Later than intended due to the wonders that are technology, but today I delighted to again be joining Escapist Blog Tours, this time with a review of A Touch of Light by Thiago Abdalla. This is the first book in The Ashes of Avarin and the author’s debut, and it is out in the wild as of yesterday (01/03), so please do check it out and support the author, and you can also find the rest of the tour schedule below.
Disclaimer – I received a copy in exchange for an honest review, all thoughts are my own.
The dead shall not be mourned or remembered, for death is the enemy, and will only drive the Seraph away.
The Domain is the bastion of life. The Seraph blesses her faithful with endless years, and death is kept away in hope for Her return, but The Domain nations are not the only ones in Avarin. They have managed only a tenuous peace with the clans to the south, who believe life must be returned to the Earth to keep it whole.
Yet the world of Avarin is changing.
In the clanlands, parts of the Earth seem to be withering away, while in the Domain, a deadly frenzy spreads among the people. It brings darkness to the minds of men and bloodlust to their hearts.
This sickness threatens more than just the peace in the realm, it imperils its very heart.
Now the people of Avarin must fight to save it, before death comes for them all.
Dive into this 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 Touch of Light is a book that originally caught my attention because of the cover, I love the muted colours with the splash of colour – it’s something that will immediately make me go ‘oh’. Then reading the premise it sounded exactly up my street, especially with the role of religion and death – two things that I find intriguing in fantasy, and there are so many ways to explore them, so I leapt at the chance to join the tour for this one, and I am so glad that I did.
Now as is to be expected with me, this book immediately gets a bonus point for the wonderful map at the beginning – in fact, maybe it should be two because when I hopped onto the kindle version for quotes I realised to my delight that the map is in colour and I did find myself referring to it more than once. So, yay for a map. I also have to compliment the interior design, as I always adore chapter headers – especially when as in this one, they are striking to look at and also combined with another feature that I love which is lore drops at the top of each chapter. It’s one of my favourite ways of learning little bits about the world – whether history, religion or anything really – and it’s a nice, natural way of building on the worldbuilding without that dreaded info dump (which can also work really well).
‘Her church reflects the four aspects of life: The Bishops of the Bone bring knowledge to her people. The Sentinels of the Breath protect them from bearing the taint of death. And the Priests of the Blood zeal for the health of the Body, composed by the faithful throughout Her Domain.
— The Book of the Blood
And since I’m on that topic, I’m going to talk about the worldbuilding which in my opinion is absolutely the strongest part of A Touch of Light. Abdalla has created a wonderful world here with Avarin, one that is multi-layered and richly imagined, with enough detail to completely bring you into the world in this first book, while leaving more to explore in the rest of the series, and I want to spend more time in this world. What I particularly enjoyed is how each region is defined by so many different aspects, from the political set-up and manoeuvring to the people and culture itself. It is particularly evident for example in how Death is viewed and dealt with in different places, and it adds not only a richness to the world but a momentum to the story, as those differences – and similarities where they occur – confront and collide with one another. And there is an interconnectedness so that it never feels like you are dealing with each one in isolation, there is political wrangling, travelling, and conflict to bring it all together, again building on that multi-layered feeling. A truly memorable world that I look forward to learning more about.
Another aspect that Abdalla does really well is the action, and this is evident from the very start. A lot is happening in this book, but each time action exploded on the page, it felt as though everything narrowed down to that. The balance of detail and pacing was spot on, whether it was a small-scale skirmish to full-on battles, and each was gripping and memorable in its own right. This also builds onto the fact that there are twists and turns to this story, betrayals lurking in the shadow and a feeling (and evidence) that no character was safe, which added to the stakes.
The story itself is told through three main POV characters – Adrian, Lynn and Nasha and each were a very solid character, who grew throughout the story. I have to say personally Nasha was probably the most intriguing for me from the start, both because of her role in her clan – but also for personality, and I will say that her chapters were among my favourites. Adrian took me a little longer to warm too, and yet I would say that in terms of the emotional aspect of the story, his was perhaps the most impactful, and I enjoyed how Abdalla dealt with the emotion in his arc in particular. Lynn was a fantastic character too, and there were some parts, particularly dealing with the weight of her past that really stuck with me. Abdalla has created three characters that it is easy to become invested in, which is a world where danger and loss are around every corner, makes for an incredibly readable story and has you waiting with bated breath for what might happen to them.
A Touch of Light does a fantastic job of building up the pace and the tension throughout, and I have to say that the last part of the book made it simply impossible to put down. That does, however, lead me to my only real criticism was that there were a few transitions that felt a little abrupt, particularly towards the start of the book. Part of this is just down to how much is happening in this book, and the pace as it moves ever onwards – which makes for an exceptionally addictive read, but reduces the opportunities to just breathe. In general, I didn’t mind it, but there were a couple of places where I was still processing what had happened previously, only to find myself hurtled straight into the next events – for example, the most jarring was between the first couple of chapters, and I had to go back and reread them to make sense of it. However, while some quieter lulls would have been nice, there is no doubt that the author knew what he was doing with the multiple threads that were going on in this book and it pays dividends in the end.
A Touch of Light is a strong debut and the start to what promises to be a fantastic series and one that I will certainly be keeping a close eye on. Perfect for anyone looking for a new epic fantasy, in a stunningly, detailed world that will leave you wanting to spend more time there, with gripping action and more than a few emotional gut punches along the way.
Thiago was born in Brazil but grew up in the fantasy worlds from the stories he kept in his mind. He has inhabited everywhere from Middle-Earth and Azeroth to the planes of Dominaria, Ravnica and Tarkir. No matter the medium, what kept him coming back was always his love for story.
He could never wait for the next world to dive into, so, after being (indirectly) urged on by the (printed) words of Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, Patrick Rothfuss, N. K. Jemisin and many, many others, decided to create his own.
Prize: An eBook, Paperback, or Hardcover Copy of A Touch of Light
Starts: February 28, 2022 at 12:00am EST
Ends: March 6, 2022 at 11:59pm EST
You can enter: HERE
If you’ve read it, or read it in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.