The Sun Mela is many things: a call for peace, a cause for celebration, and, above all, a deadly competition. For Kunal and Esha, finally working together as rebel spies, it provides the perfect guise to infiltrate King Vardaan’s vicious court.
Kunal will return to his role as dedicated Senap soldier, at the Sun Mela to provide extra security for the palace during the peace summit for the divided nations of Jansa and Dharka. Meanwhile, Esha will use her new role as adviser to Prince Harun to keep a pulse on shifting political parties and seek out allies for their rebel cause. A radical plan is underfoot to rescue Jansa’s long-lost Princess Reha—the key to the stolen throne.
But amid the Mela games and glittering festivities, much more dangerous forces lie in wait. With the rebel Blades’ entry into Vardaan’s court, a match has been lit, and long-held secrets will force Kunal and Esha to reconsider their loyalties—to their country and to each other. Getting into the palace was the easy task; coming out together will be a battle for their lives.
Confession: I barely remember the plot of “The Tiger at Midnight.” [If you’ve not read it, that’s the first book in this series. This is a sequel. You probably know that, but I though I should mention it anyway.]
I KNOW, I KNOW. It’s weird, because I loved that book, and I have absolutely no idea why I’d completely forget what the plot was when it’s only been a year since I read it. (The same thing happened with “Aurora Rising,” though, so I guess it’s a common thing with me.) But I did know that I really liked it, so I jumped into “The Archer at Dawn” without much preparation. And you know what? That worked just fine.
Although some of the plot points of the first book, which were referenced here, had me scratching my head because I’d forgotten what exactly happened, it wasn’t hard to immerse myself in this world again. The action, the politics, the twists, the romance – it was all strong enough to stand on its own even with my limited knowledge of the last book. And while I wouldn’t recommend reading this as a standalone (at all! Don’t do that, you’ll be ??? the entire time!), it’s a testament to the strength of the writing that it’s a fantastic book even with a few knowledge gaps. Filling those in would explain parts of the plot that went over my head, but I still really enjoyed the book without them.
I think the reason that this book works so well not just as part of a series, but in its own right, is that Teerdhala is fantastic at balancing action and character work, and both were very well done here. Both the competition scenes at the Mela (an Olympics-type athletic event/festival) and the fight scenes were fast-paced, flowed well, and kept me engaged, but the quieter parts – character and relationship development, worldbuilding, and political intrigue – weren’t sacrificed to leave room for action. Though this was a long book, it didn’t feel like it because its pacing was spot-on. There were always breathers after big action scenes, but not too many, so it avoided the typical pacing pitfalls of the “haunted house effect” (breakneck-paced plotting with one big thing after another and no room to process anything) and being so slow-paced that I lost interest. Only in the last thirty or so pages of a 450-page book did things start moving so fast my head spun, but that was basically one extended scene and it worked.
And CAN WE TALK ABOUT THAT ENDING? BECAUSE I’M NOT FINE. What is it with second books in trilogies ending in batcrap insane cliffhangers this year? I’m just saying!
This book, while it wasn’t *my favorite of the year*, was both enjoyable and an example of solid writing and storytelling. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the first book – they’re very similar, so if you liked “The Tiger at Midnight,” you’ll probably like this one too.
RATING: 4/5 stars
A/N: so it’s been forever since I posted here and I’M SORRY. In the intervening time, I’ve graduated high school, written so much fanfiction it’s not even funny, and published a novel! I had time to read and blog, but kind of just…didn’t feel like it. Reading has been a slog lately, so naturally, blogging about it hasn’t been on my mind much. But I’m back, and I can’t wait to share more posts with you!
Also. I know I don’t really have many followers who do book tags, but I’m thinking about making a fun fandom-themed book tag (you’ll see…if I do it) and want to know if anyone would do that sort of thing if I posted one. Anyone?