Author of Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash Tasha Suri’s The Jasmine Throne, beginning a new trilogy set in a world inspired by the history and epics of India, in which a captive princess and a maidservant in possession of forbidden magic become unlikely allies on a dark journey to save their empire from the princess’s traitor brother.
Imprisoned by her dictator brother, Malini spends her days in isolation in the Hirana: an ancient temple that was once the source of the powerful, magical deathless waters — but is now little more than a decaying ruin.
Priya is a maidservant, one among several who make the treacherous journey to the top of the Hirana every night to clean Malini’s chambers. She is happy to be an anonymous drudge, so long as it keeps anyone from guessing the dangerous secret she hides.
But when Malini accidentally bears witness to Priya’s true nature, their destinies become irrevocably tangled. One is a vengeful princess seeking to depose her brother from his throne. The other is a priestess seeking to find her family. Together, they will change the fate of an empire.
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.
To be fully honest, I was hesitant going into this one because I didn’t like Suri’s last book, Empire of Sand. However, between hype from almost every friend (all of whom admittedly did enjoy Empire of Sand) and the premise of morally gray lesbians topple an empire, yeah I was intrigued. Post-book, I am, as always, thankful for friends who have better taste than me and can steer me in the right direction because this book was an absolute blast. A slow-paced, slow burn that focuses on narratives that don’t often get shown in such epics with a delightful main, extremely gray pairing.
For me,, the best part of this book has to be the worldbuilding. We’re first introduced to Parijatdvipan Empire, where the current emperor Chandra is attempting to convince his sister to burn herself in the name of their mothers of the flames. Immediately after, we move to Ahiranyi, a subjugated country under Parijatdvipan rule, whose religious practices were violently quashed and general culture are sneered upon by their ruling class. Off the bat, we get these rich, vibrant cultures rich with history and ages past. As the book continues, we’re introduced to the cultures of several other countries also under Parijatdvipan rule and I’m eager to learn more about their histories in the following books.
Religion unsurprisingly, plays an important role throughout this story, as both a tool of subjugation used by the ruling class, and as a method of rebellion. For personal reasons, I tend to be iffy with books that place too much emphasis on religion and characters with religions motivations, but with The Jasmine Throne that was absolutely not the case. Priya, one part of our sapphic duo, was raised within the Ahiranyi religion and sources her powers from the Yaksa their beliefs are based upon. Malini, on the other hand, has had her entire life upturned by her brother’s zealous beliefs towards the mothers, to the point of narrowly escaping death. Suri does a really good job of addressing the viewpoints of these beliefs through a wide variety of characters and interweaving those beliefs with the story itself to craft a delightful tale.
Moving back to the characters, what fascinating group! For a story about topping emperors and overthrowing government, Suri choses to focus on a set of unconventional characters. Namely, women and characters with ‘quiet’ roles, ones who, in any other story would be relegated to the backdrop. We have Priya, a young maidservant brought in to tend to the Parijatdvipan princess exiled to this “undesirable” country. Then there’s the princess herself Malini, who spends much of the first half of the book drugged and sluggish, and certainly in no position to act on her own. Finally, there’s Bhumika, the “timid” Ahiranyi wife to the Parijatdvipan regent to the country. All characters in positions of minimal power, of little ability to act on their own. To truly highlight that difference, we also get chapters from the perspectives of characters like Ashok, Priya’s older brother and leader of a prominent rebel group, Vikram, regent and Bhumika’s husband, and Rao, an Aloran prince also seeking to remove Chandra from the throne. Characters in roles that traditionally would direct a story like this. And yet it’s the former trio that drives the action, that move the pieces into play to conduct this rebellion.
Finally, lets talk more about our sapphic duo, Priya and Malini. I actually think it’s quite fascinating that Suri choses to describe them as morally gray, when I thought their actions were fairly in line with conventionally “good” protagonists. Sure Malini is a little on the power hungry side, something she fully acknowledges, but that desire for power doesn’t seem to go much stronger than to be on an equal footing with what male characters are given. Were these two characters male, I don’t think we would have even stopped to question their morality. That being said, I have a particular weak spot for Malini for being unabashedly open about her desire for power and about her own machinations prior to the book that landed her in this situation to begin with. There’s a girl who knows what she want and is unafraid to take it.
Overall, I rate this book a 4/5. Phenomenal worldbuilding paired with scheming characters in unsuspecting roles and a delightful sapphic duo in Malini and Priya. An excellent and unique addition to the epic fantasy genre and I can’t wait for book 2!
r/Fantasy Bingo Squares:
- Set in Asia (hard mode)
- Revenge-Seeking Character (hard mode)
- Published in 2021