by Sabaa Tahir
No, it’s true. This isn’t a mistake. I haven’t had some sort of fit that made me miss that fifth star. I also didn’t sneeze so hard that I missed the fourth star. I’ve really, out of the dephts of my conscience and heart, given one of Sabaa Tahir’s books only three stars. Why? I’ve about a dazillion reasons why, in my most humble opinion, this one deserves only three stars. Here are some of them: Speed. Black. Invincible. Luck. (Also, don’t promote you book with printing ‚Game of Thrones‘ on it if isn’t like Game of Thrones at all, okay? The Ember series is YA, A Song of Ice and Fire is definitely Adult. Thank you.)
First one: speed. This book feels like you’re racing on a motorway much faster than you’re actually allowed to in one of those super expensive, climate-killing cars I can’t afford. While the first two books of the Ember series were fast-paced, this one is absolutely too fast-paced. It’s like Usain Bolt running away from a pack of tigers or so. There’s no time to breathe. None at all. No breaks, no little moments to reflect on what’s happening, no time for the characters to talk to each other, because somewhere, somehow, the next enemy army keeps spawning out of nowhere. There’s just action, and action and – you’ve guessed it – more action. And that’s too much.
Second one: black. Now, this is the third book in the series and still the villains are as black as outer space. I really don’t like black characters. I like them grey, even dark-grey, but here Marcus and Keris are still pitch-black. True, there’s some more information about the Commandant’s past, but Marcus and her are still inhumane. And Helene is still too stupid to kill them in time.
Third one: invincibility. The three protagonists aren’t people I envy at all. Their lives are a collection of horrors and catastrophes. Basically everybody they know dies somehow, and they never get to do what they want. And yet, they’re still alive, even Elias, the Soul Catcher In Training. They’re stabbed by assassins, bombs explode next to them, they’re pierced by arrows like hedgehogs – and still alive, so when Tahir for the tenth time lets a chapter end with one of them bleeding out, I’m not affected. Like, at all. Because by now I know that they’ll just survive anything, including decapitation. I bet if you put Laia on a stake and burned her, somehow her ashes would come out of the ground a couple of days later and she’d be just fine. Okay, maybe she’d have a bit of a headache, but you get the gist of it.
Last one: luck. The characters are hilariously lucky. What? Haven’t I just told you how bad their lives are? True, true. But they’re still lucky. So very lucky that it’s annoying. Deus-ex-machina-lucky. Whenever they’re in a situation where they’re just totally helpless, someone turns up. Out of the blue. Like Musa, who’s being introduced in this one. Basically he can do everything, just like Avitas Harper.
So, anyway. Apart from that, this is still an okayish book. I still liked reading it, and I still will read book number four, but it has been somewhat disappointing, because I really enjoyed both Ember and Torch, so I had high hopes for this one. My hopes weren’t totally crushed, mind you.
The action scenes are well-written, the Nightbringer never ceases to amaze and we get character development from our three protagonists, so I’m definitely not sorry for reading A Reaper at the Gates, but for the reasons I’ve mentioned, this is – for me – a book which is only worthy of three stars. I definitely hope that the final installment will be a lot better than this, though.
‚A Sky Beyond the Storm‘ releases December 1st. Sorry Sabaa, my book gets published that day too, but people can read it after mine. I’m sure you’re okay with that. If not, just text me.