"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." - From Goodreads
Many moons ago, when I was tasked with selecting a book for our June 'courage/perseverance' themed Ink Crate, I was immediately drawn by Sabaa Tahir's "An Ember in the Ashes." It checked all the boxes I wanted, fantasy, young adult, etc. and some I didn't even realize I needed (though I had always wanted): people of colour as the protagonists, mythology that stems from Islam and the Middle East/North Africa/South East Asia that is conscientiously woven into the story, and so so much more. Now, two years and three books later, I don't know what I was doing before this series existed.
A Reaper at the Gates is the third in the Ember Quartet. It continues the stories of Elias Veturius, Lia of Serra, and Helene Aquilla as their diverged paths lead them to face battles far beyond their wildest dreams/nightmares and threats both human and inhuman in nature. Tahir drops your right back into the action, inclduing chapters from the Nightbringer's perspective and let me tell you, despite the build in death and destruction and darkness and 'oh shit what else could possibly happen'...it was awesome.
I don’t know how to properly review this book without offering you a review of the two that came before, I don’t know if I can do it objectively, to be honest.
All I can say is that the little teenaged brown girl that I used to be, the one that resides within me still, was looking for this kind of representation all my life.
To see a brown, female, lead is one thing, but one this badass? Laia of Serra has her faults, but when push comes to shove she rises above it all to do what’s right.
The Ember quartet, and A Reaper at the Gates (the third of soon-to-be-four books) is a series that has ancient Roman Empire influences mixed with ancient Islamic/Bedouin influences.
That’s right. Can you imagine my joy at finding a young adult FANTASY book with awesome world building, diversity, action, romance and a rich mythology that is explored and becomes more intricate as the series continues and which portrays my religion in a positive way while still managing to showcase that all empires, all people, make mistakes and that you can find good and bad in every race/culture/etc.? And it does all this without being preach-y or in-your-face?
I’m fangirling without actually talking about the plot/characters/writing. I know. I don’t care. This is the kind of book I wish I had growing up, with all the love and respect for those that came before that I did manage to get my hands on and that might have influenced the wonderful Sabaa Tahir.
This is the kind of series I can’t wait to let my future children read. My they grow up to be as awesome as Laia of Serra and as empathetic as Helene Aquilla.
(Some) Memorable Quotes:
“Skies save me from the men in my life and all the things they think they know."
"The permanence of death will always feel like a betrayal."
"Strange how monsters can reach from beyond the grave, as potent in death as they were in life."
"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."
"There is a price for greed and violence. We do not always know who will pay it. But for good or ill, it will be paid."
"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."
If anyone has read The Embers Quartet, let us know what you think in the comments below! Comments also open to further book/movie/show recommendations, anything you’d like to see reviewed, or general feedback. We’d love to hear what you have to say!