One is a vengeful princess seeking to depose her brother from his throne.
The other is a priestess searching for her family.
Together, they will change the fate of an empire.
Imprisoned by her dictator brother, Malini spends her days in isolation in the Hirana: an ancient temple that was once the source of powerful magic – but is now little more than a decaying ruin.
Priya is a maidservant, one of several who make the treacherous journey to the top of the Hirana every night to attend Malini’s chambers. She is happy to be an anonymous drudge, as 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 . . .
“If I must burn, then I’ll take you with me, throne and all.”
The Jasmine Throne is a clear first in series novel that promises a saga of questionable loyalties, broken promises, grappling for power and intense political manoeuvring.
Its been one the strongest and best opening of any fantasy I’ve read this year. The world building felt as magical as the tale being told, with multiple character perspectives contributing to its illustration from all angles, to provide a setting that felt thoroughly enriched and real. The Empire is at the mercy of an Emperor who burns women in the name of the Gods, all the while a magical rot decimates provinces of the Empire and there’s growing rebellion against the Empire’s colonisation, and at the heart of the story is the princess who refused to burn and a maidservant determined to bury her past and her powers. The story is packed with political sentiment and nuanced plot developments for an overall slow burn read, which reminded me of Chakraborty’s Daevabad trilogy.
The magic system is intricate and left me wanting more. There’s powerful entities that empower water and grant abilities, and a mysterious namesake that prophesies destiny. There’s also the lethal magical disease “the rot” that deforms and kills the land and people who fall prey to it. These magical elements are blended well with the religious and political dimensions to not only rouse intrigue but horror too, I’m eager to see the sequel elaborate and expand all of it.
The best part for me was the characterisation. It’s clear as day Tasha Suri has put major TLC into these characters. The Jasmine Throne has such a strong female tone with kickass women, namely Princess Malini and Priya.
Malini is a powerful character. There’s no mistaking her cunning from the offset which made any potential moves on her part exciting to anticipate and sheer pleasure to see Malini realise her own potential beyond gender constraints. Then there’s Priya, who’s compassionate, loyal and equally powerful as Malini, just in a different way. Both women unlock parts of themselves across the story that made their development enjoyable, essentially embracing themselves to forge a path to more power.
The relationship between Priya and Malini is complex and a war of emotions. It would be easier for both of them not to care about each other as they come from opposite enemy sides, with different aspirations. They feel doomed before they begin. Repeat after me *clears throat*: I WILL GO DOWN WITH THIS SHIP.
There are a few side characters, but the one I enjoyed the most was Bhumika, the lady of the household Priya serves, and also Priya’s only connection to her past life. In short, I was fascinated with Bhumika, she was my favourite character and I’m desperate to know more about her.
However, personally, I would have preferred a narration with fewer characters. I haven’t counted how many there were, but from memory, it exceeded six. Naturally more voices broaden the story’s horizon, but I felt the story lost momentum and I was spread thin at certain points, and felt my developing connection to Priya and Malini was disrupted when taken away from them by voices that, at its worst, felt inconsequential.
Whilst the novel doesn’t leave too bad a cliffhanger, it certainly provides questions I’d very much like the answers to. Can the rot be stopped? Will love triumph over loyalty or vice versa? Will certain characters turn out to be evil? Will Ahiryana get freedom? The Jasmine Throne is a brilliant opening to a series that is easy to get swept up in, be it through the magic, the politics, the illustrious prose or the potentially disastrous romance, it’s definitely not to be missed. I can’t wait to read the sequel.
Thank you kindly to Orbit Books UK and Netgalley for an e-ARC in exchange for this honest review.