by Sabaa Tahir
First things first: I’m very disappointed because this book included a lot of tropes and things I hate within books – HOWEVER, if you’re okay with these things, you’ll love this one. But I didn’t. I’ve had a lot of negative thoughts about its two last prequels (I still love Ember, but I felt that I got weaker and weaker afterwards) and all of the things I hated, especially in A Reaper at the Gates, are here once again. And there’s even more. It still gets 2.5 stars, but just barely because there are still moments of impressive writing and beauty within this one, especially the last two chapters, but it couldn’t live up to the high hopes I had.
Things and tropes I hate in books that were excessively used in this one: delay of confrontation, people not telling each other about their feelings because „Oh, the world is going down, I don’t have time for love“, deus ex machina, invincible characters and enemies, Mary Sues, people sneaking up to their enemies and then loudly announcing their presence, allies and powerful weapons appearing out of nowhere. And, structurally speaking: the chapters were too short for my taste. I want to immerse into a character’s perspective, and that works better when you don’t have to change perspective every five pages.
Point One, delay of confrontation. There’s a couple of villains within this series, and though our heros face off against them in combat multiple times, no one dies. Instead, for some reason either the heros or the villains manage to get away unscathed until almost the very end, so every time the Commandant or the Nightbringer turned up, I wasn’t afraid for anyone at all: I knew nothing was gonna happen. This connects with Point Four, invincible characters and enemies: I didn’t feel the stakes because nobody dies. Or, if they die, they get resurrected, so their death was pointless. There’s a sort-of-resurrection included in this one again, and it’s so much deus ex machina that it almost made me DNF this out of frustration.
Point Two, people not telling each other about their feelings because „Oh, the world is going down, I don’t have time for love“. It’s stupid and has the same effect: if it drags on and on, you just know as a reader that nothing is gonna happen at all in terms of love life until the very end of the book or the series.
Point Three: Mary Sues. Laia has turned into an increasingly frustrating Mary Sue. She discovers new superpowers all the time – the funny thing is, she uses them and five pages later she doesn’t use them anymore because it’d go against the plotline, so she just doesn’t use them.
„The Nightbringer weakened your owers early on,“ Rehmat says. „That was before you woke me. You are stronger now. You can disappear. You can even hide those with you.“
Literally eight pages later:
„Watch your left!“ Musa snaps as more longboats appear to the south. And the north.
„Ideas?“ I ask the Beekeeper as the boats close in.
Oh, I dunno, Laia, but, er, if you don’t mind me suggesting something…JUST DISAPPEAR!
Coming to Point Five, people sneaking up to their enemies and then loudly announcing their presence. I mean, then what’s the point of sneaking up to them? Either you go Assassin’s Creed mode or the honest way, but this is just so dumb that I can’t even…whatever.
I vault upward and tear off my hood.
„Grímarr!“ I bellow his name, flinging three throwing knives at him. But he moves with unnatural swiftness to evade them.
That’s right Helene, it was completely unnatural of him to avoid them after you shouted his name and announced your presence. My god. sighs Anyway, Point Six: allies and powerful weapons appearing out of nowhere. That has been going on my nerves for a while now already in the last books, and here it’s worse. There’s always some new, unknown ally turning up just when the hero is lying on the ground weaponless and about to die. Always.
Apart from these tropes&ticks, another thing that disturbed me was that Laia and Helene were suddenly besties at the start of the book. They’re the new dynamic duo, BFFs 4eva, whatever you wanna call it, after hating each other for three books -WHY?! If something like that happens, I want to see! I want character and relationship development ON SCREEN, not what happened here. Apparently, months have passed between the end of part three and the start of this one, and not only have Helene and Laia bonded over and over, no: while they became the best of friends, their enemies did…NOTHING. Apparently, after making that big win at the end of Reaper, they’ve just stopped attacking and decided to sit on their arses although the jinn have been released. I was expecting an apocalypse, what I got was all the stuff I hated about the last book warmed up once again.
So I was seriously considering to give this one only two stars. But then, as I said, it has its moments. There are still chapters and scenes that pulled me in and touched me, there are still pages filled with beautiful writing, but that’s it for me. It was a huge disappointment. Though as I said, if you’re okay with those tropes I mentioned, you’ll like this one. If you loved Reaper, then you’ll definitely love this one, too – but I didn’t. In my opinion, this series got weaker and weaker with every book.