YA Fantasy

My Review: A Sky Beyond the Storm (An Ember in the Ashes #4): by Sabaa Tahir

Publish Date: December 1st, 2020
Number of Pages: 516 Pages
Publisher: Razorbill
Genre(s): YA Fantasy

***Warning!! This review contains spoilers for this book and the whole series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!!***

To see my full review of book #1 – An Ember In The Ashes – Click HERE

To see my full review of book #2 – A Torch Against The Night – Click HERE

To see my full review of book #3 – A Reaper At The Gates – Click HERE

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast for the whole series – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

You are broken. But it is broken things that are the sharpest. The deadliest. It is broken things that are the most unexpected, and the most underestimated.”

– Sabaa Tahir, “A Sky Beyond The Storm”

Let me start off by saying OOWWWWWWWW, this book punches you right in the heart! It’s certainly been awhile since a book has made me as emotional as A Sky Beyond The Storm has, and that’s the case for multiple reasons: it’s the final book of one of my favorite book series, but also because Sabaa Tahir once again knows how to torture her characters in some of the most brutalistic ways that even though I know they’re fictional, my heart absolutely aches for all they go through. I think the last time I was affected by a book this much was when I read Kingdom of Ash, the final book of the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. Both hold a special place in my heart, and it was a little sad to see the story end.

A Sky Beyond the Storm was definitely one of my most anticipated books of 2020, but it wasn’t the easiest to get into this book as I’d hoped. With a lot weighing me down in my personal life at the time of this book’s release, I was in a bit of a reading slump—part of me feels like I still am—and it really showed with how slowly I was getting through this book at first. I think it was that along with how I also think the beginning of this book through a good chunk of the midpoint was just kind of slow. Not a whole lot was grabbing my interest, it’d been since June 2018 when the previous book came out, so it was a little distancing to reacquaint myself with the characters and the world and all that had happened before; a reread of the series would’ve been beneficial if only I’d had the time! However, strange as this may sound, but once a character sacrificed themselves for one of the main characters was when things really began to pick up.

Similar to A Reaper At The Gates, the back half of this book was when the stakes were at their highest and everything was coming together and PLENTY was happening. A lot of dark, horrible, traumatizing, heart wrenching things that I absolutely applaud the author for making me feel because once again that proves to me what an effective storyteller she is, or Kehanni as she puts it in this book! I know there’s the piece of advice to torture your characters as a writer, but man…Sabaa knows where to make it hurt the worst! My friend who also read the book said it was some Game of Thrones level torment and pain, and I can’t disagree with her on that.

Of course with this being the final book in the series, I’m trying to not only review this book in itself, but also kind pay homage to the whole series too, and I want to do that by giving the characters their own little spot and my honest thoughts about them below:

Laia:

Throughout the course of this entire series, it was astounding to see the amount of bravery a girl like her, who came from so little and had just as much, could show when face to face with the many dangers she had to confront. Laia’s tenacity and courageousness along with her ability to show her true self and be vulnerable and still feel like she was a young girl after everything she’s dealt with and suffered through, although I must say it also felt like she didn’t really grow as much as a character about halfway through the series. I could be totally off on that and may rediscover more things about her in the future whenever I plan to reread these books back to back, but for now these are my thoughts. In a way, her ending was perfect for her and how she is able to honor so many with how she’s able to move forward onto the next chapter.

Elias:

To be honest, Elias was a very conflicting character for me throughout. He was perhaps my favorite character (or at least top three), but I was also not the biggest fan of his whole story arc for the second half of the series. As soon as it became clear that he was to become the Soul Catcher, I found myself becoming less and less interested in his storyline and thought his chapters were boring when compared to Laia and Helene. He was a soldier born from violence and raised to become a master of death in his own right, but instead he longed for more and for a brighter future, and his willingness to put the needs of his loved ones way above his own needs was what made me love him as a character. I Still adore him, he’s def’s still on my book boyfriend list, and his storyline definitely picks up again for me in this final installment, I’d say he also had a great way to wrap up his story and end up in a good place as the story drew to a close.

Helene:

Arguably one of the greatest character growth storylines in all of fiction, I totally had Helene pegged wrong when I met her in the first novel. Back then, she seemed like just another pretty blonde who was elitist, shallow, selfish and not worth my time caring about because of how she looked down on people like Laia and the rest of the Scholars. As we learn in the ending of the first book, she gets the title of being the Blood Shrike to the Emperor, and from then on is when her character develops so beautifully, I want Helene to have the world and now I believe she truly deserved more than what she got. If anyone was put through the wringer in these books, Helene had lost so much and had seen some truly horrifying things that most people wouldn’t recover from, yet there she was in the middle of almost countless battles and holding her own against the powerful forces that work against her and her friends. Helene was proof that there can be so much more going on beneath the surface and how first impressions don’t mean almost anything. Her and Harper were perfect for each other!

The Nightbringer:

A truly magnificent villain for this series, but it didn’t always feel that way. Like Helene, his whole being felt rather one dimensional and was just evil for the sake of being evil. That dramatically changed when you learn so much more about him in the third book and witness more of his tragic backstory that lead him to being where he was and why he was doing all that he’d done. He’s still evil and needed to be stopped, but the best villains are always the ones that you still feel something for and can relate to what their reasoning behind their plot is. They’re the manifestation of our darkest thoughts and wishes and show us why we shouldn’t go as far as they do in order to achieve their wishes, but understanding them like that makes it all that much better of a story overall. I felt so bad for him as I discovered all that he’d been through, everything about him and the pain he’s endured just really makes my heart heavy.

The Commandant:

I’ve praised her plenty before and it’ll mostly be the same of that right here, but Keris is one of the best villains I’ve come across in literature if not all entertainment media like books, movies and tv shows. She was always so cold and calculating and made my skin crawl with her lethal calm and how little emotion she showed with every heinous act she performed, I said in one review that she’s scarier than Cersei Lannister and I stand by that statement! It was interesting to get inside her mind a little bit in this final book and—of course—have my heart go out to her and how her part in the story came to be. Looking at other reviews to see what others thought, I saw that others were pretty torn about it and wanted her to remain the cold and distant and cruel leader that she was. While I partially agree, the fact that I was still able to feel things like pity and sorrow for her after all she’d done before shows how great a storyteller the author is.

Cook:

A hidden in plain sight treasure of a character, I had no idea the significance she was going to play in this series when I first met her in the start of it all. She seemed like the typical old, grumpy, mentor-like character whom Laia was going to eventually bond with, but boy was I way off on that! Well not totally, but like a lot of things in these books, it was in a way that I was certainly not expecting. She was in and out of the story for quite some time, and with good reason, but I think her storyline also wrapped up nicely that played well into the type of person she was and how things came to be.

Harper:

Another character I didn’t really think much of at first, but once this soldier began to question the orders he was given, I caught a glimpse of something there that drew me in. The tension that built up between him and Helene starting in the third book definitely piqued my interest further until I couldn’t believe it, but I wanted more than anything for them to get together somehow, but knowing both of them and they way they are, it wasn’t going to be easy to get there. Loved him in this last book, it was obvious how perfect him and Helene were with how he’d wordlessly know how to help her best in certain situations, heck even sacrificing meeting his own half-brother sooner than he did shows the dedication and loyalty he had to her. I only wish Harper and Helene had more simpler and happier moments than what they got.

Musa:

LOVED HIM FROM THE START! I’m a sucker for characters like him: handsome, charming, sarcastic, roguish, deadly, and has all the hilariously snappy one-liners. He was a great addition that I didn’t know I needed for these books, I wish he’d shown up sooner! Even Musa experienced some major trauma and loss in this final book, but the glimpse of possibility for happiness we also see for him warms my heart for him!

As I wrap up this section of the review, it’s just still crazy to me that I randomly selected the first book off the Barnes & Noble shelf one day to keep my entertained for a long plane ride back in 2015 when it first came out. I didn’t look on Goodreads or Amazon, saw no reviews or knew about it beforehand, I just randomly snagged a copy and gave it a chance. Maybe I need to do that more often because nowadays it feels like I almost rely too much on those things in order to select what I might read next, but that’s just because there’s so many amazing looking stories out there that I want them all! How do you choose which ones to invest your valuable time on? Everyone has their own answer to that, but part of me feels like maybe it’s a good thing to just give a book a chance before taking out your phone and looking up it’s score before deciding to read it. Who knows, you might just find one of your favorite books that way!

Would that we all knew the cracked terrain of each other’s broken hearts. Perhaps then, we would not be so cruel to those who walk this lonely world with us.”

– Sabaa Tahir, “A Sky Beyond The Storm”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

Prepare for the jaw-dropping finale of Sabaa Tahir’s beloved New York Times bestselling An Ember in the Ashes fantasy series, and discover: Who will survive the storm?

Picking up just a few months after A Reaper at the Gates left off…

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 I Liked:

  1. The Ending For Each Character! Each character’s arc conclusion felt natural and made sense for them in where each of them have been and how things came to be. It may not be the brightest or happiest endings for some of them, but it was all fitting for each of them.
  2. The Depth of All The Characters! Sabaa Tahir is so effing amazing at making complex and well fleshed out characters. Each have so much depth so long as you pay attention, especially the villains. The author honestly writes some of the best villains you’ll ever read in any book EVER! The Nightbringer and the Commandant were so cold and cruel, but when the author sheds some light on their tragic backstories, it not only totally pierces your heart but almost makes you really understand where they’re coming from.
  3. The Themes! I’ve said it in past reviews for this series, but what really makes me appreciate it is how dark these books got when compared to other YA Fantasy series. The usual themes remained consistent in this title as with the previous books, but one that really stuck out that felt more new to me was the theme of mothers and daughters. It was amazing how this was shown in so many different ways in the final battle of all places, it’s truly a highlight of the whole book!
  4. How The Plot Progresses! It was the same thing in A Reaper At The Gates, but it amazes me how the author was able to tie everything together and how she uses prophecies but plays with the wording really well. They always end up coming true, but not always in the way you’d expect. Simply brilliant! *chef’s kiss*

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Magic System…To be honest, thinking back on the magic system throughout these four books, I wasn’t a big fan of it because to me it felt like it was just there and there wasn’t really a strict set of rules or guidelines to it at all. The series totally worked with it, but sometimes it felt like it was used out of convenience with the plot, but again, the overall story didn’t require a more tightly knit system.
  2. The Slower Start/Midpoint…It may be because I’ve been in a reading funk as of late, but this book was hard for me to initially get into. The beginning and most of the midpoint were just slow for me and there were days where I just couldn’t bring myself to want to open the pages to read on, but again, take this with a grain of salt because lately no books have been working for me as much as they have in the past.

Conclusion:

It should have been him dancing with you”

– Sabaa Tahir, “A Sky Beyond The Storm”

Overall, A Sky Beyond The Storm wasn’t the perfect book, but it was a highly satisfying way to wrap up one hell of a YA Fantasy series that should be given more props than it really does. A lot of heart wrenching scenes and words are spoken as to show how the author really knows how to hit the readers right in the emotional gut and keep your interest, even if the series hasn’t gone in the direction you’d hope it go in.

A slower beginning and midpoint are what makes this just a four star rating for me, but let it still be known that this ended up being a magnificent book and had a satisfying series ending that seems to be so rare in most of the media we consume lately; it left me feeling a mix of emotions like happiness with how everything wrapped up for most of the characters but also sadness of all they had to endure, and like I said earlier, that this series is now over.

One thing that is certain is that Sabaa Tahir can freakin’ write a story. Her storytelling skills are undeniable and is able to really emotionally invest a reader should they choose to stick with this story all the way through. No book or author is perfect, but if this is her first series that she’s written, lord knows what else she may come up with.

If it wasn’t obvious by now, I can’t recommend this series enough to anyone who’s looking for an epic adventure filled with danger, surprising twists, fatal decisions, burning romance, and magic. I’ve been having that definite book hangover after this one because of all the years I’ve spent with this series, and once again a truly amazing story has come to an end.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

2 thoughts on “My Review: A Sky Beyond the Storm (An Ember in the Ashes #4): by Sabaa Tahir”

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