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The Tiger at Midnight Review

by Madeleine Dresden
The Tiger at Midnight

Never greet a tiger at midnight, for they are the manifestations of your past misdeeds.

I’ve read a lot of books with lush, vivid world-building, but nothing quite compares to The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala. If you’re on the hunt for a diverse YA fantasy that refreshes old tropes (i.e. cat and mouse games, enemies to lovers), then this epic, Hindu-inspired debut will not disappoint.

The Tiger at Midnight Review

The Tiger at Midnight book cover

The Plot

Esha is a legend, but no one knows. It’s only in the shadows that she moonlights as the Viper, the rebels’ highly skilled assassin. She’s devoted her life to avenging what she lost in the royal coup, and now she’s been tasked with her most important mission to date: taking down the ruthless General Hotha.

Kunal has been a soldier since childhood, training morning and night to uphold the power of King Vardaan. His uncle, the general, has ensured that Kunal never strays from the path—even as a part of Kunal longs to join the outside world, which has been growing only more volatile.

Then Esha’s and Kunal’s paths cross—and an unimaginable chain of events unfolds. Both the Viper and the soldier think they’re calling the shots, but they’re not the only players moving the pieces. As the bonds that hold their land in order break down and the sins of the past meet the promise of a new future, both rebel and soldier must make unforgivable choices.

Drawing inspiration from ancient Indian history and Hindu mythology, the first book in Swati Teerdhala’s debut fantasy trilogy captivates with electric romance, stunning action, and the fierce bonds that hold people together—and drive them apart.

The Characters

I went into this book assuming that Esha (the Viper) and Kunal (a soldier) would be moody, angsty edgelords of doom, but the plights and desires of these complex characters resonated with me. 

The story starts with Kunal, who is, on the surface, the “perfect” soldier. But once he meets Esha, Kunal’s hopes and dreams—built on blind faith and a false sense of control—begin to compete with the inherent softness of his soul. (Relatable? Check!)

Kunal had always had a heart, the one thing a good soldier was never supposed to have.”

Esha will stop at nothing to avenge the murder of her parents; but behind the sly smile of the Viper is a desperately lonely girl who can’t let anyone believe she has any weaknesses. Survival means suppressing the lemon-tree climbing, wild-haired adventurer of her youth. (Relatable? Heck yes! Except for the murder part). 

Both of our heroes fear the monster they could become. In a time of unrest and war, Esha and Kunal must help each other see through the lies they’ve been told, and the ones they tell themselves, before the secrets tying them together destroy everything they love.

What really stood out to me about Esha and Kunal is how their journeys highlighted important truths: dedicated soldiers can be soft-hearted men. Women whose lives have been swathed in darkness deserve to be loved. 

These kinds of heroes exist, and their stories have the power to inspire and bring out the best in us.

The Writing

If you’re looking to get away from tired tropes (toxic men and damsels in distress), while seeing your favorite, classic tale types reimagined in refreshing ways, then pick up this gorgeous book. 

Teerdhala’s descriptions made me want to eat every dish, buy every garment, and paint every landscape. Give me vivid, visceral, heart-stoppingly beautiful Indian landscapes, and I’m yours for the next 3,000+ pages. 

Also there’s a forest with bioluminescent dust and monkey traps that can kill a grown man. Tell me that isn’t cool.

The Romance

The only downside to The Tiger at Midnight for me is that I tend to prefer slow-burn romances to “first meetings with instant attraction.” But setting that personal bias aside, the sparks truly do fly between Esha and Kunal. 

As soon as they meet, you know they’re on a collision course; there’s a tether between them with the aura of destiny. They’ll meet again and again, pawns in some celestial game. And we’re going to swoon during every second of it.

Trust me, you’ll ship these two lovebirds from start to finish.

How could she have known that meeting one boy on one night could change everything? The randomness of fate once again struck her as being the ultimate cruelty and blessing of the gods. It seemed Kunal truly was her tiger at midnight, there to collect on her missteps.

To keep up with stunning debut author Swati Teerdhala, follow her here:

Twitter: @swatiteerdhala

Instagram: @swatiteerdhala

The Archer at Dawn, book two of the Tiger at Midnight series comes out May 26th, 2020!

Looking for more great reviews?

Check out our review of All the Stars and Teeth here.

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