Reaper At the Gates
blog, spoiler warning!

‘I Love You, But Why?’ My Unfiltered Thoughts on A Reaper At The Gates’ Relationships

Sabaa Tahir’s “An Ember in the Ashes” is one of my most favorite YA Fantasy stories, probably ever. That’s because of the richness of the world, the complexities of its characters, and the never-ending twists in the plot. Since the early days of my blog on Instagram, I’ve been singing high praises for this series, and the love I have for these characters.

If you’re reading this, with the major spoiler warning! at the top, I’m guessing you’ve already ready the series, or have no intentions of ever reading it. So I’ll speak freely as I share my unpopular opinion on Book 3: A Reaper At The Gates. 

Spoilers, Shmoilers

Now please don’t get me wrong, Book 3 was a-mazing! That whole ending was crazy, and it broke my heart how complicated it all became for absolutely everyone by the end of it. I mean, Markus??? We all think he’s a monster. But his character as an insane emperor in this particular book was just heartbreaking. I almost felt like crying reading his death scene.


My problem with the third title is the way it progressed our love lines.

Laia & Elias

It’s strange. We’ve been rooting for Laia and Elias to get together since Book 1, and their chemistry is undeniable. But I feel unsatisfied??? Actually, it may just be because of the L-word floating around, which I frankly don’t think is necessary when there’s already so much angst and longing between them without realizing they were in love with each other.

See, I understand the depth of how much they care and desire one another — the things they had to go through in Blackcliff, traversing the world by themselves jumping from one horror to the next, breaking out of prison, and now, the Waiting Place and the civil war. Their individual character arcs just amplified that strong connection between them, and the angst from its impossibility just made the whole thing even more frustrating and rewarding.

We all know and trust that they’ll find their way back to each other in some way, but love? It just felt rushed. They weren’t together enough for them to fall in love.

We know they have strong feelings for one another that could later on result to love. But there just wasn’t enough emotional depth for it to lead to love in this particular book.

We could have perfectly stayed in that “what are we?” place, and then have those emotions gradually fall into place when they finally get together. Because they both know how they feel about one another, and how the other person feels!!

They already have this mutual understanding that they want each other – there’s already that strong foundation. Taking it to the next level with the L-word just didn’t feel as satisfying.

Though, I understand why they thought it was necessary to build up the angst more, since there were so many things keeping them apart. And that extra level of “love” would just up the stakes a lot more. But it wasn’t necessary.

Helene & Harper

The Helene and Harper love line, although I don’t really mind their pairing, also brings this issue of lack of emotional impact to light. There’s even less build up here since we only met Harper in Book 2. I can’t help but feel as if it was just added on to give Helene more to lose, and to add more layers to her character.

Harper never saw Helene vulnerable or showing warmth for others. She was always the cold Shrike, although there were moments where she did let her guard down, it wasn’t by a lot. Where did the interest come from? Helene’s interest for Harper is a lot more understandable as he showed her care and affection in some little ways throughout their adventures, but still — that’s it?

I do like the fact that Helene can get some love and affection, especially after everything she had to go through. But again, it feels a bit rushed and underdeveloped.


I’m still a massive fan of this series and Sabaa Tahir’s writing, though. And I can’t wait to see how the plot explodes even more in Book 4, especially what that would eventually do to our beloved characters and these love lines.

I applaud Tahir’s craft in world-building and characterization, and the sense of longing and empathy you feel for everyone’s circumstances (even the bad guys!), I just wish that pacing will also trickle down to our romantic relationships. Laia and Elias already have that going for them (if we scratch out the love part), but Helene and Harper just have so much to work on to make their story that more compelling. I wish we’d see that more in the next installment.

What do you think?

  • How do you feel about Laia and Elias’ relationship in Book 3?
  • Do you think the L-word matters in this situation?
  • How would you like Laia + Elias and Helene + Harper to end up together, given the atrocities of this world?

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