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.
*ARC provided in exchange of an honest review. The thoughts are entirely my own and in no way biased.*
HOLY. FREAKING. SHIZ. I need a moment, or ten. That’s really all I can say. I did NOT see any of that coming. At all. None of it. Wow. I’m gonna gather my thoughts for a second here because there is so much to say, but I don’t even know how to say it.
So… talking about the book. This picks up almost immediately after the end of TTAM and follows our favourite couple (idc about anything else, Kunesha ARE a couple) on their new journey, this time in Jansa. New alliances are forged, new enemies surface, and in the midst of all the conspiracy are Kunal & Esha, trying to do the right thing.
One of the first things I noticed in this book is how much Teerdhala has improved in every aspect writing – from the plotting of this book to the characterization. Everything was much more vivid in this book as compared to the last one. I loved that!
We got to see the development of Kunal, Esha, and even Harun in this book. I was really surprised by how much I got to see Harun in this one. He grew as a character a lot. We got to learn more about him as a person, and his motivations behind doing what he did, behaving the way he did. His relationship with Esha was explored too, and I really liked their dynamic.
But, coming to our main characters – Kunal & Esha. I really liked how Esha shaped in this book. She was still the Esha we’d seen in the first book, but she was much more intense here, with respect to everything. It took me a while to get used to the actual depth of her emotions, but once I did, I could see why she would do the things she did. Her relationship with her best friend, Arpiya, whatever he is, Harun, and even her handmaid, Aditi, was pretty well fleshed out. It wasn’t just Kunal and Esha like it was in the majority of the last book. In fact, come to think of it, Esha had the fewest scenes with Kunal. Yet, their relationship was pretty well done, and we got to see them grow closer, trust each other more, and rely on each other to get them through the whole ordeal.
In this book, we got to see Esha struggling with balancing her identity as the Viper, as a leader of the Blades, and who she was herself. The conflict was really nicely put across, and we could see how difficult it was for Esha to exist as all three at the same time. She always felt like she couldn’t do anything without jeopardizing her role as someone else. I really liked the whole narrative where she tried to balance everything, and decide who she wanted to be. While she’s not completely there yet, she’s moving forward and I love that.
Coming to Kunal, he was still the same ole righteous Kunal who was only trying to do the right thing, but at the same time, not. Kunal’s sense of duty as a soldier conflicted a lot with the mission he had taken on. On top of that, forces other than the other soldiers and the Blades came out to play and made things even more difficult for him. He did make a lot of questionable decisions in this book, but the motivation behind doing so was always noble, which is why I’m not as mad at him as I should be. Keeping myself in his shoes, the possibility that I would have done what he did are pretty high, so I do see where he’s coming from, even though I wish he had handled things better.
The other minor characters that came into play in this story – Aditi, Esha’s handmaid, Lord Mayank, a nobleman, King Mahir, Harun’s father, and Princess Yamini of another neighbouring kingdom, as well as the rest of the Blades – all brought a lot of spin to the story and steered it in directions that I hadn’t even imagined. I will freely admit that I did not see about 70% of the plot twists coming in this one. That made the reading experience so much better for me. Something would happen and I would just gape at the screen like for 5 minutes, trying to process that it actually happened. It was so amazing!
We even go into more of world building in this one, ancient history being explored, more kingdoms coming into picture, and learning more about the janma bond. I really liked how all of it was explored and brought to the attention of the reader in bits and pieces as the story unfolded. Another really good aspect of this story was the court politics, which I never thought would play such a crucial role in this book, but it did. And it was really well done too.
All things considered, I think that The Archer At Dawn surpassed all my expectations after having read The Tiger At Midnight. The second book in itself is reason enough for you to pick this series up! I absolutely cannot wait to read the third book after how the second book closed, and I’m sure you’ll be the same!
Swati Teerdhala is the author of The Tiger at Midnight series, which has appeared on both Barnes and Noble and Book Riot’s Most Anticipated Novels lists.
After graduating from the University of Virginia with a BS in finance and BA in history, she tumbled into the marketing side of the technology industry. She’s passionate about many things, including how the right ratio of curd-to-crust in a lemon tart. She currently lives in New York City.
Have you read TTAM? Are you planning on reading TAAD? How excited are you for it’s release?