Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Cover art by: Alejandro Colucci
A Touch of Light by Thiago Abdalla
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Series: The Ashes of Avarin (Book #1 of 4)
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
Pages: 447 pages (Hardback edition)
Published: 1st March 2022 by Thiago Abdalla (Self-Published
A Touch of Light is a confusing and challenging character-driven fantasy debut.
“Hypocrites. They wore the mask of piousness, but it was nothing more than fear of losing their so-called blessings. They’d be struggling just the same if their brothers were lying on the pyre.”
Lately, The Ashes of Avarin by Thiago Abdalla is a self-published fantasy series that has acquired plenty of positive recognition. With my recent acquisition of A Shade of Madness, I’ve decided to read the series earlier than expected. A Touch of Light is the first book in the main series, but it wasn’t my first experience diving into this world. I started my journey by reading the prequel novella first, A Prelude to Ashes, and I am grateful for this decision. Not only it became one of my favorite novellas, but I personally feel it is necessary to enhance the experience of reading one of the main POV character storylines here: Adrian. I will elaborate on this later, but unfortunately, A Touch of Light was a mixed reading experience. Before I discuss the positives, I will get the things that did not click with me out of the way first.
“That’s the thing about sacrifice. It always looks good when it isn’t your own. The ones paying the price, however, are easy to spot.”
How far would you go to resurrect someone you love? Would you change who you are to show you belong? A Touch of Light takes place in the world of Avarin. 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. The story focuses on three main POV characters. Adrian, Lynn, and Nasha. Adrian is a prince of one of the Domain nations, and 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. And Nasha, a gifted hunter hiding a terrible secret. As a lifelong outcast, she desperately fights to belong in the Ronar, a proud southern clan. Yet a changing world threatens more than just her status in the community. Religion, sacrifice, war, life, and death are some of the main themes of A Touch of Light. And on these themes, Abdalla succeeded in exploring and raising thought-provoking questions. Although I would love to wholeheartedly say I enjoyed reading this book, especially because I’ve chatted with Abdalla and think he’s a good individual, I must always be honest in my review. And admittedly, I struggled with Abdalla’s storytelling method longer than I preferred.
“For a religion focused on life, its faithful sure enjoyed the ending of it.”
I wish I had read some reviews on A Touch of Light before I dived into it. It felt like I would be more prepared for the lack of exposition that became a big hurdle in my reading experience. From my experience, it was almost as if I was reading Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson for the first time. But personally speaking, the lack of exposition in Gardens of the Moon felt intentionally written to make readers sense the chaos and instant insane situations they’re plunged into. The Siege of Pale is an epic battle that happened very early in Gardens of the Moon, and I immediately felt the epic scope and terrifying situation of the conflict, even when I had no idea who the characters were and why they fought each other. However, in A Touch of Light, the lack of exposition decreased my enjoyment of the book. Except for Adrian, I spent around 65% of the book feeling confused and uninterested in the world—even though the airships and griffins were cool—and the character’s jeopardy. Unique and similar-sounding names and terms were being given rapidly without any explanation. And although this is a character-driven fantasy book, I could not find myself latching on to the characters. These were evident in Lynn and Nasha’s POV chapters. Especially Nasha; honestly, for Nasha, I did not feel engrossed in her story at all until the final two chapters.
“Death might be the curse of the unworthy, but the living were the ones who struggled in its grasp.”
Fortunately, these issues did not happen with Adrian’s POV chapters. The lack of exposition and handholding in the narrative still exists in Adrian’s story, but it felt more absorbable. I believe most of this was because I did read A Prelude to Ashes first. I have become attached to Adrian because I read that novella prior. Seeing the relationship between Adrian and Myrra in that novella also strengthens his motivation in A Touch of Light. Unlike Lynn and Nasha, Adrian’s story has more focus, too. His mission and motivation were clear, and the sacrifices and struggles (internal and external) he encountered were more empathetic to me. Because of this, the battles and madness scenes in his chapters felt more tense and engaging. His final chapters, in particular, were so damn good. This is why I think it is necessary to read A Prelude to Ashes first before reading A Touch of Light. Without doing that, I doubt I would feel engaged in Adrian’s mission.
“Show a man death, and he will quail in his boots; give him his life, and he will forever remember who holds it. Loyalty cannot be requested. He understood that now. Blood holds ties, and the spilled blood of traitors creates the greatest ties of all.”
At the end of the day, A Touch of Light was a mixed reading experience with promising potential for the rest of the series to be much better. Although I did have issues with it, they are subjective criticism. There are plenty of diehard fans of The Ashes of Avarin, and if you feel like a nuanced narrative with minimal exposition is suitable for you, you must give this character-driven novel a read. I am happy the hard work of wading through the confusion and barrage of names with no explanation is over now. After finding my bearings around the 70% mark, the book was a smoother ride, and I have a good feeling A Shade of Madness will bring me a more rewarding and immersive reading experience.
“They almost made you forget that fear is the true ruler of the battlefield. No one ever sings about the screams; no one tells you how they’ll echo in your mind. Except for that one bard—Boutros, was it? He sang it straight, shocked a few people, amused others, but it didn’t last. Truth is never popular. People are always asking for it, but it’s never what they want. Not really.”
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