Book Review: The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: Book 1 of Burning Kingdoms
Publisher: Orbit (June 8, 2021)
Length: 576 pages
This was wonderful, and Tasha Suri is definitely growing in skill and confidence with each book. While I enjoyed her debut Empire of Sand, it’s clear that in The Jasmine Throne the storytelling and world-building elements are elevated to another realm.
In this opener to a new series called Burning Kingdoms, we are transported to a world inspired by the history, legends and epics of India. The setting is Parijatdvipa, where there are always a number of city states fighting against the rule of the empire, and Ahiranya is one of these. It is also here where Priya works as a servant in the household of the regent, though she also lives clandestine life as a savior to local children afflicted with the rot. Those infected would sprout plant-like growths from their bodies until the disease eventually killed them, and the only treatment is expensive and hard to come by. Priya also has a past that she must keep hidden, because her life would be in danger if her secret abilities become known.
Meanwhile, Malini is sister the cruel emperor, who ordered her to be burned on a pyre to appease his gods. When she refuses to submit, he punishes her by exiling her to the Hirana in Ahiranya, a crumbling labyrinthine temple where she would be kept under constant guard. But clever and resourceful Malini will not give in easily, and she is determined to do everything she can to endure and survive. One day though, she inadvertently witnesses something she shouldn’t, forever entwining her fate with that of Priya, who had been brought on has her maidservant. Together, the two of them must examine their loyalties to their respective countries, and, later, to each other as they grow closer and emotions deepen.
Although there were a few other POVs scattered about, the chapters belonging to Priya and Malini undeniably served as the foundation for this novel, and they were also the most engaging characters. Like most epic fantasy novels, The Jasmine Throne requires a bit of patience and time invested in the first half for the plot elements to build, but once our two main protagonists came together, the difference was immediate. My favorite part of the book was bar none the relationship development, and each woman also had an intriguing backstory that gave even more meaning to their eventual romance. There’s little reason for them to trust one another, and there’s a certain beauty to the idea of two people from such disparate backgrounds coming together and finding each other.
Aside from being character-driven, The Jasmine Throne also impresses with its atmosphere and world-building. Like the relationships in this novel, the lore aspects and details behind the magical systems take their time to build, but the wait and effort’s well worth it. The world is explored through different perspectives, constructing a full-bodied and detailed picture of life in Ahiranya. Although the amount of information can feel overwhelming at first, once everything starts falling into place like puzzle pieces, the author’s vision becomes realized and one gets the sense that these are living, breathing communities that are all connected in some way. History, religion, culture—also all related. Suri has managed to find a balance, something I felt she struggled with in Empire of Sand, whose world contained an abundance of detail but lacked in vitality and charm. Not so in The Jasmine Throne though, which felt colorful and vibrant and alive in comparison.
The best part is that this book seems to set things up a lot more to come. Going back again to comparisons with Empire of Sand, which was a bit too slow for my tastes, The Jasmine Throne held my attention for almost all of it. In addition, one aspect I did enjoy a lot from Suri’s debut was the writing, and I’m excited to report that her prose here is as lush and gorgeous as I expected. This is an area where she excels, and certainly she seemed to know just the right words to create beautiful convincing interpersonal relationships as well as a sense of place. I look forward to the sequel with anticipation.