How far would you go to resurrect someone you love? Would you change who you are to show you belong?
The world of Avarin is tearing itself apart. The Domain worships life, its rulers lead eternal lives and death is a shame that must not be mourned. For the clans to the south, however, death is all that keeps the Earth alive.
But old enemies are rising.
A madness spreads throughout the Domain, and Lynn, a rogue warrior in hiding, might be the only one who knows how to fight it, while Adrian, a Domain prince seeking to bring his dead loved ones to worthiness, leads the Domain armies against the madmen.
The clans suffer a madness of their own. As the land itself begins to wither away, Nasha, a cursed hunter and lifelong outcast, desperately fights for belonging in the Ronar, while her clan seeks to heal the land.
Old beliefs will be challenged as the people of Avarin fight to save it… before death comes for them all.
A sweeping epic fantasy saga where religion and politics are one, magic brings terror into the hearts of men, and a looming blight threatens to tear everything down.
A wonderful debut from Thiago Abdalla, A Touch of Light is a fast-paced, dark, and complex introduction to The Ashes of Avarin series. This novel is character-driven with a heavy emphasis on theme. Death is a very important theme woven throughout the novel, as well as the cultures we are introduced to. For the very long-lived people of the Domain, death is taboo, and the dead are to be forgotten, not mourned. If an individual dies, it means they were found not worthy by their deity, the Seraph. For the clans outside the Domain, death is an important part of keeping the earth alive. Their mantra is “All life that is wasted must be taken”. This seems to lead to an unhealthy eagerness to sacrifice people though, any weakness can be justification for killing.
The first POV character we are introduced to is Adrian, a prince of one of the kingdoms of the Domain. His older brother has recently been killed, which according to the church, means he was not worthy and must be forgotten. Adrian struggles to accept this, and further deaths of loved ones pushes him in a tragic direction. Lynn is a Sentinel, one of the rare death-dealers of the Domain. The Sentinels are the only people authorized to kill in the Domain. They exist to kill so that others do not have to burden themselves with death. She is in a self-imposed exile after events from her past forced her to kill people close to her. She cannot forget them and so believes herself unworthy of being a Sentinel. Nasha is a member of one of the clans that live outside the Domain, where death is an important part of life. She has a curse that forces her to feel the emotions of others, and she can lose control of herself if she’s not careful. She is somewhat of an outcast and has had to prove her worth repeatedly by killing.
I found each of the POV characters compelling in different ways, and Abdalla did a great job in exploring the theme of death in different ways for each of them. The author does not do any handholding in the writing of this book. The three POV characters never directly connect and you are thrown into their lives with little explanation of the events that are occurring. As such it can be quite confusing for the first part of the book but I did not find it detracted from my enjoyment. I would recommend starting the novel willing to go along for the ride and accept that you aren’t going to understand everything at first. Abdalla’s prose really helps make this approach easier. It is smooth and flows exceptionally well, making it simple to be swept away in the stories he is telling.
As for the world, Avarin is clearly a complex world that Abdalla has put a lot of thought into. The parts that we did explore were interesting and left me wanting more. Partly because of the low amount of exposition, there is a great deal to this world that is only briefly touched upon and I hope that we get to see more of it in future entries to the series. There is also plenty of action in the novel, with a number of great fighting scenes that I think Abdalla writes very well. The variety of weapons and fighting styles helped mix up the fighting so it never felt dull. I am eager to see the Sentinels in action more so I hope they feature more prominently in the next books as well.
I highly recommend A Touch of Light to fantasy fans who enjoy complex worlds and nuanced characters, as well as fast-paced and action-packed stories.