Top positive review
5 stars and one of my new favorite books
Reviewed in the United States on June 8, 2021
"Chandra is a man with a vision of what the world should be. It's a horrible vision. And he will cut the world bloody to make it fit."
The Jasmine Throne is a vibrant start to a new fantasy trilogy by Tasha Suri. It follows the ruthless Princess Malini exiled to Ahiranya and confined to a treacherous and ever-changing temple by her brother, Emperor Chandra, and Priya, a maidservant with forbidden temple magic who serves in the nearby regent's house. Through deals, manipulation, and a lot of mutual pining, the two must work together if they are to achieve their own ends: keeping Ahiranya safe and overthrowing the emperor.
"This was what she had needed. Not forgiveness, not a balm for this strange writhing fury inside her, but the promise of someone to care for-- to love-- that she could not harm. Even if she had to. Even if she tried."
I love morally-grey female characters and that's exactly what I got with the slow-burn romance in The Jasmine Throne. Exiled by her dictatorial brother, Malini fell from her powerful position at court to being drugged and alone in the decaying Hirana. She is willing to do whatever it takes to save herself and the empire from the despotic grip of the emperor. After losing so many people she has held close, Priya wants nothing more than to protect the people of the city-state of Ahiranya, even if that means standing against the rebels and Malini to do so. Wielding their own types of power in a world not made for strong queer women, Priya and Malini became two of my favorite fantasy characters by the end.
Though we primarily see the story through the eyes of Priya and Malini, we also get POVs from a handful of other side characters. While I wasn't expecting to get view points from anyone outside of the main two, Suri's choice definitely paid off. Each side character felt fully fleshed out with their own personalities and desires. Bhumika, wife of the regent of Ahiranya, ended up as one of my favorite characters in the entire book, and I hope we see more from her in the sequels.
"[T]he people you care about can be used against you. And strength-- strength is a knife turned on the parts of yourself that care."
One of my favorite parts of the story was the richness of the world. Every time I picked up the book, I felt transported into Parijatdvipa and could picture so vividly the Hirana, the temple where a large portion of the story takes place. Yet, I can't mention the atmospheric nature of the story without discussing the magic that seems to inextricable from world Suri built. Unlike anything I've read before, the soft magic systems of Parijatdvipa involve grotesque fantastical diseases, journeying through deathless waters, prophetic names, the burning of women on pyres, powerful and mysterious spirits, and a temple that moves under your feet.
Often times, atmospheric fantasy stories wind up lacking in other areas of worldbuilding, but not The Jasmine Throne. Suri's story contained complex political machinations from a variety of actors. Factions from the Parijat, the five different city-states, rebel groups inside and outside Ahiranya, and various religious sects each vie for power in Parijatdvipa.
"Take me away from here, he wanted to say. Spin me a tale that allows me to leave the pain and the loss and the rot of this place for a time. Please give me that comfort."
After reading only a few chapters of The Jasmine Throne, I immediately picked up Suri's other book, Empire of Sand, because I knew I would need more from her as soon as I finished. I would recommend this to fans of the complex politics and rich worldbuilding in Daevabad trilogy by SA Chakraborty. 5/5 stars to The Jasmine Throne and I have no doubts that this book will end up on my favorites of the year list!
*Thank you to Orbit Books for providing me an eARC of this book via NetGalley
**Quotes come from the eARC and are thus subject to change before publication