A TOUCH OF LIGHT(THE ASHES OF AVARIN #1) BY THIAGO ABDALLA | BOOK REVIEW
TITLE : A Touch of Light (The Ashes Of Avarin #1)
AUTHOR : Thiago Abdalla
GENRE : Fantasy, High fantasy, Epic Fantasy
FR RATING : ⭐⭐⭐⭐(4 – 4.5 Stars)
DATE OF PUBLISHING : March 1, 2022
PUBLISHER : The Alterian Press (Self-Published)
NO OF PAGES : 454
Check out my Review for the prequel novella, A Prelude to Ashes here – CLICK HERE
A Touch of Light is the first book in The Ashes Of Avarin series. I have already read the prequel novella, and I would recommend everyone to read it before reading the ATOL because it really helps in understanding the world, the characters, their motivations, and also the context for the different events and circumstances that will occur in ATOL. This book was a SPFBO8 finalist and having heard amazing things about the book from a lot of bookish friends I trust, I knew I had to pick it up soon. The big question is did it live up to the hype for me? And the answer is YES!! I really had an amazing time reading the book.
The book is set in the vast world of Avarin and we follow 3 main characters Adrian, Nasha, and Lynn as they try their best to navigate the life they are dealt with while also dealing with real-life monsters that just seem to be multiplying by the day. The world is seeing a lot of devastating changes that hint at destruction and death and it is up to the three of them to find the source of the chaos and defeat it. Now the world of Avarin is an interesting one. We have the Domain which has several nations loosely unified under a common religion. So the people of the Domain follow the Seraph, who created the world and everything in it. In the Domain, they celebrate life and shun death to the point of avoiding even the mention of it. So People who die are considered to be unworthy by the church and get burned after a cleansing ceremony to be never talked about again. Because of the actions of the people of the Domain and their constant fighting, death happens and forces the Seraph to leave the believers. She is only going to come back to the Domain once death is conquered and wiped out completely which then will bring in the promised dawn. So the promised dawn is when Seraph will resurrect the worthy and the most pious, but the interesting thing is it’s the church who decides the worthiness of the believers and the nobles who get the favor to be preserved in case someone died. So essentially it is not a religion where fairness is upheld by the church. The ones in power within the church decide on the piety and worthiness of the people and make them shun and shame their loved ones who passed away. It was an interesting faith tradition to explore. I really want to see if and when the seraph comes, how much of the known traditions practiced by the church and the Domain would vary from the original teachings of the Seraph. If something unlawful happens or there is a need to kill someone then usually Sentinels, the religious warriors who are bonded with the griffins are the ones tasked with the killings. It’s what they do to uphold the law of the Seraph. Now on the other side of the world, we have the 4 different clans who used to be this one big clan. They are having completely opposing views and religious traditions to that of the Domain. So the clan folks essentially, believe death to be a vital part of life and believe that it needs to happen to keep the goddess of death, Zala away from their lands. So they are people who look at life and death in extremely different ways to the domain folks. The clans have Provings between the different clans to elect members to the upper tier of their society and it is a trial where a lot of fighting and bloodshed happens. Only the most worthy is going to be truly victorious and it is something the clans folk see as an important part of their tradition for keeping Zala away from the clans and also to keep her satisfied through the blood being shed. Then we have Azur whose perspective on death is very much different from the Domain and the clan lands. They also look at it as an important part of life and even celebrate the life of the dead and mourn them. Death is an important part of this world and I really loved the exploration of the themes related to life and death in this book. I don’t think I have ever seen death explored like this in fantasy before and also the religious aspect was another highlight for me in this book. I love when fantasy tackles religion and the way the world and the religious traditions are setup here is particularly fascinating.
So the story follows 3 POVs as they try to prove themselves and find themselves in their respective societies while dealing with the demons from their past. We have Adrian the prince of one of the nations and he is trying to come to terms with his religion and his loved ones’ losses. He has a difficult relationship with his father and in his pursuit of trying to make his father proud, he starts questioning things that have happened in his life and the idea of faith in Seraph herself. For somebody who was not religiously inclined as others in his family, the personal losses hit him rather deeply and makes him question the faith in Seraph even more. These losses kind of drives him in a lot of the situations and also forces his hand quite a bit. He is also willing to go to any lengths to bring back his loved ones even if it means losing himself. His POV was interesting and his character arc moved in directions that cause some issues for the Domain and some complications for himself. Lynn our other POV is a Sentinel who has run away from the order and is now hiding in another place to pay the penance for her past actions. These actions haunt her and have made her feel unworthy and make her question her role as a Sentinel and her faith. I loved Lynn’s Pov quite a lot. Her internal conflicts and her arc were quite intriguing and were a lot more compelling to me than Adrian’s. Now the other POV is from Nasha who is from the clan lands. She has undergone her Proving and was initiated eventually into the Ronar clan. But because she is from the slopes, they do not view her kindly and often treat her with lot of prejudice and judgement. The Slopers are the lower members of the clan who are not seen highly by the rest of the clan members. People still see her as an outsider questioning her place and her worth. Having to constantly prove herself and her loyalty towards the clans has become tiring to her. All of this is happening while she is trying to suppress a curse /ability that only she seems to have in the beginning. So the stories of the clans that told of people like her are about them being dangerous and so she faces the threat of being killed if her secret gets out. This power in her is heightened by the emotions around her making it impossible for her to be in the present in most situations requiring control of her environment. She also cannot lose herself in the haze of the overload of emotions or else she would eventually lose control and become a mindless beast intent on killing. Nasha was another one of my favorite POVs, and I loved seeing her journey, her struggles, and how she overcomes them or tries her best to do so anyway. All the characters shine brilliantly in this masterful blend of character and plot-driven story. So if you enjoy a mix of both you will definitely enjoy this book.
The domain is dealing with a new situation where people are infected by ‘madness’ that causes the infected to lose all sense of themselves becoming frenzied and starts killing people or infecting them. They are the zombie-like threat that is spreading quite fast and it also causes a lot of problems in the domain where death-fearing people are horrified by the new turn of events. With death ramping up in the Domain, Adrian and Lynn are trying to fight the madness with everything they have. Both of them are trying to eliminate the madness for different reasons and we see how this paves their path forward. Nasha has her own issues and clan politics that she needs to resolve. Also, there are quite a few several similarities in what’s happening in the domain and the clan lands but it’s not fully revealed in the book. The taint, the madness, the rot in the trees, and the rot around the ancestor stone all look to be interconnected. I am thinking, we will be getting to explore more of these in detail in the upcoming books. The political maneuvering, backstabbing, and scheming by the side characters are so good and create a lot of problems for our main characters. I am really intrigued by all of this and am excited to see how things will turn out. Knowing what happened by the end of the prequel novella and how this book ended, it’s really making me anxious about how the plot is going to advance in the next book. I am guessing the dynamics and the fragile peace will end with a bigger showdown in the future. It’s quite clear that some of the players are pulling the strings in the background and it will be fascinating to see how everything will pan out.
The world truly is amazing and so much bigger in scope. We have the Domain, clan lands, and the Azur all adding to the rich, diverse, cultural, religious, and political systems. Each of them is vastly different in how they are structured. In the beginning, I did have a bit of difficulty familiarizing myself with the world as Thiago is the kind of author who doesn’t do any handholding for his readers and kind of drops you right into the middle of the world without a lot of explanations. This is not a bad thing particularly. It’s just that it was a bit different and without some of the explanations and some world-related information, it takes some time to understand everything. We follow and learn more about the world and magic through the eyes of the characters. And because of this sometimes you do feel their confusion which can make us also feel a bit confused at what is happening. The magic used is not defined in detail, but we still get enough of it to make us curious about it. I wonder how much connection it has and how different it is from region to region. Most of the magic is in some ways connected to emotions, the stone(you know which ones), and the trees. I would love to learn more about it.
ATOL has a mixed pace with some slower-paced chapters to fast-paced action-packed sequences. The chapters are long, but not at all boring something was always happening and I just couldn’t stop turning the pages. There is a lot of mystery surrounding so many of the events and our main characters are also in the process of figuring things out, so it really is great following in their footsteps and putting the pieces together. And what an intricate puzzle it is!! With all the politicking and behind-the-scenes scheming there was never a dull moment in the book. The action sequences were really good and if I had anything to critique in this book, then it would be that there were just not enough griffins present. To be fair, Thiago does bring them in with a few spectacular scenes toward the end. And I was here for it. However, I wanted to see more of them.
Overall, A Touch Of Light is a superb debut with amazing themes that touch on life, death, grief, self-worth, and mental health while blending layers of religion and politics. If you enjoy political scheming, lots of backstabbing and plotting with really interesting characters and unique and original religious systems in play, definitely pick this one up. Also if you get the chance to listen via audiobook, I would highly recommend doing so because Kevin Kemp narrated it and it was fantastic!! Highly recommend checking it out.
The dead shall not be mourned or remembered, for death is the enemy and will only drive the Seraph away.
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 leaders lead eternal lives and death is a shame that must not be mourned. But, for the clans to the south, death is all that keeps the Earth alive.
Adrian is a prince of one of the Domain nations. Church teaching says his grief is forbidden, but he will stop at nothing to return his loved ones to worthiness. Even if it means sacrificing his own.
Lynn is a rogue elite warrior hiding from her past. But now, an old enemy is rising, and running is no longer an option.
Nasha is a gifted hunter hiding a terrible secret. A lifelong outcast, she desperately fights for belonging in the Ronar, a proud southern clan. Yet a changing world threatens more than just her status in the community.
But now a terrifying foe creeps nearer, and the people of Avarin must 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.
I’m trying to read more indie sff books this year and this one sounds so interesting, loved reading your thoughts on it. I’ll have to add it to my to-read list!