Thank you to Orbit Books for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
Author: Tasha Suri
Year Published: 2021
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.
- Plot: 4/5
- Characters: 4.5/5
- Writing: 5/5
- Overall: 4/5
Before picking up this book I hadn’t read an epic adult fantasy that takes place on such a large scale in a long time and I really missed it so you can imagine how delighted I was when The Jasmine Throne delivered in every way possible. I adore Tasha Suri’s writing (her other book, Empire of Sand, is one of my all time favourites) and she deftly wove together a story of resistance, magic, duplicity and sapphic yearning that utterly captivated me.
The story was very slow paced and took its time to build the detailed, vivid world and set up the plot and while I think this was necessary I still struggled at times to get through it. In hindsight, think this was because I wasn’t in the right mindset at the time to read such a book and I think it’s important to be aware of this so that you read it when you are in the mood for a gradual, immersive read and have the time and capacity to properly enjoy it. It’s important to note that with the way this book ends it seems like the sequel will be incredibly action packed and intense so I’m definitely looking forward to that!
The two main characters were Priya, a maidservant haunted by her past, and Malini, a princess who had been imprisoned by her brother the emperor. I loved how their relationship slowly developed and deepened into something gentle, mature and founded on profound mutual understanding. When I say slowly I mean slowly. For the majority of the book they feel drawn to each other but don’t go beyond that, however when they finally do it is extremely satisfying and works with the story (waterfall scene!!!).
Both Priya and Malini have so many facets to them but most people around them only perceived or accepted the facets palatable to them. What I liked most about their relationship was how they accepted all of the facets of each other- even the more monstrous ones.
Another aspect of the story I liked was how it portrayed different types of strong women making a place for themselves in a patriarchal society and refusing to conform to the paths prescribed to them by men. Priya had powerful magic and incredible physical prowess yet she was also nurturing and gentle. I loved how she refused to sacrifice her humanity for power and made it a source of strength for her where others thought it a weakness. Malini was smart, ruthless and resourceful yet her brother saw her capability as a threat that needed to be burned at a pyre. Her refusal to burn led her on a journey to come into her own and seize power for herself as opposed to power derived from the men around her.
I also loved Bhumika, I thought she was the most interesting character in the book. While her husband, the regent, thought her to be ignorant and docile she had actually quietly accumulated a network of servants and guards loyal to her and wielded more power than him. I found it interesting how she exploited her husband’s belittlement of women to her advantage.
The story was mainly told from Priya and Malini’s perspectives but it did regularly incorporate the perspectives of other characters. This meant that overall there were about ten different POVs and it truly is a testament to Suri’s writing skill that she managed to make it work. Usually when I read multi POV fantasy novels there’s that one character whose perspective I just don’t care about but that wasn’t the case here; every perspective that was introduced engaged me and made me more immersed in the story while carrying the narrative forwards.
The Jasmine Throne was an intricate read exploring themes of resistance against imperialism and misogyny and full of nuanced characters and messy, complicated relationships. I would definitely recommend it and am very excited to read the sequel. Tasha Suri is an amazing writer and I can’t wait to see what she does next!