Book Review – A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir
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Sabaa Tahir has thoroughly shredded every ounce of hope within me along with my very essence with A Reaper at the Gates. I now await my time in the Waiting Place where I can be surrounded by the ever chipper Elias.
You see, I had some high expectations going into this:
This would be the final chapter (I really thought it was a trilogy…it’s not)
Laia would defeat the Nightbringer and have a happy ending with Elias
I would finally erase itty bit of annoyance I had for the Blood Shrike
I thought I would finally be at peace with this series
Oh and I was kind of hoping there would be a miraculous change within the commandant or that she’d at least be put to rest
Ugh, there’s more, but let’s move on with the review
Ughh!!! My life.
So there was a lot going on throughout their story, so I might as well break it down by character. We shall start off with Helene Aquilla (“Blood Shrike”).
Helene Aquilla: aka Blood Shrike
I’ve had varying feelings when it came to Helene, but the main overarching emotion would probably be irritation. But then I think about it and realize almost everything she did was for family.
And that lead to the demise of her mother, father and sister Hannah; throats slit directly in front of Helene, simply to make a statement. And her younger sister Livia, taken hostage as Marcus’s bride to keep the Blood Shrike in check (Marcus seriously gave me a throwback moment to Hamlet when he was talking to Zacharias’s ghost).
So, overall, I have to take that into account for why Helene is who she is and why she acts in certain ways.
Helene hadn’t changed much in the beginning, but as her story progressed, you saw different sides break the surface.
For one, she was more focused on Livia and the new life blooming within. Then, you also have the commandant trying to destroy her reputation along with an upcoming war. She had a lot more to worry about than being Marcus’s slave (for the most part).
But what I loved most was when I saw how deep Helene’s love went for her family and her people. And the soul-altering decision she made when she felt there was no other option.
“Your love of your people runs deep. It was nurtured through all the years spent at Blackliff. It grew deeper when you saw the suffering in Navium and healed the children in the infirmary. Deeper when you healed your sister and imbued your nephew with the love you have of your country. Deeper still when you saw the strength of your countrymen as they prepared for the siege. It fused with your soul when you fought for them on the walls of Antium. And now it cumulates in your sacrifice for them.”
I have one thing to say, I have a new-found respect for Helene and I no longer harbor any hatred or negative feelings towards her.
Oh and thank the jinn for Laia when Helene was just about to give up.
Speaking of Laia…
Laia of Serra
Before I even start, I have to bring up some past grievances due to some decisions made by Laia. I realize she would have no way of knowing that Keenan was the Nightbringer, but still!!! Why did she have to give him the amulet?!? During that entire moment, I was internally shouting, “No, Laia! Don’t do it!!!” My pleas were ignored.
Oh love, sometimes it does more harm than good.
Anyway, that’s in the past, I’m over it.
Laia definitely had a better understanding of who she was and what needed to be done. However, she’s human, she’s not always going to be right, she makes mistakes and it’s completely normal. It just sucks that she wasn’t right.
Laia went on quite a journey— actually, she always goes on a seemingly impossible journey.
First, she found the Beekeeper. Or rather, the Beekeeper found her who is also known as Musa.
I like Musa. I actually trust him and he seems like he’ll be a great ally. Plus, he’s pretty amusing at times. Or maybe it’s the situations. Who knows.
So Laia finds Musa and they, along with Darin, travel together for some time before Cook comes back into the picture and the startling realization of who she really is comes into play.
It honestly makes a lot of sense of who she actually is. I just wish I pieced it together sooner. But in the end, Cook did her best and helped as much as she could.
Unfortunately, Laia and Elias did not have the best goodbye and it’s all because of freaking Mauth. I mean, come on!
“Love. I sigh. Love is joy coupled with misery, elation bound to despair. It is a fire that beckons me gently and then burns when I get too close. I hate love. I yearn for it. And it drives me mad.”
Elias Venturius: aka “Soul Catcher”
Elias had a rough time this round with everything that’s on his plate.
Dealing with the ghosts
Becoming Soul Catcher
Trying to save those he loves
Basically trying to help everyone he can
Being tied to the Waiting Place
What happens with Shaeva
To be completely honest, I have a strong urge to destroy Mauth. He basically took away everything that was Elias and left nothing.
Nada. Zip. Zilch.
It was a slow, painful progression because you knew it was going to happen, but you were hoping he would fight it. But to get ahold of the power, he had to draw his former Mask persona back into existence which did not help the situation.
And that ending— that ending froze everything within. It basically murdered me.
He truly is a husk invaded by Mauth. It cuts deep.
Things went down in the third installment of An Ember in the Ashes series. Things that should not have gone down. But alas, they did. And I am even more pumped and obsessed with whatever comes next. So bring it on Sabaa Tahir because I need some closure.
I have no words for him and I have no clue what’s going to happen and I have no idea why he’d throw Laia away from the missile. I just don’t know.
“And his champions, those three flames in which he placed all his hopes — Laia of Serra, Helene Aquilla, and Elias Venturius — I smother those flames. For I have taken the Blood Shrike’s soul. The Waiting Place has taken the Soul Catcher’s humanity. And I will crush Laia of Serra’s heart.”
The Nightbringer may think these things now, but he is thoroughly mistaken.
The Soul Catcher
There is no way Elias won’t somehow break free from Mauth’s control and take his life back. No freaking way.
“You are cruel, Elias,” she whispers against my mouth. “To give a girl all she desires only to tear it away.”
“This isn’t the end for us, Laia of Serra.” I cannot give up what we could have. I don’t care what bleeding vow I made. “Do you hear me? This is not our end.”
“You’ve never been a liar.” She dashes her hands against the wetness in her eyes. “Don’t start now.”
I am too invested in these two for the soul catching gig to rip them apart. So that’s why I’m taking this as foreshadowing for the next book. Elias has never lied, as soon as he’s back, he will make good on his promise.
I’m banking on Laia bringing the Nightbringer down somehow one way or another because failure would mean the death of the Scholars. That’s not an option.
She cocks her head, and as I’m trying to puzzle out her look, she whips a dagger from her waist and flings it at me.
“What the bleeding hells—“ I pluck the blade out of the air on instinct and turn it on her in the time it takes to blink twice. “How dare—“
“If I’m going to carry Serric steel,” Laia says quite calmly, “then I’d like to learn how to use it. And if I’m going to be an ally to a Martial, I would like to fight like one.”
Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!! This made me so happy because I know I’ll be seeing an entirely new dimension between Laia and Helene which I’m guessing might even lead to friendship? I guess we’ll find out. Plus, it’s about time Laia learns how to fight. Hopefully she’ll get some pointers from Elias as well.
She and Harper- they’re an item. They might not know it yet, but they will. And if anything gets in the way of that. Death. Oh and she’s going to kill it even without a mask.
“Harp-Harper,” the Shrike slurs in a whisper. “told you…collapse the tunnels. You disobeyed orders.”
“With respect, Shrike, they were stupid bleeding orders,” Harper says. “Stop talking.”
Come on, you have to agree anyone who is willing to tell the Blood Shrike to shut up is a keeper. I’m pretty sure almost everyone was afraid of her at one point. Except Elias, but they’ll always just be friends…even though Mauth erased everything that made Elias Elias.
Go ahead and read this action-packed train-wreck of a story because it can only go uphill from here. If it doesn’t and we never get Elias back, R.I.P. my aching heart. Also, this cover is killing it!!! They look badass.