I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.
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.
This was my first Tasha Suri book and I was drawn in by the promise of morally grey lesbians in an India-inspired epic fantasy (and also the fact that the author’s bunnies are named Wei Ying and Lan Zhan. but mostly it was the lesbians) and all I can say is Suri definitely delivered on all fronts!
It’s really hard to decide where to begin with in this review, because the books has so many themes and they all seamlessly blend into a story that’s as much character driven as it is dense with events that move the plot forward. I am someone who absolutely adores multiple POV in fantasy and I really enjoyed seeing all the different point of views and how by the end they spiraled into a bigger focus on the three women that are the main protagonists. And this really sums up the heart of the beginning of this series: a focus on women who could not be more different from each other in their strengths, but they all have learned to move in a heavily patriarchal society to get what they want, be it sometimes something as simple as surviving.
The romance between Priya and Malini had a lot of nice moments and I can’t wait to see how things develop in the rest of the series. I admit I didn’t have many strong feelings about the romance, I didn’t have a really big gasping-out-loud moment (or if I did it didn’t have to do with the romance), but that isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it. I certainly root for them and am looking forward to see how they’ll have to navigate yet another unfortunate facet of a patriarchal society -homophobia- and I know this will be handled with care and grace, even if it should become a more relevant theme than in this first book.
Something else I really liked was the writing, and actually one of the reasons I was so slow reading this book (other than the fact that I’m not used to reading physical books and that I’m generally speaking a slow reader) is the fact that I really wanted to take my time reading each sentence without skipping words, it’s hard to explain but usually when it takes me a long time to read a book it’s because I’m enjoying it a lot and not skipping sentences or skimming to the next dialogue. So that’s definitely one more sign I liked this.
So all I can do is recommend this gorgeous book which is filled with characters you won’t easily forget, really beautiful writing and a critical look at so many themes like empire, colonialism, religion, sexism and so much more.
TWs (from the author’s site): Explicit violence including immolation and self-immolation, Gender-based violence (this does not include sexual assault), Homophobia and internalised homophobia, Suicidal ideation, Self-mutilation, Abusive family dynamics, Child murder, Body horror (plant-based, cosmic), Forced drug use and depictions of addiction/withdrawal