March 2022’s Reading List

Belonging

This book is available from Furaha Publishers in Kigali, Rwanda.

It is about:

Keza, who is in search of a place she can truly call hers.  She carries on her shoulders a difficult past faced by her ancestors: her parents, grandparents, and relatives in her Tutsi tribe. Because of this past, and an initial loss of her homeland, Keza becomes a woman forged by three distinct cultures from three different countries: Uganda, Rwanda, and the Western world.

Book Review


A Torch Against the Night

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

It was so much fun getting back to this series. Elias and Laia are on the run with Helene in pursuit. They really found themselves in a tough spot often.

Blurb

Elias and Laia are running for their lives.

After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.

But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.

Book Review


Slay Book Cover

Slay by Brittney Morris

Slay is one of those books written to make you think of racial issues from a different perspective.  Kiera is a truly strong and unique character.  I loved her passion for gaming.  Most important is the pure intention of providing a safe space she pours into the creation of her game, Slay.  It’s admirable and this book should be read by more people.

Blurb

By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is a high school student and one of the only black kids at Jefferson Academy. By night, she joins hundreds of thousands of black gamers who duel worldwide in the secret online role-playing card game, SLAY.

No one knows Kiera is the game developer – not even her boyfriend, Malcolm. But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, the media labels it an exclusionist, racist hub for thugs.

With threats coming from both inside and outside the game, Kiera must fight to save the safe space she’s created. But can she protect SLAY without losing herself?

Book Review


A Reaper at the Gates and A Sky Beyond the Storm bring this series to the end.  Elias and Laia had a great adventure.  They changed their worlds and brought what they thought of as happiness to life. Despite the many losses they faced.  I’m so glad Sabaa Tahir chose to write this series.  She’s a great kehanni.

Book 3 Review & Book 4 Review


March 2022 was filled with Sabaa Tahir’s series.  I’m very lucky it is complete and all four books are available.  April starts with Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. 

If you would like a book review, or a book feature, just email me or message me on this blog.  I’ll get back to you.  I wish you a very beautiful April. Easter is coming up, have a good one.

Check out Zev’s Afrotheria on Wattpad, or Here if you love reading online.

A Sky Beyond the Storm – Review

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

A Sky Beyond the Storm book cover

A Sky Beyond the Storm

by Sabaa Tahir

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.

Book Review

A Sky Beyond the Storm marks the end of the Ember in the Ashes. Laia has changed.  She is no longer the frightened girl at the start of the series.  Since then, she has endured torturous hours, under the commandant.  She stood up to bullies in the resistance. Endured heartbreak thanks to the Nightbringer.  She found the strength to save Elias and her brother.  Most important she found purpose and the determination to follow through. I admire her tenacity and her ability to keep going no matter what.  This determination to find another way, not to give up.

Elias’s character when we first meet him is on a quest to escape his harsh unforgiving life at Blackburn.  He doesn’t succeed and gets pulled back each time, by Helene, by the Commandant, by the masks under his command.  The consequences he faces should he be caught running were demonstrated on fellow masks who ran away. The punishment was brutal.  After a series of unfortunate events, in which Elias goes through a trial to become the emperor, he makes a choice not to be a mask anymore.  This decision means he forfeits his life and Marcus chooses to end him. At this point, Elias is saved by Laia. To repay her, Elias chooses to save Darrin, Laia’s brother, and this decision, this giving of himself, leads him to the role of the Soul Catcher. Elias is a struggling soul catcher.  He doesn’t excel in this role, and even though in this last book he comes back to help fight the Nightbringer, I wished there was a way out for him.

The only disappointments in this book are the lack of the Commandant’s story. I wish there was more about her, about why she chose to be so cruel even to her own son.  Her motivations are really not defined, and even though she makes the perfect villain, her story deserves more. The other unfortunate character is Harper. There’s a saying I heard a lot at my old job. ‘Bad things happen to good people.’ I really don’t like this saying, because why? Why do bad things happen to good people? Harper is a perfect representation of this saying. And while I don’t question why Sabaa Tahir goes this route, it adds to Helene Aquilla’s growth, but it sure sucks for Harper. I think he deserved to live and enjoy the world he had fought so hard to create.

The series came to an end with an epic fight and a lot of losses. A host of characters leave in the tragedy that is war. But happiness does come for all the remaining characters. It was a good ending for Laia and Elias to find their place.  In a way, so does Helene, despite her many losses. These four books were worth it.

A Torch Against the Night – Review

 A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

A Torch Against the Night
A Torch Against the Night Book Cover

In A TORCH AGAINST THE NIGHT, Elias and Laia are running for their lives.

After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.

But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.

Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own—one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both.

Book Review

I read A Torch Against the Night in one afternoon. It continues from where An Ember in the Ashes ended. Elias and Laia are on the run from the masks and need to get out of the city.  Elias is determined to get Laia out and help her save her brother from prison.  Laia needs Elias’s considerable skills to stay alive, and escape a city locked down by masks who are determined to capture Elias.

Helene Aquilla has become the Blood Shrike. She answers to the new brutal emperor Marcus and he has a terrible mission for her.  Track down her friend Elias and bring him back to the city for a public execution.

A Torch Against the Night is an action-packed read.  Laia is stronger this round, more decisive which is grand to see.  She supports Elias as they race to save Laia’s brother.  Helen remains a character caught in a terrible nightmare.  She must hunt for Elias, even though it means killing him.  Her quest is designed to break her and Marcus knows it.  There was no moment of softness for Helene, the Blood Shrike.

The field of battle is my temple.  The swordpoint is my priest.  The killing blow is my release.  I’m not ready for my release. Not yet. Not yet.

Elias Veturius, A Torch Against the Night

Elias, my favorite character, chooses a tough road in this book.  His only wish has been to live a quiet life, one of peace.  But, he has only lived by the sword and been trained to be the best warrior.  His willingness to sacrifice himself is both admirable and something to be sad about at every step. By the end, he has reached a point of no return and makes a choice that will change his and Laia’s lives forever.

The fight against the chains of slavery forged by the martial forces is underlying, growing by each chapter.  I loved meeting Elias’s adoptive mother most.  She is a skilled Kehanni (storyteller) and her tale helps Elias and Laia escape a tight spot.  Her words spark a revolt and I thought that was such a powerful scene.  As with Book One, there are terrible losses in Book Two.  I was happy and sad as I read the last chapter of A Torch Against the Night.  I cannot wait to get A Reaper at the Gates to discover the consequences of Elias’s decision.

An Ember in the Ashes – Book Review

An Ember in the Ashes book Cover

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
 Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
 It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
 
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
 
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

Book Review

Life is made of so many moments that mean nothing.  Then one day, a single moment comes along to define every second that comes after.

Laia, An Ember in the Ashes

An Ember in the Ashes is the first book in a series of four books.  It starts with Laia who lives with her grandparents and her older brother Darin.  They are scholars living in a world ruled by martials.  Scholars are classified as slaves in the martial world.  Laia learns the healing arts from her grandfather, and her family has chosen to live without standing out in a world that views them as slaves.  They are happy until Darin, Laia’s big brother, chooses to stand out and a mask, the cruelest of the martial soldiers, comes to their house to arrest Darin.  Laia’s quiet world changes and she is thrown into a new path.  One where she needs to survive and find a way to get her brother released from prison. Laia is not privileged, and she is not free. Her greatest wish in this book is to find a way to save her brother Darin from a cruel prison ran by the martials.

Elias is the son of the powerful ruthless commander who rules the martial military academy called Blackcliff.  He is the best of his class, a prince of the silver masks training at Blackliff.  Problem is, Elias does not subscribe to the cruelty and ruthless nature beat and drummed into him at the academy.  He wants out and can’t wait to escape the military life he hates.  He just needs to escape without anyone knowing, otherwise deserters face death by his own mother’s hand.  Elias is privileged but he is not free. His biggest wish is to live a life of his own choosing, away from Blackcliff.

When these two characters meet, Laia must get over the fact that Elias is a mask.  His people oppress hers and one of the masks killed her grandparents and imprisoned Darin.  Elias must deal with the fact that Laia looks at him and sees a martial who oppresses her people.  She only sees the nature of a mask: cruelty, ruthlessness, murderer. Even if Elias secretly rejects all these things and wishes to do right by the innocent.

An Ember in the Ashes is about these two characters finding each other at Blackcliff Military Academy. Laia ends up serving The Commandant in a strange twist of fate and survives her brutality.  In a way, Elias fights to hold on to his soul despite his mother, The Commandant, and survives her too.

I loved the contrast of these two characters most.  Their realities are different, but their thoughts align.  They both want freedom, even though it is not obvious to them, which makes the atrocities they endure apart quite profound.  Blackcliff comes close to what I imagine hell to look like, Elias goes through brutal training.  It is made even more rough because the head task master is his mother, The Commandant.  She is frightening and cruel.  Laia gets to see and endure the Commandant’s cruelty, which gives her a strong resolve to survive, to fight and find a way to get her brother Darin out of prison. Laia’s daring resolve brings this novel to a stunning ending that makes you want to get to the next book.

An Ember in the Ashes has a host of unforgettable characters.  Of note is Helene who takes on a role of righteous martial.  She believes in the martials orders and the rule of law laid down by the martials.  She is the character Elias is fighting not to become and the character Laia is fighting against.  Their world from Helene’s perspective is quite severe, there is no room for the gray parts, only black and white and no changes or deviations allowed. She is the product of the current system, and comparing her to Elias, I was excited to see him break away from the expected mold.

The world in An Ember in the Ashes is harsh and full of characters on the cusp of a revolution.  Slaves (Scholars) fighting back against the Martials.  The Martials meting out their version of justice in the most harsh and cruelest of ways. In the midst of the chaos, Laia never stops trying to free her brother, Darin from prison.  At the same time Elias seeks a way out of the madhouse he calls home even when he knows the path is not easy.  As Cain tells Elias, “You’re an ember in the ashes, Elias Veturius.  You will spark and burn, ravage and destroy. You cannot change it.  You cannot stop it.” Book One is a great introduction of these amazing characters who are all thought to be An Ember in the Ashes. Sabaa Tahir is a a brilliant kehanni.