4 big takeaways from Sabaa Tahir’s A Reaper at the Gates

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There’s a problem with Elias

Out of all the main characters, Elias spends the most time apart in this story. Thanks to his new role as a Soul Catcher, he has a bunch of other stuff to deal with that leaves him little time to interact with Laia, Helene or basically anyone else. He shows up at a few key moments to help his former compatriots out — and shares a rather steamy sort-of-dream with Laia — but other than that, he’s kind of on his own.

Elias spends a great deal of Reaper at the Gates trying to figure out how to be a Soul Catcher and realizing that his new job comes with some fairly dire consequences. The fact that he consistently rejects that idea — or complains about it — often comes across as annoying, particularly given the fact that it was becoming a Soul Catcher that saved his life in the last book.

The connection between Elias’ otherworldly duties and the novel’s larger battle with the Nightbringer isn’t clear until Reaper’s final chapters. However, the twist is smart and well-handled. And it comes as something of a relief, as it seems to mean that Elias will have to be more involved in the story’s final segment. How that will work, exactly, given the changes his character undergoes thanks to his connection with Death, is anyone’s guess.

By the end, a reshuffling of the deck

After 400-plus pages, A Reaper at the Gates ends with the status quo as we know it significantly altered. Several characters are now, at least, tenuously aligned in ways they weren’t before. Others have changed their roles in the narrative entirely. The very fabric of the Empire as we knew it has shifted. And a new threat has arrived. So, you know, no big deal, Book 4 should definitely be able to wrap all that up real quick.

The best part about the ending of A Reaper at the Gates is that it — finally — brings some of our main characters back together, and gives them a new understanding of one another. Their relationships have changed, certainly, and we don’t know if for the better. But things are no longer as we knew them, and our original assumptions about how this story will end all seem pretty inaccurate now.

In all honesty, I’m not sure that the Empire of Ashes series wouldn’t have been better served by being a trilogy with some of the filler in the first two-thirds of this novel removed. But the various cliffhangers at the end of Reaper are compelling enough that I’m willing to wait and see how the fourth novel shakes out before making that call. Because they’re all compelling enough to make everything else seem worth it.

The final Ember in the Ashes novel is expected in 2019.

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A Reaper at the Gates is available at bookstores now.