ARC Review: “A Reaper at the Gates” by Sabaa Tahir

I don’t know what to say, or how to even write the right words to convey how I feel. A Repear at the Gates was one of my most anticipated releases of 2018. When luck swung my way a few weeks ago and I managed to get an ARC, my heart burst with joy.

If you’ve been eagerly awaiting this third installment of the Ember Quartet, you won’t be disappointed. My heart has been equally stomped on, burst from pure happiness, swooning with absolute emotion. I know Sabaa is a great writer–there’s simply no question–and she’s been one of my favorite authors since I first read An Ember in the Ashes. But A Reaper at the Gates has sealed Sabaa as a master storyteller and destroyer of my heart.

a reaper at the gatesTitle: A Reaper at the Gates (Ember Quartet #3)
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Razorbill
Expected release date: June 12, 2018 (tomorrow!)
Genre: Young adult, fantasy
Length: 464 pages (hardcover)
Synopsis: (via Goodreads) “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.”

five-starsMy Thoughts

Trigger Warning (TW): Physical abuse. Not to any of the main characters, but to a certain person one of the characters loves deeply.

All quotes have been taken from the Advanced Reader’s Copy, and may change in the final copy.

I wish there was a machine capable of taking all my thoughts about this book and putting it into words. Because right now, I’m basically a mess of emotions. Sabaa takes her characters, our beloved characters, and pushes them to the brink of their humanity, emotions, and love. I simply cannot get over how every single chapter is filled with action, purpose, meaning for Elias, Laia, and Helene. How these three characters are fighting for different and yet the same things: to live in peace.

“Hope is stronger than fear. It is stronger than hate.”

Yet there are just so many questions! I simply can’t choose a favorite character, because I like different aspects of each one. How Elias has given himself up to be the Soul Catcher, not knowing what in the world he’s gotten himself into, and how utterly heartbreaking it is. (I mean, that’s not a spoiler, right? We had to know Elias would break our hearts, right?) How Laia has transformed into this strong character, determined to see justice come to her people. How Helene has had nearly everything taken from her and how she holds onto such a thin thread of hope, and I’ll admit I was most interested in how Helene’s life takes shape in this book and the many things she has to question.

“You live and breathe and eat and sleep on the backs of those less fortunate. Your entire existence is due to the oppression of those you view to be lesser… Why did date see fit to make you the oppressor instead of the oppressed? What is the meaning of your life?”

A lot of what Helena has done in the past comes back to haunt her in the third book, shaking her in her very core. Her unmaking, as one of the Augurs mentioned in a previous book, comes head-to-head with the ideals she’s grown up to believe as a child. It’s all incredibly fascinating.

“I just want my people to live, to survive to fight another day.”

And oh man, the ruthless Commandant. I’ll admit some questions I had about the Commandant were answered in this book, and it’s rather…well, heart-breaking. The same can be said about Marcus, too. I’m always intrigued by villains who, given two or more choices, choose to take the one leading down a darker path. So for me, the chapters were we learn more about the Commandant were some of the most interesting. And I’m definitely ready for all of it to come to a head in the fourth and final book. I can’t sympathize or empathize with any of the villains, and I’m starting to think that’s the point…

Sabaa gives us so much in this book, too. I know we all moaned about the release date being pushed back, but it was all for good. (Sabaa wouldn’t do us wrong anyway!) And all the revelations! I had some suspicions but it was nothing compared to what Reaper holds!

Of the perfection this book holds, I did have one single qualm, and it was the way Helene described one of the character’s mother as having “almond-shaped eyes.” Usually, it’s a term used to describe a character of East Asian or Southeast Asian heritage. I’d like to think that’s Helene’s own white privilege peaking through, as “almond-shaped” has become a bit of a taboo way to describe how Asian eyes are shaped, as there are various far better ways to describe it now. So just that single part ruffled my feathers a bit but didn’t take away from the overarching story and who it relates to exactly.

A Reaper at the Gates releases tomorrow, June 12! I’ve already pre-ordered my copy at my local indie, and can’t wait to get a hardcover copy to slide into my shelves! We’ve waited a long time for this, Emberlings! I loved this book, and now I have to wait God knows how long for the F I N A L (can I even believe it?!) book!

You can purchase your copy from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Book Depository (U.K. hardback edition), or IndieBound, though I’ll make a disclaimer and say that Amazon did some screwy stuff and sent copies of Reaper out early. I’m crossing my fingers it doesn’t affect too much Sabba’s chance of getting on any bestseller’s list because she total deserves to hold a spot! 🙂

2 thoughts on “ARC Review: “A Reaper at the Gates” by Sabaa Tahir

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