The Tiger At Midnight by Swati Teerdhala (TTAM #1)
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: April 23, 2019
Available Through The Book Depository: The Tiger At Midnight
Summary: 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.
My Rating: ★★★★☆
My Thoughts: The Tiger At Midnight is a complex, character-driven YA Fantasy debut that you don’t want to miss! While exploring themes of loyalty and identity, Teerdhala’s start to this trilogy reads like an epic tale with romance, politics, mythology, and intrigue!
Its true that there are so many great books that go under the radar, but please don’t let this book be one of them! The Tiger At Midnight is a debut I highly recommend adding to your TBR if you haven’t already–from the Indian history and Hindu mythology that lay the foundation of the world-building, to our main characters Kunal and Esha who are on opposing sides, but find themselves unlocking the mysteries about their world through each other–this book is one that YA Fantasy readers need to check out!
I actually had the opportunity to interview Swati for Tiger which you can check out here–and she mentioned that one of her biggest inspirations came from her love of history and mythology! From the world-building of Dharka and Jansa which are both on the same mass of land to the descriptions of the mountain ranges, jungles, and desert, Teerdhala’s descriptions allow the setting to unfold like an epic and you can sense that throughout the story!
The plot gets very interesting when Esha is sent on a mission which also involves enacting her revenge on the feared General Hotha (Kunal’s uncle) and seeking out more information! She lost her family in a Jansan coup and wants to avenge not only those she lost, but the Dharkan’s + her rebel group the Crescent Blades.
She’s shocked to learn that someone has already killed the general and set her up as the culprit with a replica of her infamous whip. Now, she’s on the run to figure out who would want to frame her and why & make it back to her rebel group to figure out what the next move is.
Then there’s Kunal, who’s been trained by his uncle as a soldier of the Fort and plans on one day becoming commander. However, when he hears the news of the general’s death he’s not entirely sure how to process what’s happened, but he also has an idea of who may have been involved–Esha! He had met her early on in the story and suspected with her mysterious appearance she may have something to do with it.
Before anyone (Kunal included) can link her to the death of the general or piece together she’s the Viper, she’s on the run to get back to the rebel base. However, Kunal and other fellow soldiers are given the task of finding the Viper and the first person to do-so, will be automatically promoted to commander.
To honor his uncle, Kunal takes charge and follows his suspicion of Esha’s involvement. This leads to their cat-and-mouse chase as Esha continuously maneuvers her way to freedom! However, along the way Esha and Kunal find themselves falling for each other.
Now, Kunal is worried what will happen to Esha if he does take her back as a prisoner. This leads to one of my favorite themes explored throughout the entirety of the novel: Identity!
Both Kunal and Esha have become who they are now due to events of their past and within The Tiger At Midnight they are constantly brought into situations that makes them question if their goals really are theirs to begin with and whether they truly understand themselves anymore.
Kunal is one of the characters who I found to have really struggled with this idea of identity. For most of his life he’s been trained by his uncle to be a promising soldier, but with that he’s been extremely sheltered from the outside world. Along the way as he learns who Esha really is, he begins questioning why he’s even sacrificing his life to become commander. *While I don’t want to give too much away, there are moments in his past that get revealed and he essentially is given a new identity and finds himself on the verge of danger if anyone was to find out. I found that to be one of the most fascinating twists to this story that I wasn’t expecting at all!
Teerdhala explores the foundation of identity, how our past can shape it, and the aspects of our lives that can allow us to shape it into something different. Through both Esha and Kunal we see this brought into view with each new chapter!
They both feel almost indebted to their pasts in a way, where their still figuring out what it is they personally want to fight for. Both Esha & Kunal have also done things in their life they aren’t proud of, but it made them who they are and I found that’s summed up perfectly by this quote:
“Never greet a tiger at midnight, for they are the manifestations of your past misdeeds.”
I really loved the cast of characters, they were all very well developed and I found them to all have their depth to them no matter how few moments we encountered them in the story! From Kunal’s soldier friends like Alok & Laksh to Esha’s rebel friends we learn more about like Prince Harun & Arpiya! All these characters were just introduced in this first book, but felt so incredibly real/developed and I can’t wait to see where their journeys are headed in book 2!
The female friendship between Esha & Arpiya was lovely & I’m really looking forward to reading more about their wonderful friendship.
I also have some theories about Prince Harun (who is defintiely hiding something–though I’m not sure what!!) and I can’t wait to see where his development goes as he is a dear friend to Esha, fighting for the throne, and a rebel leader!
The world was also such fun to explore throughout The Tiger At Midnight–we learn more about the jansa bond between Dharka and Jansa, even how it plays into a very important underlying element of the world. There’s a lot of secrets that get uncovered as to why this bond is vital and I’m looking forward to seeing how its explored further in book 2 (which also involves a secret royal!!).
The Tiger At Midnight is told through 3rd Person POV while alternating between Kunal and Esha’s perspectives. I found that to be such a great way to tell the story because we not only get these differing perspectives from 2 fantastic main characters, but also learn more about the world from characters on opposing sides!
Now I’m going to discuss why I personally rated this 4 stars! For me, I usually struggle with 3rd person because I find I get more immersed into a world through the characters head. So, I did find that the world was a little underdeveloped in terms of not necessarily description, but atmosphere and getting the full picture of this setting, various locations, etc.
There are also some plot threads (though I really enjoyed them b/c they surprised me), that could have used a little more development. I’m going to be a bit vague here bc spoilers, but I would have loved for surprising plot twists to have been expanded on just a little more in my opinion!
But overall this was such a fun debut and I can’t wait to see where the story is headed in the sequel–I love Esha & Kunal together so much and I’m incredibly excited to see where their journey takes them next!
The Tiger At Midnight is such a whirlwind adventure with intrigue, a bit of rebellion, romance, magic, and an immersive world that captures you from the very beginning! From the complex and great cast of characters, surprising story that’ll keep you turning the page, and fascinating world inspired by Indian history and Hindu myths, I definitely recommend this YA Fantasy debut if your a fan of An Ember In The Ashes!