✨Age Range: Young adult
✨Series: 2nd in a trilogy
✨Publication Date: 26th May, 2020
✨Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (US)
✨Format I Read: PDF
✨Content Warning: Violence, torture (off-page) and death
Spoiler alert for The Tiger at Midnight
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.
Characters and Representation in The Archer at Dawn
Since this is the sequel and I was already in love with the characters in The Tiger at Midnight, I was looking for more development and that’s what I got. Esha had to confront her past and question her loyalties. Kunal was forced to grapple with his morality and the lengths to which he would go to save his people.
In this book, the romance goes down the love triangle route but I surprisingly was on-board with that. Swati nailed the character development of each of them while giving their backstories, which made their motivations clear. There was a lot of tension as circumstances and secrets kept them apart.
It introduced several new characters, my favourite being Aditi, and a bigger role was given to some familiar ones like Harun. What stood out to me, both in the romance and other relationships, was the subtle push and pull between the characters. For example, it shed more light on Esha’s team, both individually and the group dynamics.
Plot and World-Building in The Archer at Dawn
The plot was good but it fell slightly short of my expectations. The most exciting part was the Sun Mela and its trials. However, it picked up pace towards the end and the twists in the last 80% had me begging for more.
The world-building remained my favourite part of the series after reading this book as well. It’s clear that Swati put in careful thought while constructing the world and it was nice to see a bigger part of it in The Archer at Dawn. My favourite part was the political intrigue and power dynamics between the different factions.
It also brought up more of the traditions and beliefs of Jansa and Dharka. I enjoyed all the little elements, like the gorgeous descriptions of food, clothing and ambience. I loved how Swati wove in Indian culture and traditions with the plot and it took me back to my childhood days.
Writing Style and Themes in The Archer at Dawn
The writing style was a mix of beautiful prose and clever dialogue between the characters. The author conveyed character growth from the way Kunal and Esha’s inner monologue and conversational cadence changed. I also liked how she expanded the world without dense paragraphs of info-dump.
The themes at the core of The Archer at Dawn were expert commentaries on the traditional morals in Hindu mythology. The concepts of honour and duty (dharma) were at the forefront of Kunal’s personal journey. With Esha, the author explored themes of revenge and the clash of loyalty because of Kunal’s presence in her life.
There were also larger themes at play, especially as more was revealed about the janma bond. It was interesting experience for me as a Hindu to guess which stories inspired this tale and how the author turned them on their head to make the narrative more compelling. Ultimately, the combination of amazing world-building and the familiar themes really resonated with my own experiences and identity, which made the book a winner in my eyes.
Overall, I thought that The Archer at Dawn was a compelling sequel and didn’t suffer from middle book syndrome. If you loved The Tiger at Midnight, I highly recommend that you continue on with the series. If you like the enemies-to-lovers romance trope, high-stakes political conflicts, deadly assassins, explosive secrets and unique world-building, I think this series is right up your alley.
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Is this series on your TBR or have you already read The Tiger at Midnight? Have you read any good diverse #OwnVoices YA fantasy stories lately? If you’re familiar with Hindu mythology, which is your favourite story from it? Let me know in the comments section down below. Hope you are having a magical week, readers from Earth!