The highly anticipated third book in Sabaa Tahir’s New York Times bestselling EMBER QUARTET.
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.
I don’t want to say this, but it feels like the mighty have fallen with this book. God, I used to be SO in love with this series and would constantly tell people how it was my favourite book ever. Like I’m pretty sure that I read An Ember in the Ashes in two days at the most. I wouldn’t shut up about it. It was beyond perfect. The second book was pretty stellar and had very little I could be mad about so everything was fine. But this book was just so frustrating and I don’t know what happened. I really don’t. It might’ve been because of the giant publication pushback, which I completely understood, but ultimately I’m just really underwhelmed. I tried so hard to like this the way I wanted to but I couldn’t and I feel really bad. Ugh.
Since this is the third book in the series, I cannot properly review this without potentially reviewing spoilers so a SPOILER ALERT is now in effect.
- Honestly, the only good thing that I can really say about this book right now is Laia. I’ve loved Laia for three years now and it’s only grown stronger. She has never once disappointed me and watching how much she’s growing is probably my favourite thing. What I really like about her is how she’s made mistakes along the way but she doesn’t let them hang over her and she’s constantly learning from them. After what happened with the Nightbringer, she does everything to be smarter and ensure that she doesn’t make the same mistake twice. But I think what I found interesting is how all of these people, particularly the Scholars, were wanting her to be their resistance leader but she didn’t really want to and it’s a bit of a change from some of the typical YA protagonists because there aren’t a lot of characters not wanting to be the leader or fighting this role so far into a series. Usually they’re accepting the role by the end of the first book but I like that Laia keeps fighting it. And it’s even more interesting because she kind of starting out knowing she’d end up playing a big role in the resistance but because of her mistakes she didn’t want to jeopardize the entire movement when she wasn’t ready for it. It’s something I admire about Laia’s character altogether that even though she’s smart and clever and strong, she knows when and when not to do something like this. I also really enjoyed seeing more of her family and her relationship with Darin, who I enjoyed a lot and he deserves the world. But I loved that twist about her mother and learning all of what happened with The Lioness. If anything, I’m glad this book really chalked up Laia’s character and made her one of the best YA female protagonists I’ve encountered.
- I’m just gonna say it: this book was way too long for something with so little plot. I’m sorry. If anything, the purpose of this book was to be nothing but a filler and I hated it. It’s bad enough when you get TV episodes that are pure filler, albeit entertaining nonetheless, but with books it just ends up being a waste of paper and ink. I mean, maybe if this book wasn’t 450+ pages I wouldn’t be complaining so much but it didn’t need to be that long. Do you understand what I mean? It took me far too long to read this book and it’s probably because there wasn’t anything that kept my interest for too long, and that’s a pretty big indicator of how much of a filler this book actually was. I don’t know. And the fact that it got pushed back an entire year made it worse. I barely remembered things when I read A Torch Against the Night and that was just less than a year wait for me but pushing this to a two year wait? What’s the point anymore? I didn’t have time to reread both books and therefore I had no idea what happened previously nor do I know what’s going on now. I just felt so disassociated from the book because it wasn’t my concern for the longest time. If you want to keep readers for a fresh new series, this type of book isn’t what you should do.
- I still don’t like Helene and at this point, I’m not sure I’ll ever get past indifference towards her. One of my biggest pet peeves was how she all of a sudden got a POV in the second book and it bothered me back then and it’s even worse now. Perhaps if we just took her POV out of this book it not only would’ve been quicker to read but it would’ve been easier. I know that she’s meant to show some other side of the Empire and the war I guess, but she was just in the way of Laia and Elias’s story, which is who we started with and who this series should solely be about. Helene is honestly just a boring and predictable character and some of her last moments in this book had me shaking my head. I know what the point of her character is but I personally don’t like it.
- I’ve been trying to figure out what the entire plot was over the course of this book and I’m still confused. Like, I understood most of Laia’s plot, that was all fine. I kind of got Elias’s plot, even though I didn’t like it and I couldn’t stand watching him turn into the Soul Catcher because it’s the last thing his character deserves. Helene kind of made sense but overall, whatever this big plot is supposed to be feels very jumbled. I can’t remember when or why this war Helene was fighting started and the mess with the Nightbringer is something I don’t wanna touch. And then trying to figure out what Keris is up to is like trying to solve a math equation which is impossible. I don’t know where it’s gonna go from here because I don’t understand where it went throughout but it can’t get worse…..right?
- I’m still mad about the cover, I don’t even care what the reasons are. You just don’t change a series’ covers midway. You ruin the entire continuity of it all and honestly? They were so beautiful before. Why do we have to redesign them to match the rest of YA’s boring covers? I understand that Tahir wanted to have faces on them so others could see themselves in it but it’s one of the worst redesigns I’ve seen. And don’t get me started on Helene being front and centre.
THE BOTTOM LINE
- Obviously, if you’ve read the previous books in this series you have to read this new installment but you should know that majority of this book’s role is to be a filler book, whether it was intentional or not. I might be frustrated and have my own personal problems with it but you should make your own decisions about it. I’m just really sad and feel horrible saying mean things about this book. This sucks.
BONUS: how this book made me feel in a GIF
ABOUT THE BOOK
Title: A Reaper at the Gates (An Ember in the Ashes #3)
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Release Date: June 12, 2018
Pages: 464 (Hardcover)
Until next time,
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