Review: A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir


  • my rating:4 stars
  • published by: Harper-Voyager
  • genres: high fantasy, young adult
  • content warnings: sexual assault, violence, torture, marital abuse, murder of children



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.


“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.”


An Ember in the Ashes is a lush fantasy series that just gets better with each book. It finds it’s roots in the Roman Empire and loosely retells the conquest of Rome but this fantasy/dystopian is so original and has such a fresh world, really it feels like entirely its own thing.

The best part of this series is the characters. Laia, Elias and Helene have always intrigued me and as the series goes on Sabaa Tahir just further complicates their characters and throws increasingly difficult to overcome obstacles in their path. In A Reaper at The Gates, the characters yet again shine. Laia has always been my favourite. I adore her character development and how she has gone from a naive character to a strong badass leading a revolution. But in this book Helene took centre stage. Her arc is coming along really nicely, and to say her character put under so much emotional strain, and get pushed to her absolute limits, was so interesting. Unfortunately, I felt like character fell down a bit Elias. His story arc was confusing and only felt vaguely connected to the main plot. As a consequence, I was annoyed when his chapters came along and took me out of the action.

I also feel like Tahir underused some characters very badly. The seminal character around which the majority of the complication rotates barely appears, and the wasted potential had me feeling cheated. I felt like I was missing out on all the complications around this central character that the ending of A Torch Against the Night owed me.

The romance here, however, was perfect. Elias and Laia have such a fun dynamic, and I love how inevitable they feel. Even though there is issues getting in the way, I love that the narrative laves us secure in the knowledge that the two are meant to be. The weight given to their love makes me more and more frustrated when it can’t be realised, but it’s in the weirdly satisfying frustrating way rather than the annoying way. As always, Tahir’s romance is spot on and I have no complaints about it here. All I can say is please let them be happy soon.

A Reaper At the Gates plot isn’t as centred as it’s predecessors. The characters spends the first two hundred pages without a clear aim or goal, making me feel like the characters were aimlessly wandering around. But in the next two thirds this really picked up. Helene’s chapters had clear focus and were the most exciting, but I loved Laia’s too. As always, Tahir nails plot twists and one in particular here made me gasp out loud. The final third had me on the edge of my seat, as usual, Tahir delivers a pulse-pounding final chapters that left me desperate for the next book.

Despite A Reaper at the Gates having some issues, it was an incredibly strong addition to this series. The character development is outstanding and is on such an intriguing trajectory, I have no idea where Tahir will take these characters next but I can’t wait to see it. The ending absolutely destroyed me, and I love that Tahir just keeps on raising the stakes. There was moments I was genuinely shocked or moved and that is so, so important, especially in a five hundred page book.

I continue to love this series a lot, and I cannot wait for the next instalment!

until next time!

xo jamieson

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