Welcome to the SPFBO 8 Finals! Team Queen’s Book Asylum reviews A Touch of Light by Thiago Abdalla, picked by Booknest.
A quick reminder about how we are proceeding in the Finals: our judges had the freedom to opt out of reading any of the books due to personal interest, time restrictions, unforeseen life events, etc. Our aim is to have at least 3 reviews/scores for each finalist, which shouldn’t be too hard between the 5 of us. For A Touch of Light we have 3 reviews for your reading pleasures, so, let’s get down to it!
|Series: The Ashes of Aravin #1
|Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, High Fantasy
|Date of Publishing: March 1, 2022
The worthy are immortal. To die is a sin. But in a tide of madness and ruin, life is a fragile thing.
Lynn, a rogue griffin rider, has uncovered a deadly madness that threatens to destroy the Domain. She can’t escape this enemy, but to fight it, Lynn must risk being found and branded a traitor by her old order.
Prince Adrian has never been pious or on good terms with his father. After losing those closest to him, however, he must either work with the king or convince the Church to deem his loved ones worthy if they are to have a chance at resurrection.
In the clanlands, where death is considered a necessity, Nasha fights to prove she belongs. A cursed hunter and a lifelong outcast, she has always struggled. But when the land itself begins to wither away, Nasha might be the only answer.
The Ashes of Avarin is a sprawling epic fantasy series where religion and politics are one, griffin riders roam the skies, and a looming blight threatens to tear everything down.
Thiago Abdalla‘s A Touch of Light reads like a classic-style epic fantasy, and like all pieces of the genre, it either marvels or borrows so much familiarity that it risks not standing out. For me, this book teeters in the middle.
While the expansive worldbuilding is highly impressive, with its depictions of religious hegemony and the way it builds tethers between nations, character motivations are overshadowed by plot objectives, seemingly neatly set so as to drive the whole story. It was hard to connect to characters that seemed driven to actions because the story so required it, and I never quite got the sense they had a distinctive voice.
The zombie-adjacent plot point was a very nice addition; it’s funny that I’ve discovered I’m a huge advocate for zombies in fantasy when I’m not really a fan of them outside the genre.
A Touch of Light is, by its foundations, a very well-constructed book, sparing no effort for its worldbuilding and maneuvering ideas into intriguing concepts. But in the end, it didn’t quite stand out to me.
A Touch of Light is a truly entertaining story that shows off some next level cool magic and imaginative worldbuilding in the process. Religious and political conflicts arise fairly quickly in this one and I found the conflict told through the various POV characters to be both utterly compelling and intriguing. The thing that I really found enjoyable about this book were the different cultures/clans and getting to learn about their background and history, while also understanding that at some point there was inevitably going to be a clash and when that happened the story would just take off. And it did for me as I was completely caught up in the final half of the story until the breathtaking conclusion.
The writing in A Touch of Light is immersive and about as tight as you can get. Abdalla does an excellent job of painting these characters and breathing life into them with his deft prose. And the characters are really what make this a special book in my opinion as we get an insight into each one through each chapters. It gives the novel significant depth and backbone to what is already a magical setting. A Touch of Light is a book that delivers in many different ways and has set up what should be a remarkable series that you can bet I will diving back into as soon as possible. If you love fantasy with depth and heart, then you should get on this one straight away.
A Touch of Light by Thiago Abdalla is an intriguing and, for the most part, satisfying read set in a unique secondary world. On the central continent, you have a wide number of separate nations, and while the vast majority are ‘united’ within the Domain, there are four independent clans to the south that are at severe odds with the Domain’s religious and political viewpoints.
The plot is a little high-level and slightly nebulous at this point, with an unknown madness sweeping across the continent, turning people into violent beasts and threatening every aspect of society. The three POV characters are all linked to this madness, Lynn thought she’d ended it, Adrian is given a holy mandate to end it, and Nasha… well, I’m not quite sure how she fits into it yet.
My favourite part of A Touch of Light was the world’s atmosphere and aesthetic. As already mentioned, the biggest player is the Domain, and they gave me Holy Roman Empire on steroids vibes. Everything has a dark and heavy religious flavour, with the otherworldly oppressiveness of a FromSoftware video game.
Narratively, Abdalla manages to strike a balance between direct and purple prose, always picking the right tone and voice to enhance and drive the scene. Action scenes are blunt pared-down affairs full of brutality and violence, whereas more reflective scenes are slower, often possessing a sumptuous amount of description and other ephemera.
As mentioned in other reviews, A Touch of Light throws you into its world without explanation or apology. Unlike a book such as Gardens of the Moon, for example, I never felt that I truly settled into the story. What plot there is moved far too fast for my taste, and as a consequence, I never felt that I could truly savour character or setting. Character journeys escalated a little too quickly, so I couldn’t completely buy into their arcs, and there was very little explanation resulting in some plot mechanics and decisions feeling convenient rather than believable or earned.
That being said, I do believe that a second read-through would reward a re-visiting reader, and book two is likely going to provide a great deal more depth. It’s a series I do want to continue, and when time allows, I will be picking up both the prequel novella as well as the second book.
Our score for A Touch of Light by Thiago Abdalla
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