A young warrior chases an assassin through jungles, towns, and wastelands in this vibrantly imagined South Indian–inspired trilogy opener by debut author Teerdhala. Esha, 17, the mythical Viper of Dharka, is sent to kill Gen. Setu Hotha of the kingdom of Jansa, while his nephew Kunal, 18, is one of four soldiers tasked with finding the mysterious Viper. The general is eliminated before Esha can strike—by someone who seeks to frame her—and she flees the Red Fort hoping to discover who seeks to blame her and why. Although Kunal catches Esha on several occasions, she continues to outsmart the softhearted soldier, and they gradually reveal close-held secrets and dreams to each other as their grudging respect for one another grows into something more. Everything is set against the backdrop of an ongoing drought in Jansa caused by the withdrawal of the gods’ favor following the violent coup and usurpation of the Queen of Jansa 10 years ago. Alongside context-building descriptions of Indian food and dress, Teerdhala adds plenty of surprises to her finely limned characters to produce a lush fantasy. Ages 13–up. Agent: Kristin Nelson, Nelson Literary Agency. (Apr.)
Cat-and-mouse maneuvering between assassin Esha and reluctant soldier Kunal will hold you in tantalizing suspense in this searing debut exploring love, loss, and destiny. The Tiger at Midnight is as alluring and fearless as its characters.
A deliciously twisty cat-and-mouse story that had me racing through the pages. I love stories that challenge their protagonists’ beliefs, and both Esha and Kunal face complex, heart-breaking decisions in their journey to discover both themselves and each other.
Thrilling, entertaining, and beautifully written, this is one adventure YA fans won’t want to miss.
Follow Esha and Kunal on a dangerous journey through lush jungles and bustling cities, where the stakes are life and death, and victory comes at a terrible price. Teerdhala has written a masterful debut full of breathless twists and turns and a romance to ignite the senses.
Teerdhala’s debut, immersed in Indian fantasy, features two compelling protagonists who must question their loyalties and decide what they’re willing to sacrifice for the chance at a new future. Fast-paced action and a budding romance between emotionally layered characters make this a promising start to a gripping new series.
Esha and Kunal cross paths throughout Jansa, engaging in banter and developing a delicate code of honor as they fight, save, betray and escape one another. A fascinating world with a landscape dependent on a mystical blood bond between humans and nature surrounds the characters…
Gr 8 Up—Caught between rival kingdoms, an assassin and a soldier discover that they have a shared background of secrets and old magic. An abrupt coup means a change of leadership in the kingdom of Jansa and the breaking of the bonds that tie the monarch to the land, but for Esha, the coup is more personal—because of it, she loses her parents and her home. Adopted into the rival kingdom of Dharka, she trains in stealth and subterfuge, becoming known as the Viper, working with the rebels to topple the pretender king in Jansa. After the assassination of the king's general, Esha is on the run with a price on her head. Meanwhile, Kunal, the general's nephew and a soldier for Jansa, is on her trail. When their paths cross, they become drawn to each other. Caught up in games of intrigue larger than themselves, Esha and Kunal must decide whether they can trust each other or whether they truly are on opposite sides of the coming confrontation. Set in a fantastical South Asia, this combination of romance, action, and magic will appeal to fans of Sabaa Tahir and Renée Ahdieh. VERDICT A strong choice for YA fantasy shelves.—Zoë McLaughlin, Michigan State University
In an alternate ancient India, a rebel assassin and a reluctant soldier find forbidden love while they battle to save their lands from war and disaster.
Dharka and Jansa were once twin countries, bound by the blood magic of demigods and blessed with a celestial river. But the younger brother of the Dharkan king broke that bond when he murdered the Jansan queen and took over Jansa in a coup. Now, the Southern Lands teeter on the brink of catastrophic drought in a fragile cease-fire. Kunal, the nephew of the ruthless Jansan Gen. Hotha, has just been promoted to the elite Senap Guard, feared and despised for their cruelty. But Kunal would rather make art than kill innocents. And why is he so drawn to Esha, a Dharkan rebel? Esha is the Viper, the masterful but merciless assassin who is driven by her need to avenge the usurper king's murder of her family. But what she longs for is a normal life and lasting love. Esha leads Kunal on a wild chase across borders where they discover secret plots, old bonds, and new perspectives. Debut author Teerdhala's prose can be convoluted and often purple. Still, the push-pull romance between the main characters and their struggle to define their own identities move the story forward.
First in a trilogy, this lush blend of folklore, fantasy, and romance is a welcome antidote to South Asian stereotypes of toxic men and repressed women. (Fantasy. 13-18)