You know those sequels you know you’re going to love before you read them? That was me and The Archer at Dawn. The Tiger at Midnight is one of my most underrated favorites. I’ve been looking forward to this sequel for over a year at this point – or it feels like that. Keep reading this book review to see how well The Archer at Dawn met my expectations.
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.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Edelweiss. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
The Archer at Dawn gave the characters I loved space to grow. It asks us if we can ever truly change and how one tries to change. Can we go back to what we knew a completely different person? One moment can change our life and The Archer at Dawn is all about the moment after. Whether it be living with the consequences of our actions or using our past to make ourselves a new future, The Archer at Dawn is all about characters and choices.
It has the characters I know and love, Esha and Kunal, and it’s full of banter and mangoes. Featuring dual POV, it allows us to experience the new shifts in consciousness and worlds for both Esha and Kunal. They are so different in some aspects, but also driven by a thirst for change. Even more fun, Teerdhala introduces a competition in The Archer at Dawn! While The Archer at Dawn is certainly more political than The Tiger at Midnight, it is action packed on all fronts.
Some key themes explored in The Archer at Dawn are loyalty, agency, and revenge. They are all inextricably linked together as loyalties are being tested, choices are seemingly made, and the fuel for revenge burns. What will the price of revenge be? And are we finally in a place, with people, who inspire us to seek more than just revenge? Can we let go of the past? These questions all ask us who we want to be. They all ask us whether we will betray our friend’s trust and choose revenge. If we feel we have ‘no choice’ and what a future of choice may look like.
These three themes – revenge, loyalty, and choice – all intersect in the politics of The Archer at Dawn. Wars have been fought and won, enemies made, and loyalties broken. Can we work together finally to see a peaceful end or are we willing to fight once more? When the ashes clear, who should be allowed to be in power. There’s a clear sense of burden and duty of power – and there should be – as different characters are tasked with the question of the future. In these pawns of countries and kingdom, borders and disputes, where do our favorite characters stand? Are there merely weapons in these competitions?
What really keeps me reading every time is the skill with which Teerdhala writes the characters. Esha and Kunal are complex, struggling with their own internal battles, while also being so well matched. Kunal never underestimates Esha – a MAJOR win in my book. At the same time, Esha says she uses her beauty and clothing as armor, a way to use what people might expect of her as a weapon against their understimation. Esha truly has my heart.
And Kunal is just such a soft boi. He is so compassionate and I love that he just wants to end this cycle of violence robbing families of mothers and sisters, brothers and sons. He also has some of my favorite lines in the entire book, “you choose this pain, and you can choose to let it go”. COME ON! Because this is kind of what The Archer at Dawn comes down to: choice.
The Archer at Dawn is a book about deciding who we are and what path we will take. It’s an action packed sequel that will not only deliver masterful plots, twists and turns, but also thoughtful character examination. We can often feel like we have no choice, but the choice to say no, to try again, to say sorry, can always feel more daunting.