The Archer at Dawn (The Tiger at Midnight, #2)
A stolen throne. A lost princess. A rescue mission to take back what’s theirs.
For Kunal and Esha, finally working together as rebels, the upcoming Sun Mela provides the perfect guise for infiltrating King Vardaan’s vicious court. Kunal returns to his role as dedicated soldier, while Esha uses her new role as adviser to Prince Harun to seek allies for their rebel cause. A radical plan is underfoot to rescue Jansa’s long-lost Princess Reha—the key to the throne.
But amidst the Mela games and glittering festivities, much more dangerous forces lie in wait. With the rebel’s 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 countries and to each other.
Getting into the palace was the easy task; coming out together will be a battle for their lives. In book two of Swati Teerdhala’s epic fantasy trilogy, a kingdom will fall, a new ruler will rise, and all will burn.
Kunal is now becoming central to a lot of the rebel plans, and he is finding himself torn between his loyalty to the soldiers, the family he did not know he had, and the rebels whose cause he has taken. His feelings for Esha are ever-present, but when she seems to keep things from him related to the cause, he wonders if she actually trusts him. He is also torn by his friendships with soldiers- one of whom is working for a rival rebellion (the Scales) and cannot seem to leave him out of the plots.
The Sun Mela reveals Vardaan's new plots, as Harun and his father (rulers of Dharka) are there under the guise of a peace treaty, but Vardaan (disputed ruler of Jansa) is hiding Reha, the lost princess, and clearly has bigger schemes afoot. The timeline is shortened for the Blades' action, and they must free Reha and replace Vardaan. Vardaan is also running a contest of battle skills that Kunal will enter while they investigate to get closer to where they need to be.
However, nothing is quite as it seems, and all sides are playing the others with potentially devastating consequences.
What I loved: This book had me completely hooked on the contests, the mysteries, and the romance. This series is really unique, based on Indian history and Hindu mythology, and while the world-building is less in the sequel than the first, which laid everything out, we still get these connections and further information here. This did not feel like a filler book to flesh out a trilogy. A lot happens here, and the contest really keeps the pace fast.
The character development here really shines, as we witness the internal conflicts for both Esha and Kunal. These result in some interesting discussions of loyalty, romance, trust, and revenge. For instance, Esha's need for revenge can hinder her progress and cannot correct the past/cannot bring back her parents. She debates over the value and need for it as well as the internal feeling of hatred that penalizes mostly herself.
I also really loved the twist at the end that I did not see coming. I love being surprised, and this definitely surprised me. There are many political games being played, and it seems as though the bigger games are just beginning. It is going to be difficult to wait for the final installment in this trilogy.
Final verdict: Atmospheric and unique, THE ARCHER AT DAWN is full of magic, action, and truly unique characters. This sequel really builds on the first book to create an engaging and captivating story that is well written in its own right.