“No one is safe. Have you not learned that lesson, Blood Shrike?”
Published: June 12 2018
Pages: 458 (Hardcover)
Series: An Ember in the Ashes #3
Because it is necessary. Because my duty must come first. Because love cannot live here.
Beyond the Empire and within it, the threat of war looms ever larger.
The Blood Shrike, Helene Aquilla, is assailed on all sides. Emperor Marcus, haunted by his past, grows increasingly unstable, while the Commandant capitalizes on his madness to bolster her own power. As Helene searches for a way to hold back the approaching darkness, her sister’s life and the lives of all those in the Empire hang in the balance.
Far to the east, Laia of Serra knows the fate of the world lies not in the machinations of the Martial court, but in stopping the Nightbringer. But while hunting for a way to bring him down, Laia faces unexpected threats from those she hoped would aid her, and is drawn into a battle she never thought she’d have to fight.
And in the land between the living and the dead, Elias Veturius has given up his freedom to serve as Soul Catcher. But in doing so, he has vowed himself to an ancient power that will stop at nothing to ensure Elias’s devotion–even at the cost of his humanity.
You know, even though I knew this would be the death of me, I’m still shocked by all the things that happened throughout this book. That being said, if you’re picking up this book I hope you realize you’re bringing upon your own death. Joking. But also not really.
One of the most magical things about this books, and the previous two in this series, is the fact that there are three story lines running concurrently and yet it’s very easy to follow. While all three story lines have their own characters, plot points, and settings they all come together as one in a big beautiful mash up at the end. Laia’s story line takes her across the Empire and even to the outskirts of Tribal lands, all the while we meet new people, see old friends, and learn more and more about her tragic history and her shaky future. Helen’s story takes us deep into the political and social unrest taking over her life and clouding her actions. It’s a deep and necessary look at the Empire’s inner workings and one person’s attempts to tear it all down (that person being Keris Venturia). Meanwhile, Elias must take on the role of Soul Catcher, no matter how unprepared he is. He’s convinced he can find a way to balance his new duties in the Waiting Place with his desire to help those he loves on the outside, but he comes to learn that love cannot thrive within his new life.
This book has the same flow and eloquent wording as the previous two, the scenes flowing together with the correct tones and inflections carried throughout. There’s something so beautiful about her writings that makes you even love the harsher, more dangerous scenes. Sabaa Tahir treats her characters terribly, makes you love someone and then just takes them away, but it’s something that you love to hate. Part of what makes this series so successful, besides the obvious parallels to our society today, is the fact that Sabaa Tahir is such an incredible writer who weaves the most magical and enchanting worlds.
One of the best parts about this installment in the series is the fact that we see a lot of character development here. Laia is slowly but surely becoming the leader she was destined to be, but being leader means making hard decisions, life or death decisions, and she doesn’t like what these choices are doing to her. Elias, in order to become Soul Catcher, must let go of all his human emotions and his ties to the living world. Doing this means letting go of his family, letting go of Laia, but if he doesn’t then he runs the risk of letting the ghosts loose on the living world. Will he choose his heart, or choose the protection of the living world? Let’s not forget about Helene, who is torn so deeply between her love and duty for her country and her love for her last remaining family member, her sister, Empress Livia. Not to mention her growing feelings for Avitas Harper (which I ship with my whole heart), which crosses the line between Shrike and Mask, but feels oh, so right.
Basically this book was just a dip back into one of my favorite YA worlds, and even though everything that could go wrong did go wrong, I still loved every second of it. This book is one big gut wrenching joy ride through bloody battle scenes, crooked political plays, and doomed romances but boy, do I love this series.
Side Note: The cover changes for this series were a hot topic, and I feel like cover changes of any kind can be a bit frustrating for readers who are very specific about their shelves, but I don’t hate this change. Am I a bit sad that my books won’t match? Yes. Am I gonna get over it? Also yes.