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The Archer at Dawn Review

by Madeleine Dresden
The Archer at Dawn Review

“Perhaps they need to hear from the Archer that there is a future better than the present. Weren’t you the one who said you wanted to create a new world?”

The Archer at Dawn is the second book in Swati Teerdhala’s thrilling, Hindu-inspired series: Tiger at Midnight. Set in a glittering, arid world where you’re just as likely to find the perfect mango as you are to get caught up in a secret murder plot, the story centers around a page-turning heist with twists and turns that gave me goosebumps from start to finish.

In short, I had absolutely zero chill while reading this lush, heart-pounding book.

The Archer at Dawn Review

The Archer at Dawn Swati Teerdhala


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.

The Plot

Honestly, what isn’t happening in this book?

We’ve got dangerous political machinations, a brewing civil war, competing rebel factions, a missing princess, a deadly tournament, ancient secrets, Hindu mythology, and, of course, a steamy romance; all of which create a melting “plot” of story threads that threatens to be overwhelming.

But Teerdhala weaves it all together into a high-stakes, interconnected web of intrigue, danger, and daring midnight escapades. How? With the kind of storytelling grace that is nothing short of masterful. Of course it helps that a lot of the questions left unanswered are clearly going to be given a large spotlight in book number three.

The Characters

“But Esha had been remade, forged anew when her parents had died. when her bones had been broken and her heart shattered in the dungeons not far from the palace. And the Viper had been born.”

Esha and Kunal return as the Viper and a Senap Soldier, only this time they’re working together to bring down the Pretender King.

In The Tiger at Midnight, our heroes were caught up in a mostly isolated cat-and-mouse game that orbited around each other. But now, they get to bring a few friends with them behind enemy lines.

A bigger cast of characters means more drama, more hilarity, and more heart-warming glimpses of what it means to create your own family. What’s more is there’s a budding LGBTQ relationship that I, for one, am absolutely giddy over.

While I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know more of the Crescent Blades, what I loved most is how Esha and Kunal’s feelings for each other are in direct competition with their differing views of what is wrong and what is right.

Throughout, they have consistently competing agendas and conflicting senses of duty. This creates believable, heart-wrenching conflict between our fated lovers, leaving them both struggling with the decision to follow their hearts, which may mean doing the unforgivable.

“The look on Esha’s face was Viper, through and through.”

The Writing

Teerdhala’s prose is just as lush and vivid in The Archer at Dawn as it was in The Tiger at Midnight. Every scene, from benign kite-flying to deadly melee encounters in the Sun Mela arena, is richly depicted. Once again I found myself wanting to eat every dish and purchase every piece of jewelry I came across.

Also, I consider it my sacred duty to point out that there is a pink castle. And lethal sapphire jewelry. This world is as beautiful as it is brutal, and I can’t wait to dive back into it when Teerdhala’s third book is finally in my hands!

Especially with that epic cliffhanger we were left with.

Yeah, I’m still not over it.

To keep up with Swati Teerdhala, follow her here:

Twitter: @swatiteerdhala

Instagram: @swatiteerdhala

Looking for more reviews?

Check out our review of Dark Skies by Danielle L Jensen.

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