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)