undergoes the biggest change in the book is Elias. He’s had a really rough road, and I empathized with his situation so much in A Reaper at the Gates, as he had to adjust to an entirely new role in his life. However, he’s stopped resisting and has fully stepped into that role now. The trick is getting through to Elias again, since they need his help to overcome the threat posed by the Nightbringer.
“When Elias turned his back on me in Antium, I didn’t realize what he had become. Not really. Even now, he looks the same as ever. He feels solid. Real. But he’s put duty above all things. He’s put on the mask and set aside his humanity. Just like we were trained to do.”
The Blood Shrike also shows immense growth in this book. She’s now allied with Laia, which made my heart sing. As she works with Laia and her group of rebels, it starts to shift the Blood Shrike’s world view. Once she really gets to know people other than Martials, she starts to realize who they really are, what they’re like, and the various skills that they have to offer, not just to her but to the Empire as a whole. And she begins to question the beliefs that she’s held her entire life:
“I thought I served a great cause: protecting the Empire. But all I did was protect people who were never in any danger.”
There’s so much action that I flew through the story, even though I was trying to read slowly and savor the story. The writing is absolutely breathtaking, with the ability to transport me into this beautiful and perilous Empire. I felt as though I was right there with the characters, desperately fighting a battle that felt insurmountable. I couldn’t ever predict what was going to happen next, but believe me, I tried. There was great tension at all times, especially since the changing perspectives often involved different areas of the Empire. Finally, there was even a little romance. This didn’t surprise me, since there were a couple of romances simmering through more than one book in the series. But it made me thrilled to see them finally playing out. And while the ending was certainly a doozy, I was pleasantly surprised at how everything turned out in the end. Hence the happy tears.
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: 20
Categories: Book Review