Hi friends! I’m here to review my first read book of 2021*, and also the last book in one of my favorite series. Buckle up, because I have thoughts.
*yeah, i know i’m really behind. rip my goodreads reading goal.
Spoilers for all previous books in the series! TW/CW: death, violence, loss of family and friends, grief
The long-imprisoned jinn are on the attack, wreaking bloody havoc in villages and cities alike. But for the Nightbringer, vengeance on his human foes is just the beginning. At his side, Commandant Keris Veturia declares herself Empress, and calls for the heads of any and all who defy her rule. At the top of the list? The Blood Shrike and her remaining family.
Laia of Serra, now allied with the Blood Shrike, struggles to recover from the loss of the two people most important to her. Determined to stop the approaching apocalypse, she throws herself into the destruction of the Nightbringer. In the process, she awakens an ancient power that could lead her to victory–or to an unimaginable doom.
And deep in the Waiting Place, the Soul Catcher seeks only to forget the life–and love–he left behind. Yet doing so means ignoring the trail of murder left by the Nightbringer and his jinn. To uphold his oath and protect the human world from the supernatural, the Soul Catcher must look beyond the borders of his own land. He must take on a mission that could save–or destroy–all that he knows
What a journey. The first two books in this series feel so completely different from the final two, yet it also feels like such a natural progression of characters arcs and plot twists. This final book had the heavy burden of tying up loose strings and it delivered.
Laia has grown so much. While some may not enjoy the direction her arc went, I think it fits very well in the world Tahir’s created. It’s brutal, terrifying, unpredictable. A lot of the history of the Roman-inspired world isn’t revealed until this book. And Laia’s growth, her changes, reflect that. Yes, some of her
extremely reckless decisions annoyed me. Yes, occasionally she felt like a Celaena Sardothian “suddenly is able to do anything and everything for literally no reason” wannabe. But at the same time, it felt like a natural extension of her character that’s been forced to evolve throughout all that she’s been through. So in all honestly, I actually liked Laia a lot.
The Blood Shrike. Helene Aquilla. I can’t believe there was ever a point I didn’t like her??? Like, who had taste because it clearly wasn’t me. She has gone through so very much, and still does. Watching her struggle with all of her preconceived notions of what it means to be a Martial, and working through her fear of vulnerability was both heartbreaking and beautiful. Of our three main characters, I actually believe that The Blood Shrike’s was the most naturally done. Her friendship with Laia, her love for her sister Livia and her nephew Zacharias, her complicated feelings for a certain general named Avitas Harper…they feel so genuine. Plus, she’s literally the coolest so yeah.
“I thought I served a great cause: Protecting the Empire. But all I did was protect people who were never in any danger.”
Elias Veturius. Technically The Soul Catcher but I hate that name so he’s Elias to me. The entirety of A Reaper At The Gates and A Sky Beyond The Storm hurts because it almost feels like he’s a totally new character. However, as frustrating as it is watching him lose his humanity, it makes the small victories when the old Elias surfaces so much sweeter. And again: his character arc throughout the series, especially at the end of Sky, ends up coming full-circle, and incredibly well-balanced.
I can’t put into words how many feelings this book gave me. I mean, I cried a lot. But I was also so overwhelmed by the small moments of joy, the romantic moments, the moments with friends and family. Learning more about The Nightbringer, and Keris Veturia, and how evil is never pure evil. It almost always comes from suffering of some kind. It truly made me breathless at some points, because you could tell how much raw emotion Tahir was writing with. It seeped from the words and pages. I am just in awe.
“I wish I could live a thousand lives so I could fall in love with you a thousand times.”
Plot-wise, I’m a little torn. While I enjoyed the individual internal battles of each of our main characters, I almost felt like we spent a little bit too much unnecessary time with them. Between each battle, each important plot event, there was just a bit too much empty time. We’d skip around, wait a little, have a conversation, and then skip some more. Unfortunately, that made the book drag a bit more than it should have. And I do wish we’d gotten a little more on Keris Veturia, and specifically her relationships with Elias and Harper, than we did.
on the other hand…
Can we please just appreciate how beautifully the ending was written? The climax felt so well-done, full of action and shock and fear and relief. It didn’t drag, but neither did it feel anti-climatic. I feel like I have the perfect amount of closure with the characters, and what happens after the ending. This is honestly one of the, if not the most, satisfying ending I’ve ever experienced in a series. Except for maybe Clockwork Princess but we don’t talk about that.
All in all, this was a well-written tale of grief and loss, hope and love. I laughed, I cried, I gasped. This is probably, objectively, Sabaa Tahir’s best work so far. Truly, I couldn’t ask for a better finale. 4/5 stars*! Share your thoughts on this series, and please scream with me about this book if you’ve read it haha!