by Vanessa Rodriguez
Esha is a young assassin given the mission to take out General Hotha of the Jansa army, not only to aid the Dharkan rebels, but also to avenge her family’s death at his command. Kunal, a soldier and the General’s nephew, is one of four guards given the opportunity to capture the assassin, bring them back, and become commander or fail and be punished.
As Kunal chases Esha, also known as the Viper, through a mysterious jungle, towns dying from drought, vibrant bazaars, and rain entrenched mountain passes, secrets unfold and chemistry burns slow. But will learning about each other’s dark pasts and true motives stop them each from killing each other or tether them closer together? The Tiger at Midnight is a story rich in Indian mythology and culture from the fine details of traditional dress and jewelry, the mouth-watering imagery of food, and the various luscious landscapes of India. Though some of the foreshadowing felt heavy-handed and I guessed some of the story lines before they occurred, I found the pacing and well-placed plot twists moved the story along and kept me engaged and turning pages. I’m a sucker for a good enemies-to-lovers trope and this one did not disappoint. From the beginning, the attraction between Esha and Kunal was obvious without the pitfall of insta-love. The novel still kept a strong balance of plot and world building without letting the romance take over.
I found the main characters likeable, but not flawless. This was just as much Kunal’s story as it was Esha’s. Despite Kunal’s job’s reputation known far and wide as the most cruel and brutal of soldiers, his tragic background conflicting with his upbringing gave him dimension. He showed both strength and enough vulnerability to not be considered weak while still being believable as a soldier. The rapport between him and his comrades felt genuine which added to the tension of what a mission like this could do to one’s friendship. On the other hand, Esha’s character was more developed by her own internalizations—what she thought of herself, how she wanted to be perceived by others, and how she pulled back her emotions even to the reader. She spent most of her pages without Kunal either alone or with characters that didn’t reappear in the story. I did connect with her and loved her strength and stubbornness, but I did find it easier to relate to Kunal much sooner than her without the aid of friends and outside perceptions. Despite Kunal being in constant pursuit of Esha, they find themselves in enough predicaments for them to be on the page together, each incident adding to the attraction between them and giving the reader bits and pieces into who Esha really is.
The Tiger at Midnight is a trilogy with the second book, The Archer at Dawn, set to release May 2020. Though the first book ends with a lead in to book two, I did feel it tied up enough loose ends for the reader to be satisfied, but hanging on just enough to wait until the next book comes out.