Sabaa Tahir hits the spot for my epic fantasy needs. Her characters show compassion in a bloody world but also must do what needs to be done, even if feelings will be hurt. I basically inhaled A Reaper at the Gates and will now be desperately awaiting the finale. If you haven’t started this series yet, go out and get your paws on An Ember in the Ashes now.

I am a thing from the Barbarians’ nightmares, a silver-faced, blood-drenched demon of the hells, and I will not let them pass.

Blood Shrike Helene must obey her emperor and do her duty as his second, but her heart breaks for her sister, married to that monster. With the rest of her family dead, Helene vows to do whatever she can to protect Livia even if that means towing the line and hunting down those she calls friends. But Livia has taken matters into her own hands, and what she does gives hope, but also an awful lot of worry. Especially when the Commandant would see her dead. I love Helene as a character, she’s multi-faceted and you want her to do good knowing that whatever she chooses, someone will lose.

Laia is determined to discover and destroy the final piece of the Star before the Nightbringer can complete it and free the djinn. The Nightbringer is a much more fleshed out character in this book, with Elias’s role as Soul Catcher helping to shed some light on his past. And not everything is black and white. There is a lot of context given to the oppression of the Scholars, but should a whole race shoulder the burden of their ancestors’ actions?

There is a price paid for greed and violence. We do not always know who will pay it. But for good or ill, it will be paid.

Elias is mostly hanging out in the forest doing a terrible job at being the Soul Catcher. He thinks he has already made his choice, but he must sacrifice even more to keep his promise. And yeah, his mother still seeks out power, helping turn the Empire towards civil war… and that’s without having to worry about the djinn or escaped ghosts. Elias doesn’t come across as passionate as the others, but I think this allows him to finally make his choice.

Have I mentioned that this book is all about difficult choices? There is so much going on and it keeps up a whopping pace. There is intrigue, politics, prophecy, betrayal and sacrifice. Don’t really expect any romance, these relationships are doomed and for once the characters seem to understand there is more at stake than their own happiness.

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.

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Book Source: Purchased