Review: A Reaper at the Gates (#3) by Sabaa Tahir

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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 have so many mixed feelings about this book, and it’s going to be so hard to judge because most of them are it’s not you it’s me problems. To start with, I’ve been trying to read 3 fantasy books at once, and this week I think it finally caught up with me. I very much struggled to keep up with all of the characters in this book. Secondly, I somehow managed to skip over 60 pages of this book. Because me and Alex have been buddy reading these, I somehow just skipped an entire day and went onto the next day. I was confused going forward, but I honestly felt like I was reading this in a daze anyway and just put it down to my mood. I didn’t realise this until about 80 pages from the end, when I went back to read the section I’d missed, and things did to start to make more sense. I also read this in the week when I went back to work and uni classes started up again, meaning I had a lot on and that may have contributed to me feeling a little out of it!

My major problem with this book is there are a few different points of view, and all of the characters have different roles in the story and different parts they are playing. They intertwine less in this book than in the others, and are often flitting between a completely different cast of side characters too. I mainly just found them very hard to keep track of or remember all of the names and roles they played within the story.

Curse this world for what it does to the mothers, for what it does to the daughters. 

I do love how this book gave us a good amount of time with the characters and focused on them a little more. I definitely sympathised more with Helene in this story and my favourite parts were the few scenes we got with one or two characters at a time, finally having some kind of character development that made me feel a little more emotionally invested in the story. However, I did find it strange how little Darin was mentioned and felt very pushed to the side after the events of A Torch Against the Night.

Another aspect I did enjoy was the atmosphere, especially when it comes to Elias’s chapters and his new role as this story developed. I like this world a lot and I’m glad we got to see more of it. Although I could take slightly more description, it did feel well written for the most part and I enjoyed picturing the surroundings.

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.

Honestly, it’s very hard to tell whether the problems I had with this book were with the book itself or with the weird way I ended up reading it, which is why I haven’t rated it any lower than this. I just definitely felt a little disappointed when I compare it to the two previous books, and I hope I feel better about the last one (and manage to actually read it in a linear fashion)!

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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