This is one of the books that’s been sitting on my bookshelf for a year and I’m so glad to finally put in the time to read it. Thanks Orbit Books for a gifted copy.
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 was extremely hesitant to start this book and mostly because of its size. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to big books I’m so intimidated by its size that I will put it off again and again. With The Oleander Sword coming out in a couple of months, I knew that it was finally time to pick up The Jasmine Throne. I braced myself for the long haul with my cups of tea and my sharpened pencil, but as I started to read this book, I found myself devouring more and more with each reading session. And suddenly, my anxiety about this story subsided. I was feeling in my element. I felt like I could conquer this book no problem, which is what you want to feel when you’re reading something over 500 pages long.
It moves in a way where you forget how many pages are in the book and focus on the story itself, which is good because who wants to read something where you can actually feel the length of the book more than the story within the pages. She has surprises behind every corner and once you figured out the premise of the book, once you start understanding what this book is about, then you start to see the complex web Tasha Suri is weaving. Which is why I’m finding it difficult to write this review. There’s very little you can share without giving away too much of the plot, but know that this story is about a group of people who are looking to free themselves from the tyranny of a psychotic Emperor. And while each character has their own reasons for fighting with the rebellion, they all have one common goal.
The story follows many different characters. In fact, there’s an entire list of characters at the end of the book because so many are introduced. There were multiple perspectives, which I worried would be difficult to keep track of, but then you see how these perspective played out in the story and how they all interconnect to create the thematic tapestry of the book. But the two main characters are Malini and Priya. Right away, you see what happens to Malini. She’s an exiled princess who didn’t do her duty as such and her tyrannical brother sends her to an old temple that burned down many years ago. It’s a reminder of her duty as a burning princess that she must sacrifice herself in order for the rest of the world to survive. Then you meet Priya, who is a house servant in the main mahal where the temple exist. While she recalls very little about her past, she knows that she survived the fires of the temple burning.
The characters were extremely interesting in the story. Because there were so many perspectives, you see their individual motivations. You can read what they were trying to accomplish and what was moving them towards rebellion, and you realize that their aims are all the same. They all wanted freedom in some form; freedom of oppression, freedom from gender-based beliefs, freedom from strict religious beliefs, freedom from their prisons, their ailments, their strife. The world is chaotic with multiple perspectives and multiple issues all taking place at the same time, and they all carefully make their way towards each other like flies to the flame. I think this was the most impressive part of the story and how Tasha Suri was able to bring these characters together in such an expert way.
I think if I could find flaw in this story it would be within the magic system. I don’t want to give too much away, but I found myself wanting to learn more about the temple burning, the yaksa, the rot, and other components used throughout the story that built into the system. It was all intriguing, but I think because we’re getting the story from the few survivors of the temple fire that we lose a lot of the history behind it. It would have made for a much more robust worldbuilding, but it wasn’t so bad to make the book extremely flawed.
While it’s the first book in a series, it also wraps up very well. I’ve read first books in a series where it was setting you up for the second book and have read books within a series that are filler for the next book. This stands on its own laying the groundwork for the much bigger plot that will eventually take place in the forthcoming novels. I feel like I know these characters now. I feel like the time was taken to create them, finesse them to the people they were supposed to be, and now the next book will launch them into the fates their supposed to meet.
Overall, it was such an incredible tale that may not grab you by the throat with its action and adventure, but it builds like a slow ember into a blazing fire and will keep you reading to the very end. I’m very excited to read the next book and continue this series.