Title: The Jasmine Throne
Author: Tasha Suri
Publication date: June 8, 2021
One Sentence Summary: Priya is just a maidservant, but one with an incredible power that once deemed her a monster, and the exiled Princess Malini who vows to overthrow her brother deems her useful, potentially at the cost of her heart.
The Jasmine Throne is a story of women and the power they wield. It’s a story of empire and the tenuous strands that bind countries that can just as easily snap. It’s about religious ideologies and how they clash. But, most of all, The Jasmine Throne is about family, burning, and power. It’s a deep, dark, dangerous world where, as a female reader, I felt like I was walking a thin line. There isn’t as much romance as I expected, but I adored the story of women and just how powerful they can be.
Once, Priya was a temple child who lived in the Hirana, who was meant to walk the deathless waters three times to gain power and position as an Elder. But, after her cohort passed through the first time, the rot settled in Ahiranya, a terrible sickness that seems to slowly turn people into trees. So the Elders and children were burned alive. Somehow, Priya escaped and became a maidservant to the regent’s softhearted wife.
Princess Malini was meant to burn on a pyre in order to purify her soul and be granted immortality alongside her heart sisters, at the order of her brother, Emperor Chandra. But Malini refused and was sent as an exile to live in the now crumbling Hirana. Poisoned little by little, she is weak and has nothing but a vindictive woman as jailer, until she witnesses Priya’s powers and manipulates her into becoming her maidservant, and resident once again of the Hirana.
With threads, plots, and manipulations running rampant throughout the empire and in the hearts of women, Priya and Malini are at the center of it all.
The Jasmine Throne paints a vivid picture of an almost terrifying world, one where women seem to serve a sole purpose: to burn on a pyre in order to be purified as the mothers of flame did generations ago. But women will not so meekly go, as the women of this novel show. There’s strength under their docile skins, cunning in their minds, and silvered words on their tongues. This is a fantastic story of feminism and how women have the power to reshape the world.
I loved Priya and Malini and, really, all of the characters. While the minor characters weren’t really complex at all, the main ones were amazingly well done. They each had a story, a motivation, loyalties. The secrets they kept from each other helped shape them and the story. But Priya and Malini were something of a counterpoint to each other. Where Priya has a soft heart and cares deeply about service and loyalty, Malini has vengeance in her soul and plays her role to perfection. I loved that they were wary of each other, that they struggled to open up and be vulnerable to each other. It created a delightful push and pull between them that heightened their characterizations.
But I was disappointed in the romance. It felt more like a faint thread for the vast majority of the story. There were some really amazing parts, but it’s mostly, very definitely, a slow burn romance. It is, though, extremely well done because, by the end, I felt my heart being torn in two from what Priya and Malini were faced with. The moments between them are small, but mighty.
There were some themes I found myself fascinated by. I loved that it was about family. There are blood families and found families and families forged through alliances. But they were all bonds between people that were strong and carried weight and demanded loyalty. I really enjoy how it showed just how dysfunctional any kind of family can be. There was also the idea of women being monstrous. I found it interesting that it was Priya and Malini who referred to themselves as such, but I don’t recall the term being put to the men who were the ones instigating the murder and bloodshed and burning. It was fascinating to read how the two women came to terms with being monstrous, how their views on it evolved over the story, how it shaped them and is setting them on the paths they find themselves walking at the end.
The Jasmine Throne really packs it in. There’s so much in it, so many themes, so many wonderful characters, and such incredible world building. It’s slow moving, though, and takes a while to get to the heart of the story. But I like to think of this as a great balance of knowing when to reveal and when to hold back. As slow as it is, it may be tempting to put it down or stop, but then a kernel will be offered and revelations and secrets will be shared along with more veils and mysteries.
But one of the strengths of The Jasmine Throne is the incredible world it builds. There’s an amazing mix of religious ideas and cultures woven all through it. It sometimes felt like it was a little too much, but it all worked together perfectly in the end. I really loved the nature-oriented magic, and the shifting Hirana felt suitably creepy and dangerous while offering something incredible.
What I loved about The Jasmine Throne was that it didn’t shy away from anything. It never felt like too much was thrown at it. It could and did incorporate so many ideas, themes, and beliefs that all blended together to brew unrest on the horizon. The Jasmine Throne beautiful sets up the trilogy while providing a ton for readers to sink their teeth into. There’s a great deal of political intrigue and maneuvering, and the women who are shoved to the fringes but who are really at the heart of the story.
The Jasmine Throne is an incredible complex fantasy focused on the impact of empire on multiple countries and groups of people, the women who are oppressed who find ways to grasp power, and the two women with the power to change their world.
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Thank you to Angela Man at Orbit for a physical review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.