The Jasmine Throne is a wonderfully written, beautifully intricate fantasy that I adored. The slow pace allowed Tasha Suri to build this deep, rich world without ever overwhelming the reader. It examines colonisation, rebellion, and power in a thoughtful, nuanced manner. This book is pure brilliance. If you love adult fantasy, you need to pick this one up immediately.
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.
Emperor Chandra is looking to spread his misogynistic, oppressive beliefs across his empire. Malini, his sister, is made captive in a temple with a terrible past and faces extreme cruelty for not fitting neatly into his plans. Priya is a maidservant, one chosen to clean and bring supplies to Malini’s prison. She’s holding onto a secret past that begins to unravel as rebellion blooms in the city of Arihanya, chafing against the empire’s rule. When Malini uncovers Priya’s secret, she discovers an opportunity, and the two women’s destinies combine, for better or for worse.
One of the major themes in this book involves colonisation. The Emperor of Parijatdvipa rules over city-states, such as the one where the events of the book take place, Arihanya. Arihanya did not fall willingly into this empire, and their cultures and traditions are facing marginalisation. The people of Arihanya long to be free, and some are willing to fight for it. This links strongly to the religion of the area too. The city used to host members of a religious order that had strange, plant-based magic provided to them by the deathless waters. The empire sees Arihanya as a strange, backward place, and the small amount of power it retains is at threat of being squashed. The city is so vibrant and full of life that you immediately feel a connection to it and the fight towards its freedom.
Rebellion is handled in an interesting, nuanced way within The Jasmine Throne. There are a group of people fighting for the ability to return to their religion and plant-based magic. They are fighting for Arihanya to be free once again. Tasha Suri spends time analysing if their tactics are justified, if their goals will truly help the people, or if they’re merely vying for power. All of the characters agree that rebellion and change are necessary, but they aren’t unified in their understanding of how best to achieve that goal. I especially enjoyed this as rebellion is often described as a unified force rather than people who work together but don’t necessarily agree. From burning everything down to political manoeuvring, the character’s have to figure out how much they’re willing to pay for freedom.
This links to another reason I loved the book so much. Power always comes with a price. I’m a huge fan of books that delve into the consequences of actions, and The Jasmine Throne does this so well. Characters are constantly developing and changing regarding what they will do for power; who they will become to reach their goals. How much destruction can be justified for the goals of the rebellion? What parts of a person need to be sacrificed to become strong enough to do what is necessary? How much violence can you enact and still claim to be following the right course of action? Who needs to be killed? What love needs to be pushed aside? This book is packed full of these difficult decisions, and you can feel your heart breaking for characters who push onwards in their desperation.
How could I talk about this book without mentioning the sapphic romance! Malini and Priya are amazing and complex and I love them. There’s this tension where they’re both aware that they’re using each other, but they can’t ignore their attraction. This is especially true of Malini, who Priya never knows if she can trust. Is Malini only manipulating her to free her from her imprisonment; does she actually care? This book is so nuanced and brilliant in every way. I know it’s going to be a difficult path for this pair, but I can’t help but root for them and hope that, despite everything, they’ll make it through.
Overall, I think you can tell that I loved this book a lot. This book is the type of fantasy that I am constantly craving; it was brilliant. Nuanced, complex, intricate, vibrant, heartbreaking; The Jasmine Throne is everything I love and more.
CW: death, violence, forced drug use, homophobia, misogyny, colonisation, burning alive, death of children (massacre), pregnancy, childbirth, alcohol use, execution, poverty.
(Thanks to Orbit and Netgalley for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review)
Tasha Suri is the award-winning author of The Books of Ambha duology (Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash) and the epic fantasy The Jasmine Throne. She is an occasional librarian and cat owner. She has won the Best Newcomer (Sydney J. Bounds) Award from the British Fantasy Society and has been nominated for the Astounding Award and Locus Award for Best First Novel. When she isn’t writing, Tasha likes to cry over TV shows, buy too many notebooks, and indulge her geeky passion for reading about South Asian history. She lives with her family in a mildly haunted house in London.
The Jasmine Throne is out now so there’s never been a better time to grab a copy!
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I’d recommend checking out your local indie bookshop! You could also use Hive.co.uk in the UK!