Guest blogger Cindy Vanderbrink takes a look at this 3rd installment of this fantasy powerhouse.
A Reaper at the Gates, the third entry in Sabaa Tahir’s addictive An Ember in the Ashes series finds Laia of Serra, Elias Veturius and Helene Aquilla’s on separate paths.
Laia looks to save her people from sure destruction by the vengeful Nightbringer.
Elias, former Mask, struggles with his new role as Soul Catcher apprentice and his with devotion to Laia. Helene, Blood Shrike, tries to outmaneuver the Commandant and save her sister from her vicious husband, Emperor Marcus. All three are dealing with the aftermath of life altering choices with devastating consequences.
I must confess that I’m a huge fan of this series. From first listen, Tahir’s rich, absorbing worldbuilding hooks you. I quite often find myself so invested in the characters that I rail at situations they find themselves in and at choices they make. That is true testament to the skill of the award winning narrators. Fiona Hardingham, recently interviewed for Ears, embodies Laia. Her tone is spot-on and every single emotion Laia is feeling is palpable. Steve West does an excellent job voicing Elias. His deep voice is at once passionate and as quickly can turn savage. Katharine McEwan is equally matched to Helene. She voices the Blood Shrike with a static, straightforward tone. By no means is that a negative as Helene has learned to hide her emotions behind her mask. All three narrators have excellent pacing and do a beautiful job ramping up intense passages. They also do well voicing numerous characters though Hardingham, in particular, has an affinity for accents and transitions between voices seamlessly. The production is bookended by Maxwell Caulfield’s quietly menacing Nightbringer.
To be honest, I don’t think this works well as a standalone. There is so much going on with all of the characters that requires previous knowledge. But if you are looking for an engrossing listen, this is it.
A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir, read by Fiona Hardingham Katharine McEwan, Steve West and Maxwell Caulfield. 15 hours 29 minutes, 12 CDs. Listening Library, 2018.
Cindy is the Children’s and Teen Collection Development Librarian for the Toledo Lucas County Public Library. She is a member of ALSC and YALSA. She served two year on YALSA’s Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults Committee and two years on ALSC’s Notable Children’s Recordings Committee. She loves picture books, graphic novels, teen literature and audiobooks.