REVIEW: ‘The Tiger at Midnight’ by Swati Teerdhala is the perfect cat-and-mouse story
Inspired by Hindu mythology The Tiger at Midnight will take readers on a fun-filled chase!
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.
Inspired by ancient Indian history and Hindu mythology.
The story begins with our two main characters meeting. Kunal spots a mysterious girl who seems to be lost. Once he approaches her she introduces herself as Esha, and takes him up on his offer to help steer her in the correct direction. When the two part ways the sparks linger and I know that this won’t be the last time they’ll see one another.
Kunal is a soldier of Jansa serving King Vardaan. Esha is a rebel, better known as the Viper, of Dharka. On the surface their characters seem to be cliché. But as the story unfolds and we see the world through their eyes their characters become so much more. Kunal may be a soldier but he yearns for a quiet life, painting to his heart’s content. Esha hurts people to fill a hole where only pain and grief are present. There are layers upon layers to their characters.
Upon meeting, Kunal wakes up to find that his uncle, General Hotha, has been killed by none other than the Viper. He’s quickly tasked with finding the notorious assassin. If he happens to capture them and avenge his uncle’s death then he’ll be promoted to Commander. It might not be the life he always dreamed of but by becoming the Commander he might be able to make changes for his country.
Jansa and Dharka have an interesting and complex history. There was a time when the two lands were celebrated as two halves of a whole. But when King Vardaan conquered Jansa he somehow convinced his people to only see the differences between Jansa and Dharka and not all the similarities they share. Kunal and Esha are on opposite sides of this ongoing war between their lands but their hearts are the same. They want better for their people.
I really admire Swati Teerdhala’s imagination in The Tiger at Midnight. She pulls from both Indian history and Hindu mythology to tell a fresh fantasy story. I love how nothing is black and white from her characters, the world, and especially the relationship between Jansa and Dharka.
Once Kunal sets out to find the Viper it doesn’t take long for him to realize that the girl he met is the person he’s searching for. And Esha realizes that despite being drawn to him, Kunal is the last person she should care about. Their cat-and-mouse game is fun, especially when they start realizing the truth of what they want from their lives.
Overall, The Tiger at Midnight is a great read and sets up what is sure to be a fun series! The characters drive this story forward. They make you want to know what makes them who they are and what they will do next. The world, politics, and action tie the entire story together with fun surprises sprinkled throughout. If you’re a lover of fantasy reads then The Tiger at Midnight is perfect for you!