Sabaa Tahir’s lengthy fantasy series has been a favorite ever since I turned the first page of debut An Ember in the Ashes in 2015. Like its predecessors, newest installment, A Reaper at the Gates, is a 450 page novel best read in a day or two.
The story alternates chapters between the perspectives of Helene, Laia, and Elias, each on their own respective journeys. What makes the novel so unputdownable is that each chapter ends on a cliffhanger. You just need to read on and find out what happens next.
Although the novel is told at breakneck speed, A Reaper at the Gates occasionally falls into the dreaded middle book rut. The book feels great on its own, but compared to Ember and A Torch Against the Night, it’s just okay. Perhaps, this is because there was one perspective that felt superfluous and occasionally frustrating. While Elias’s journey was important at the end of the novel, there were a couple chapters towards the beginning that I felt could be edited out.
“There are worse things than death,” I say, “Shall we learn about them together?”
Luckily, Helene Aquilla, a fan favorite, illuminated the novel. Her chapters felt the most suspenseful and her stakes felt the highest. Unlike other characters, she consistently made selfless decisions for the good of her empire, not the plot, even if it meant losing a little bit of her soul in the process. Additionally, Helene finally has a much-deserved romantic arc, with much more chemistry than Laia and Elias ever had.
(If I mention two of the central characters, it is only fair I mention the third. Laia’s character arc is interesting as she finally steps into her mother’s shoes, but it is not remarkable.)
Each character is able to grow throughout the book because of Tahir’s incredible world building. In a fantasy universe, it is difficult to avoid info-dumping while still creating a fleshed-out society, but Tahir manages to pull it off beautifully.
Just as I have loved every other novel of Tahir’s, I loved A Reaper at the Gates. Fast paced, clever, and compelling, the third novel in An Ember in the Ashes series is sure to be enjoyed by devoted fans and newcomers alike.