A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir – A Review

“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.” 

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The Book

A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir
Published by Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin Random House
Released June 2018
Author Links: Website | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr | Facebook | Pinterest
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Read my reviews of the first two books in this series:

Synopsis

This is the third book in the An Ember in the Ashes series, following the stories of Laia, Elias, Helene, and more. The ruthless Keris Veturia is still up to something, and the Nightbringer is getting closer to his nefarious goals.

Review (SPOILER WARNING!!!!!)

The An Ember in the Ashes series has quickly become one of my favorites. I felt the widest range of emotions possible as I read this third book in the series, and I don’t know how I’m going to survive until the fourth book is out, which doesn’t even have a release date yet!

I’m including spoilers in this review because it’s impossible not to. If you haven’t finished A Reaper at the Gates yet, or (gasp!) you haven’t read An Ember in the Ashes and A Torch Against the Night, bookmark this page and come back to it once you’ve read them. This is the kind of book where you want to be surprised and shocked at the twists and turns that take place.

First of all, we have a new narrator in this book: the Nightbringer. It was fascinating seeing his side of the story, and I hope that his narratives are much more prevalent in the next book. I enjoy complex antagonists, and he’s definitely turning out to be that. In addition, it was interesting having a non-human narrator.

Since the first moment Laia and Elias met in the first book, I’ve wanted them to end up together, safe and living a sweet, quiet life. Of course, because this series is all the pain, we don’t get that. By the end of the book, Elias fully becomes the Soul Catcher, and the last encounter he and Laia have was too much for my fragile heart to take, and when she gave him back the wooden armband he made for her, my heart literally shattered into a million pieces.

The real star of this entire book is Helene, aka the Blood Shrike. I never disliked Helene as a character in the first two books, but neither did I love her; she was just sort of… there. In A Reaper at the Gates, however, she really comes into her own and shines. So much of the story is centered on the increasingly difficult choices she needs to make, and she’s torn between following Marcus’ orders to save her little sister and doing what’s best for the empire. We learn how much she cares for her people, and not just the Martials, but everyone. One of my favorite moments in the book is when she finally puts an end to Marcus – it was such a powerful scene and no one deserved to kill him as much as she did.

A criticism I had about the book was that for the first half, it can be a little disorienting. We’re constantly in different locations, with different characters, and there’s a lot going on. I’ve always been a fan of multiple narratives, but there were a few times while reading this that I felt it may be too much.

Like I’ve mentioned with the previous two books, Tahir’s writing style is quick-paced and exciting, making these relatively lengthy books easy to read. Everything flows beautifully leaves you wanting more.

Verdict

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This is definitely a five-star book, and I recommend this entire series for anyone looking for a great young adult fantasy series.

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir – A Review

“When the fear takes over, use the only thing more powerful, more indestructible, to fight it: your spirit. Your heart.”

The Book

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A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir
Published by Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin
Released August 30, 2016
Goodreads
Author: Website | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr | Goodreads | Facebook | Pinterest

Read My Review of An Ember in the Ashes

Synopsis

A Torch Against the Night is the second book in the An Ember in the Ashes trilogy. It continues the stories of Laia, Elias, and Helene. There are new dangers, new settings, and new characters. I don’t want to say too much about the plot of the book, because of spoilers.

Review (Contains spoilers – skip if you haven’t read An Ember in the Ashes)

I loved this book just as much as I loved An Ember in the Ashes, and it was great finally meeting characters like Mamie Rila. I really loved Mamie Rila’s character – she’s fierce and loves Elias so much. We also get a little more back story regarding Laia’s parents and older sister, all of whom were killed when Laia was young.

“‘Always so afraid of the darkness within.’ Mamie takes my hands. ‘Don’t you see? So long as you fight the darkness, you stand in the light.'”

Keenan’s story arc justified my dislike of him in the first book, and I was generally surprised when the true nature of his character was revealed. I felt Laia’s pain and confusion right alongside her.

It was very enjoyable getting to travel to new parts of the Empire in this novel. Kauf prison was terrifying and dark and miserable. It justifies the horror that characters in the first novel feel when it’s brought up in conversation.

My favorite setting in the entire book is the Forest of Dusk. It’s so mysterious, and the Soul Catcher is a very intriguing character. I hope (and suspect) we see more of her in the next book.

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Verdict

Another 5 out of 5 stars. A Torch Against the Night is just as perfect and compelling as the first book in the trilogy, An Ember in the Ashes. I’m looking forward to starting the third book, A Reaper at the Gates later today.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir – A Review

“I look up at the stars hanging low in a sky that makes me think I’m seeing the infinite. But beneath their cold gaze, I feel small. All the beauty of the stars means nothing when life here on earth is so ugly.”

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir; Kindle daily deals, cheap ebooks, fantasy books, reading blog

The Book

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Published by Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin
Released April 28, 2015
Goodreads
Author: Website | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr | Goodreads | Facebook | Pinterest

What It’s About

An Ember in the Ashes is the first book in a young adult fantasy trilogy which is inspired by Ancient Rome. The Empire is ruled by the Martials, and there are several other groups of people, including the Scholars, the lowest and most ill-treated among them.

“The Martials conquered Scholar lands five hundred years ago, and since then, they’ve done nothing but oppress and enslave us. Once, the Scholar Empire was home to the finest universities and libraries in the world. Now, most of our people can’t tell a school from an armory.”

The book is told from the point-of-views of Laia, a teenage Scholar girl, and Elias, a student at Blackcliff Academy, where he’s training to be a Mask, which is an elite faction of the Empire’s military. They both reside in the city of Serra, a landscape of harshness and desert.

Laia is meek and terrified of the Empire. Both of her parents, as well as her older sister, were captured, tortured, and murdered by the Empire, and she and her brother Darin now reside with their grandparents. One night Darin sneaks in through the window with a sketchbook full of drawings and information that a Scholar should not be caught with. Not far behind him is a Martial raid. Laia’s grandparents are killed right in front of her, and her brother is taken prisoner. Laia flees for her life, her mind a swirl of conflicting fear and bravery. There has been an underground Scholar resistance since the war that put the Martials in power, and Laia seeks out their help, eventually agreeing to become a spy for them in exchange for their promise of breaking her brother out of the Martial’s prison.

“Life is made of so many moments that mean nothing. Then one day, a single moment comes along to define every second that comes after. The moment Darin called out – that was such a moment. It was a test of courage, of strength. And I failed it.”

Elias is in the final year of his training to be a Mask at Blackcliff Academy, and he’s dreaming of the day he can finally be free of the tyrannous lifestyle that was forced upon him when he was just six years old. He feels alone in his opinion that the Empire is too brutal and ruthless, as his classmates take pleasure in raping and murdering. His partner and best friend, Helene, is unaware of the secret plans he’s been working on; the backpack stashed in the catacombs, the secret tunnel, and the map marking a path through dilapidated passages beneath the city.

The paths of Laia and Elias start to cross and intertwine, and they find themselves drawn toward one another as they both work toward their own goals of subverting the Empire.

My Thoughts

loved this book! I hungrily consumed every page of it, staying up late into the night because I absolutely had to know what happened next. I’m so thrilled that I finally got around to reading it after hearing about it everywhere.

Both the of the main characters, Laia and Elias, were well-rounded and felt so real that I was drawn down deep into the story. From the moment they first met, I wanted them to get together as a romantic couple, to the point where I spent a car-ride ranting to my boyfriend about how mad I’d be if either of them ended up with anyone but each other.

As Elias is forced to commit atrocious acts or risk being punished for treason, Sabaa Tahir’s writing is so powerful that you feel the pain with him.

“I stare into the faces of the men I kill, and though the storm muffles the groans, every death carves its way into my memory, each one a wound that will never heal.”

Laia also feels incredibly realistic. She’s frightened but moves forward out of a desire to do right by her people, her murdered family, and her brother. We watch her falter and pick herself back up over and over again. It’s so great watching her grow from a meek, shy girl terrified of getting into trouble into someone who bravely fights against the Empire at any cost necessary.

Even the side characters have unique and very distinct personalities. Izzi, Cook, even the Commandant, feel as though they could be real people, and I love books that have that quality to them because they make you feel as though you’re living the story.

One of the side characters that I did not like, although I feel like the author intended for you to like him, is Keenan, a member of the resistance. His flirting with Laia feels almost predatory and somewhat creepy, and I found myself wishing for Laia to get away from him quickly any time they shared a scene.

Another aspect I enjoyed is that the magic of the world is on the fringes. We know as little about the magic system and magical creatures as the characters do, and that was really exciting to me.

As much as I adored this book, there were some things that I wished had been explored more, such as history and world-building. From the beginning, I wanted to know more about the Scholars. Same with the Tribes, who reside outside of the city of Serra. I also wanted to know so, so much more about the world at large. The map on the inside cover of the book is vast, and I want to know more about those cities that inhabit the corners of the map. That said, I can’t remember the last time I read a fantasy book that took place in a desert environment, so it was really nice to see that setting.

I’m about to start the second book in the series, A Torch Against the Night, and I cannot wait. I’m hoping to get a larger taste of the Empire. Each book has a map on the inside cover, and An Ember in the Ashes explores a very small part of that map. I’m also hoping for more of the characters I found myself liking, such as Izzi, Teluman, and even Helene (whose character I enjoy even if I’m conflicted about actually liking her).

Verdict

5 out of 5 stars. This book was amazing, and I cannot wait to read the next two, which I have already picked up from the library.

Have you read An Ember in the Ashes? If so, share your thoughts below.

 

October TBR

It’s finally October! I love this month so much. Pumpkin everything, the leaves changing color, spooky stuff everywhere, cooler weather… there’s just so much to love. The fall is a time when I always feel rejuvenated and at my happiest.

Since it’s the first day of the month, that means it’s time to put together my TBR list for the month. I doubt I’m going to be able to get through everything on the list, but I am certainly going to try! I also have a habit of picking up books on a whim, so expect this list to change a little.

Currently Reading:

Want to Read:

And then also, a healthy dose of Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft.

What are you planning on reading this month?


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Header image thanks to Elke Bürgin on Unsplash