Series: The Ashes of Avarin #1
Release Date: March 1, 2022
Book Length: 454 pages
Author: Thiago Abdalla
Thiago on X: @TAbdalla
Author Site:
Book Links: Amazon | Goodreads


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.


When I was getting ready to publish An Ocean of Others in the summer of 2022, A Touch of Light seemed to be the book everyone was talking about. On Goodreads, I'm pretty sure every person I follow has reviewed it. Seriously, look!

Most of those were four- or five-star reviews, so the book certainly returned a ping on my radar. Here I am, a year and a half later, finally getting around to reading it! (That's how long my TBR is. I'm not proud.) Did it hold up to the high expectations set by the community?

In a word, yes! The book wasn't a perfect five-star read for me, and I'll get into why shortly, but it's still clear why this was such a darling of the indie community when it released and how it became a SPFBO8 finalist.

That said, I don't think this book will be for everyone. But if you're a close reader and someone who enjoys theory-crafting on the fly, or someone who's okay with not fully understanding some (okay, a lot) of what's going on, then you may really enjoy A Touch of Light. Evidently, we in the writing and bookish community have a lot of those folks.

By the end, I had over 3,000 words of notes, most of which is just insane Pepe Silvia levels of conspiracy theorizing about who will betray whom and how the madness really works. (I'm onto you, Abdalla.)

Myrra's death was an inside job

From the prologue, I was having fun taking notes and speculating about all the details Thiago is certainly hiding from us. One of my first notes was how dense the writing is. We start off with Prince Adrian's story, and we're introduced to religio-political views on death, a mystery about the mission Adrian's brother died on, proposed peace talks, speculation about neighboring countries working together – and none of this is presented in a hand-holdy way. You just have to accept it and continue on.

After the prologue and an unannounced time-skip, we get one more chapter with Adrian, then we're on to the second of the three POVs...which introduces an entirely different culture! It's a lot to take in right away, and I could see some readers slipping right off the steep learning curve. But for me, I found the writing polished enough that the story engaged me right away even while leaving me a bit confused.

I'd say the confusion paid off. It forced me to pay closer attention and take notes, and once I had a grasp on everything (or enough things, anyway), I found the writing filled with all kinds of little details that reward such careful reading. I was able to piece together a few twists ahead of time, and I'm pretty sure I've figured out another big one early on, which is only hinted at by the last chapter and which I'm honestly surprised wasn't included as a big reveal by the end of the story.

Clearly, Thiago still has more cards left to play. But that isn't to say the book was predictable in any way. I may have figured some things out, but it still managed to surprise me several times!

Part of this was just by how quickly the plot moved. Perhaps a bit too quickly on occasion, as I was surprised more than once by just how fast a sub-plot was introduced and subsequently wrapped up. I would have liked for us to slow down here and there to spend time developing character relationships. Instead, the plot blazes forward without ever hitting the brakes, and I suppose that's something many readers will enjoy. A Touch of Light certainly covers a lot of ground for one book.

Where I think this impacted the book most was Adrian's motivations. He spends most of the book driven by the loss of his wife and making sure he can get her body restored when the goddess Seraph raises the dead in the Promised Dawn. I wish we spent more time in the beginning with Adrian and Myrra, because I just didn't have enough attachment to her before she died off-screen. (This isn't a spoiler, it's off-screen between the Prologue and Chapter 1.) Obviously, the loss of one's wife is a strong motivator, but I needed to feel that connection more – to me it felt more superficial than it should have.

/* Side note: I learned that the prequel novella, A Prelude to Ashes, builds up Adrian and Myrra's relationship more, but by the time I realized that, I was already halfway through the book. I'm glad that's covered in the prequel, but still, the book should be able to stand on its own without relying on another. In any case, it's a minor critique and it didn't hugely impact my enjoyment of the story. */

Despite A Touch of Light being fast-paced from the get-go, Thiago still managed to ramp up the action toward the end, and I devoured the final third of the book in one tenth the time it took me to read the first two thirds. One highlight for me was a confusing-yet-exciting battle Nasha partook in – there was so much secret backstory dropped during this that really deepened the mystery surrounding her character. Another highlight was the only multi-POV chapter we get, where a decisive battle takes place and we learn the true meaning of "a touch of light."

It was compelling stuff, and the book ends in a satisfying way that brings resolution to each character arc while making it clear the stakes will be even higher in book two, A Shade of Madness.

Before I wrap this up, I have to touch on one more thing:

I loved how each character had a different relationship with death and each of Avarin's cultures have different beliefs surrounding it, which conflict with the characters' own views.

  • The Othoneans believe the dead should not be spoken of, but their Prince Adrian mourns his lost wife and can't just forget her.
  • Lynn is a Sentinel, the sole religious order sanctioned to deal death in the Domain, yet she's haunted by the voices of those she's responsible for killing.
  • The Ronar clan tells stories of the dead as a way to keep them alive in memory and believe death must feed the earth. They worship a dead goddess in the form of a slumbering volcano. Nasha's own relationship with death is somewhat a spoiler, so I'll leave that for you to learn about yourself!

The way death is woven into the character arcs, magic system, religion, and politics is so impressive, and it's clear how much thought Thiago has put into the worldbuilding to make it this cohesive. By the end of the story, I was completely immersed, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it's expanded in the sequels.

Oh yeah, and I'm sure you know this by now, but there are griffins in the book. Only, they're used very sparingly. Give me more griffins! I don't think I'll be disappointed, seeing as the cover of book two depicts one of the magnificent beasts.

In the end, while the book could have done a bit more to strengthen the character relationships and make the emotional moments more impactful for me, I still had a great time with A Touch of Light. It's one that scratched my puzzle-solver brain and had me cross-referencing notes to see if a new mystery character is described with the same hair color as another character, and what material a certain pendant is made of, and so on. If you're a detail-oriented reader and willing to climb a steep learning curve, there's much to love here, and I had a ton of fun trying to piece together the madness that exists within Thiago Abdalla's mind.

4/5 ⭐

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