Title: The Jasmine Throne
Author: Tasha Suri
Rating: 5/5 stars
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 have always wanted to read a fantasy book inspired by the mythology I grew up with, one that feaetured brown-skinned characters who looked like me, with lush writing and complicated characters. This book was all of that and more, and I’m not just saying that because there’s a character who shares my name in it! I connected with these characters and this world so much, and I absolutely loved this book.
This is one of those books that starts out with multiple points of view, and at first it’s confusing to figure out who all the players are and which “side” they’re on. As we find out pretty soon, there aren’t really clear sides in politics or in a rebellion, especially when there are multiple leaders who each have a different set of skills and influence. Isn’t it everyone for themselves, thinking they know what is best for everyone else? Does one’s family or one’s country make them an automatic enemy, or can these be bridged when there’s a common goal? I loved these questions, especially as they related to the very complicated relationship between the three main sibilings.
I also loved how this book drew from Hindu mythology, but in a way that critiqued the parts of “tradition” that truly were unfair. There is a concept of sati, women being burned alive on a sacrificial pyre, which is an unfortunately common way for women to die in order to “preserve their purity” in Hindu mythology as well as India’s history. In the prologue of The Jasmine Throne, we find out that this fictional kingdom has a tradition of burning women alive to maintain peace and order in the kingdom. It’s clear that King Chandra is the villain here for perpetrating this custom, rather than Malini, who refused to sacrifice herself. The book continues to subvert cultural and patriarchal expectations by empowering its female characters despite their being painted as “monstrous” or “terrible”. I also really liked the re-imagining of the yaksas, who are traditionally forest spirits that look a lot like humans. In this book, where plants and plant magic are so integral to the world-building, the yaksas also take on a decidedly more plant-like aspect.
I haven’t talked about the characters much at all, but I don’t think I can say much without spoiling anything so I will save that for another post! All you need to know is that this book is full of morally-gray, powerful people with tangled and complicated relationships. There’s a very slow burn romance, but my favorite relationships were definitely the sibling dynamics between Priya, Bhumika, and Ashok. I loved the strength, flaws, and complexity of all the women in this book as well. There are a lot of minor characters who don’t get a lot of lines on the page, but in those short lines we can glean a complicated history of making hard choices in the name of doing what they thought was right (and whether their decisions were actually right is another matter altogether). Every character was so fully realized and interesting.
I cannot recommend this book enough!
A free ARC was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.