“a fiercely and unapologetically feminist tale of endurance and revolution set against a gorgeous, unique magical world”(S. A. Chakraborty)
Synopsis: Malini has been imprisoned by her brother, a cruel dictator, in the Hirana. The Hirana was once a sacred place, a temple that once held the deathless waters – a powerful place of magic. Now it is abandoned and decaying ruin that now holds the memory of a tragedy. The significance is not lost on Malini, her punishment is clear.
Priya is a maidservant, hard working and anonymous. That is, until she is tasked with joining the crew of maidservants who wil climb the Hirana every night and clean it, maintain it for Malini. The dangerous climb and hard work is not a problem for Priya – her anonymous status is her shield and armour, the only thing protecting her dangerous secret.
But Priya and Malini’s fates become tangled when the princess accidentally sees the truth behind Priya’s carefully constructed guise.Together they hold the Empire in their hands. Together they will shape it.
CW/TW: Drug use/forced drugging, homophobia, burning at the stake, trauma, gore, violence, execution, death.
Rep: Indian characters, Indian inspired settings, Lesbian mc’s, lgbtq+ rep.
The Jasmine Throne, by Tasha Suri is the first absolutely astounding book in the Burning Kingdoms Trilogy and it is a glorious start! This is how you kick off a new series because, let me tell you, I sat and binge read this book – I could not put it down. And when I read the word Epilogue I actually verbally told (or screeched but shhh) the book “no” because I did not want it to end! (You just know a book is good when you verbally react to it.)
“If I must burn, then I’ll take you with me, throne and all.”The Jasmine Throne, by Tasha Suri
The Narrative/Prose: So if you have read any or both of the Books Of Ambha by Tasha Suri then you already know that she is an amazing writer and storyteller who creates incredibly immersive worlds. The Jasmine Throne is even more beautifully written than her previous books but is also incredibly different with a larger scope, multiple POV’s and a beautiful, poetic complexity that gives you everything you previously loved and more.
Tasha Suri’s writing in The Jasmine Throne is breathtakingly poetic and beautiful. From start to finish the prose is strong and immersive, it immediately captivates you and lets you fall into the pages of the story. Suri‘s prose is passionate and powerful, she perfectly manages to blend horror with beauty, violence and kindness, love and strength to create something truly phenomenal. The rich descriptions are wonderfully vivid, seamlessly bringing the multiple scenes and settings to life capturing the sublime beauty of nature and its undeniable power, while simultaneously painting a stark picture of collonisation and oppression. The writing encompasses multiple narratives, themes and aspects and weaves them into a complex and powerful image of a corrupt Empire and the women who use their unique strengths to try and bring it down. While Suri masterfully breathes life into her characters and setting with her captivating prose, she also manages to capture the magic in an incredibly unique light. From the Temple to the way the magic works, the descriptions make you feel as though the magic is running through you, there is something so fundamentally beautiful about the way Suri describes how the magic works and responds to the wielder. You feel connected to the magic and to the nature from which it springs and yet it’s raw power is ever present and terrifying. Every single part of this book from the descriptions of the settings to the descriptions of the magic pulls you in and mesmerises you – Suri’s writing is truly magic in it’s own right.
The narrative in this book is compelling and intriguing. Suri uses a multiple POV structure in The Jasmine Throne with the two main view points coming from Priya (our Ahiranyi maidservant) and Malini (our Parijati Princess). However we also get some elements of the story told from Rao, Bhumika, and Ashok (And a couple of other minor perspectives that help to give insight into more elements of the story). This may seem like a lot but the majority of the story is told by our two mc’s (and all the other pov’s works incredibly well). Each perspective has a strong, unique voice, is interesting and moves the story along, helps the pace of the book and builds tension by giving us insight into multiple side of the story.
Overall, the prose is strong, well written, beautiful and atmospheric. The multiple narrative structure works well with the story and the book is well paced from start to finish with a good amount of action, emotion and politics entwined to create a story full of depth.
ThePlot/Story: The Jasmine Throne has a brilliant plot that is epic in scope and full of complex dynamics that keep you engaged. The first part of the plot is Priya’s story – her’s follows her life as a maidservant, an anonymous Ahiranyi worker, with a dangerous secret. The Ahiranyi were oppressed during the Parijati’s move to colonise them, their history, language and magic was stripped away, but Priya still has magic running through her – and her magic could get her killed. I adored Priya’s story, she is such a strong character (physically because magic but also her kindness is a massive part of her strength and I LOVED that) – I also loved how her story is more than a fight for the Empire. Yes she ends up entangled with Malini and her plans surrounding the throne, but Priya is Ahiranyi, she fights for her people, her family, but I particularly enjoyed her focus on the Rot. Priya’s story is one that resonates deeply with you as a reader, because it goes beyond the Empire’s conflict, it is personal – a story of identity, Priya wants and needs to find herself through this fight. It shows such a complex and personal perspective of the consequences of colonisation, of the horrors it can bring and the effects it has on individual identity as well as a collective identity – it truly draws on the importance of culture and the self. In finding herself, Priya truly shows her love for her magic, for the Ahiranyi and this is shown remarkably through the Hirana and her handling of the Rot.
The second part of the plot follows Malini, a Parijati princess imprisoned by her dictator brother, the cruel Emperor of Parijatdvipa. Malini is imprisoned in the Hirana, a stark and cruel reminder that she should burn. But when Malini witnesses Priya’s true nature, her mind begins to concoct plots and plans. Malini’s story is another I loved, though she is on the ”winning’ side of the Empire she is oppressed in a different way, locked away for refusing to burn as her brother wished. I adored Malini and her story which is much more centered around the throne, Malini is strong in a different way – not through strength (though the woman is stronger than she looks fighting through that ‘wine’) but through intelligence. Malini is a master of manipulation, she uses the system to her advantage in order to end the dictatorship her brother is running and regain her freedom. Malini wears many masks, her own story is also deeply tied to identity, but her story is one of power free from the oppression of her family and her progression over the course of the story is wonderful. I loved this element of the story and how Malini and Priya are so alike and yet so different – the contrast in their lives and powers makes them formidable as a duo.
The final part I wanted to mention in a bit more detail was the Rot. The Rot is a big part of the story and is present throughout. Firstly, the Rot is the most beautifully horrifying thing ever. It is a fatal disease, an infection, that is spreading through the Empire. Horrifying yes? But not entirely because it is so beautiful in description – it causes flowers to sprout from you, through your skin, and that is just one aspect. Again, yes, very horrifying but also the way it is described is just so darn beautiful. The whorls, the buds, the natural beauty, the leaves that rustle. It is almost gothic, but mixed with the sublime, the body horror resulting from something so pretty is just such a captivating element of the story- it needed a mention! There is more to it in the story, and the part it plays is compelling and intriguing and had me terrified for Rukh the WHOLE TIME (this child is utterly precious and adorable).
And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of this amazing story. Suri masterfully concocts a story full of revenge, rebellion and dangerous alliances that is full of suspense and tension. I adored every single element of the story, from Priya and her magic, fighting for her magic and her people, to the Ahiranyi rebels (I particularly like how this was portrayed, rebellion is not one act and there is no one was to fight against an oppressor – this was such a big and clever part of the story), to the conflict surrounding the throne. Not to mention Rao’s perspective coming into play, the secrets of the Aloran princes, and the shadow of prophecy that lies throughout the story.Get ready to have your heart broken because this book hits you straight in feels and does not hold back.
Overall this story is amazing, it has absolutely everything from individual challenges and journeys, to political webs and fights for the throne, to rebellion, sickness and power. The story is the perfect combination of action, emotion and plotting. The Jasmine Throne is a story of colonisation, oppression, family, identity, strength and sacrifice.
The World/Magic: As I said the world is Indian-inspired, set in a world where the Parijati have colonised the Ahiranyi and tried to force assimilation to their cultre while keeping the Ahiranyi at low levels throughout the Empire (Servant’s etc..). However, the world is os much more than the Empire, on the Parijati and Ahiranyi sides. The Parijati Empire is not solely Parijati, we also have the Aloran Princes who have their own system of beliefs and rules – and who play their own incredibly fascinating part in the story! The Alori are nameless princes with a heavy focus on prophecy and it is an absolutely fascinating element of the world that I can’t go into much detail about! But it adds a whole new dimension to an already rich story.
The Parijati Empire is very patriarchal, though it’s religious beliefs sanctify women – in a very cruel and sacrificial way that is suppose to lead to purity. The Parijati have rigid systems of power that they follow, though they do adhere to some of the Aloran wisdom, but the Empire is a dictatorship that, beneath the beauty of their home, is cruel and ruthless.
The Ahiranyi has one of the more intricate systems built behind it because it is heavily magical. Ahrianyi was a much more liberal place, their society was queernormative, and had unique but strong views on family and familial ties. The Ahiranyi’s magic is tied to the Hirana temple which has the entrance to the Deathless water (which just from the name sounds magical, amazing and terrifying) – Temple members were family. I can’t say much without spoilers, but the Ahiranyi are deeply tied to nature and each other, and suffer from the oppression of the Parijati as all of it was taken away from them.
The other element of the world that comes into play is the forest, and we all love a creepy forest! Suri’s naturalistic settings are the absolute best, also shown in the Hirana which from the outside and nature surrounding it is beautiful. The forest is such a compelling setting, eerie, magical and richly described, it’s just breathtaking – the world and its settings are so well crafted that they really do come to life, imprinting a picture in your mind.
I loved how all of these systems and beliefs came into play and interacted, it was done incredibly well and was interesting from start to finish. The lore behind it all was incredibly rich, the societies were well established and the dynamics worked phenomenally.
The Characters: The story, the settings and the prose for this book are all fantastic and masterfully done but the characters are simply amazing, they really work to pull the story together and bring it to life. The characters are the heart and soul of this story, and they are wonderfully crafted. The cast of characters are, of course, Indian, but there is also Lgbtq+ rep with the mc’s being in a f/f relationship (as well as many Ahiranyi stories that include/encompass lgbtq+ characters – which by the way were an amazing addition to the book). All of the characters are well developed, multi-dimensional, complex and flawed with their own unique voices and identities.
Priya: Ahiranyi. Priya is an amazing character – she is very straightforward, incredibly physically strong and stubborn. But, she is also incredibly kind and her heart is a strength (her interactions with Rukh are the cutest). I love how Priya’s strength comes from more than just physical power, especially that kindness is a strength of hers despite her ability to be ruthless if necessary. Priya is a strong personality, but she hides it well in her invisible armour of maidservant, but if you see through her she won’t play around. I loved her dynamic with Malini, especially after her true nature is revealed, and her determination for her people. Not only that, I adore Priya and her use of magic, her connection with the Hirana, and the nature around her, it is all written incredibly well and her character is one you are drawn too. Though more direct than MMalini, Priya is also incredibly smart and can play a role if it means doing what is right but her compassion still shines through. Priya’s development over the course of the book is compelling and impressive, and brilliant to watch play out.
Malini: Parijati (Princess of Parijat). I LOVED Malini’s character. Malini is intelligent and incredibly good at manipulating people, she has multiple masks and makes the oppressive system work for her in order to try and beat it. Malini is less direct than Priya, because of the masks she wears, but she is not cold. She can be cruel and ruthless but below it all there seems to be something more. Despite playing passive princess, Malini has a strong personality that comes to light over the course of the books, she is startlingly brave and sure and as stubborn as Priya. Her interactions with those around her are fascinating to watch as she concocts plans in her mind, switches gears to manipulate them and understand their motivations. I love a manipulative character, and Malini is a shining example of a morally grey mc whose mind could be her success or ruin. I particularly love her interactions with Priya, especially when she wears a mask more true, perhaps, to who she really is but their mental sparring is also so great to read.
Rao: Aloran. Rao is the sweetest guy in the book, and probably the only one worth a dang sacred wood bead. I don’t want to say too much about Rao (our cinnamon roll) because spoilers but his character is incredibly interesting. Sweet, determined and secretive, Rao is stubborn and loyal and an all around fascinating character with great relationships with those around him.
Bhumika: Ahiranyi. Bhumika is an interesting character, married to ‘the enemy’ as some of her own people claim. I found Bhumika to be one of the more fascinating characters who, like Malini, tries to make the system work for her, but like Priya has incredible strength and doesn’t fit into the Parijati system well. Bhumika is actually quite terrifying but she has undeniable amounts of patience and is not quick to violence for the sake of it. Bhumika has a silent, good wife persona, that is her armour, her way of fighting the system but she is a force to be reckoned with when needs be, the woman is pregnant and fighting for the Ahiranyi – I mean that just says it all. I loved Bhumika’s character and she definitely grew on me over the course of the book.
Rukh: Ahiranyi. The adorable Ahiranyi child who should be protected at all costs and suffers from the rot. This character with have you in constant turmoil, and your heart will be in constant fear for him. He is clever and brave but naive and innocent. A child on the streets who has learned life can be cruel but a child desperate for somewhere to be home, someone to be family. I love him and his interactions with the other characters.
Aditya: Parijati. Another character I won’t say to much about but Aditya is an irritating character. Well written, undoubtedly, but the actual character is frustrating. He is a good guy it comparison to some of the other characters, but his reluctance to act and step in makes him a character you don’t hate or love. Aditya is religious and committed to his beliefs which is admirable but he doesn’t act when he is needed and that makes him frustrating. His character is interesting though – and I was curious about what he would do or choose.
Chandra: Parijati (Emperor of Parijatdvipa). Oh how I HATE him and you don’t even see him much! However, you know an evil character is well written when they don’t need to be constantly present. Chandra makes a very deep impression from his first appearance, and his influence can be felt throughout the book when he is not even present, and it will make you loathe him without you realising it (AND THE ENDING) I honestly just, this character is fanatical and evil to the core – and obsessed with the pyre. He is an unsettling presence and oppressive and seems to relish in cruelty. An excellently written villain.
Ashok: Ahiranyi. Avoiding spoilers again, but Ashok is complex. I did not like him, but I loved how he was written. Extreme and violent but compelling and interesting. I can’t say much more but he is definitely a character that sticks in your mind.
Pramila: Parijati. Do I understand her pain and loss? Yes. Do I like her. Absolutely not. Pramila is Malini’s jailer and is incredible cold and cruel. She believes in the purity of the pyre and everytime she opened her little book I wanted to smack her with it. Pramila is a victim of the patriachal Empire but she is also oppressive and cruel.
Overall the characters are phenomenal and there are so many more that I could have spoken about because they are all amazing and the cast is significant. The relationships between the characters are so well done and are absolutely brilliant and complex which makes the consequences of the book all the more heart-breaking.
Extra: The symbolism in this book is ASTOUNDING and honestly I love it so much and the way it linked with a very certain part of the story was actually so clever and brilliant that I just have to have an appreciation for it. Also a spotlight on all the beautiful influences of this book, from Indian history, stories, myths, lore, Hinduism, and weaponry – the influences are strong and compelling, utilised in such an original and unique way- it truly makes this book a masterpiece.
Overall: I don’t know if it came through but The Jasmine Throne is an EXTRAORDINARY book and I LOVED it. The writing is absolutely beautiful, the pace is perfect, the story complex and captivating, the world/magic compelling and well crafted, and the characters are multi-dimensional, flawed and full of life. I cannot recommend this book enough, it has so many lines, threads, themes and elements that all come together to create something truly remarkable,
I highly recommend this to people who enjoyed The Books Of Ambha, or who love epic fantasy. If you love magic, Empires, beauty and horror mixed together then you will love this book. If you love morally grey characters then this is the book for you. This is a fantasy with everything you want to see.
*I received a #netgalley eARC of this book from Orbit/Nazia, in exchange for an honest review. A big thankyou for the eARC!*