Book Review: The Jasmine Throne By Tasha Suri Is A Powerful Indian-Inspired Epic Fantasy
Tasha Suri has a new book out, inspired by ancient Indian epics called The Jasmine Throne. Suri rose to fame with her first duology of books Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash. The author has established herself as a rising voice in fantasy inspired by South Asian culture. Now Suri takes her penchant for corrupt Empires and powerful magics into a new series that begins with the powerful book The Jasmine Throne. Let’s take a look at the beginning of this new novel from Tasha Suri, as she embarks upon her Burning Kingdoms trilogy.
Two Protagonists From Different Backgrounds
Artwork by Kim Ekdahl via the Author’s Website
The story revolves around two women from very different backgrounds. Priya is a maid, with secrets buried so deep that she has almost forgotten where she truly comes from. Malini is a princess who has been exiled from her homeland by her brother – the Emperor. Both of them have been deeply affected by the patriarchal Empire that burns women alive for being “impure.”
Malini is imprisoned by her brother in the ruins of an old temple. And soon enough, Priya is drawn to the place. She is driven there by the forbidden magic in her blood. And a secret history that only a select few are aware of. Eventually Priya finds herself landing the position of Malini’s personal maid. And the two of them discover that they have the power to change the Empire together. In the midst of all of this is a brewing revolution; a deadly disease called the rot that is spreading across the land, and unseen forces that will change the fates of our heroines forever.
Epic Worldbuilding Based On Indian Culture And History
Photo by Varshesh Joshi on Unsplash
There are a lot of things to enjoy in The Jasmine Throne, and the world-building is no exception. Suri draws from her own South Asian culture and history to bring the world to life. Inspired by ancient Indian epics, The Jasmine Throne is a refreshing new fantasy title. And one that demonstrates perfectly how much there is to explore as the genre begins to shift away from familiar Eurocentric fantasy.
The Jasmine Throne is very concerned with the way imperialism and colonialism affects those under the rule of a despot. Much of the story takes place in Ahiranya. This land was conquered by the larger Empire, and absorbed into the country of Parijatdvipa. The people of Ahiranya are barely treated as citizens of the Empire. Their culture and traditions have been eroded and forgotten. There is some history here, that is mentioned throughout the text but will surely have a larger impact in later books.
Tasha Suri Creates A Unique Magical System
The people of Ahiranya once held great magical abilities that gave them control over the natural world. The temple where Malini finds herself imprisoned is called the Hirana. It was once the home of magic users who were able to utilize the power of the “deathless waters.” Temple initiates immerse themselves in this underground pool, and if they survive then they are granted powerful magics. Passing through the waters more than once can make one even more powerful, and each time an individual is ‘reborn.’
And this is where Priya’s secret comes into play. She was once a child of the temple. Raised on the Hirana from birth until the day the all of the temple children were burned alive. Priya and a few others survived this gruesome fate. But they were left to their own devices on the streets of the city below.
Seeking The Deathless Waters in The Jasmine Throne
Photo by Earth on Unsplash
For years Priya has kept this secret about her past. And her mind has blanked out much of the events of her past due to the trauma. She is seemingly content to be a faceless maidservant, and in her free time she tries to do her best to help the poor souls suffering from the deadly disease known as the rot. But when Priya returns to the Hirana and meets Malini, she must face her past and learn how to utilize her abilities.
And learn quickly she must, as we soon discover that there are others seeking the deathless waters. And that those who consume the waters will die if they do not get more. In grappling with her own memories and abilities, Priya will come face to face with someone from her past. This leads to an intense moral dilemma on her part, and Suri explores these complicated feelings with a deft hand. Every character in the story is memorable and remarkable in their own way. And the relationships at the heart of the story make every passage feel all the more urgent and vital.
Complex Female Protagonists Shine In The Jasmine Throne
Photo by inesh thamotharampillai via Unsplash
The character of Malini is an intriguing one, a nuanced and complex female protagonist with a lot of morally grey areas. While Priya constantly thinks of herself as a bad person, it is very clear that she is the moral center of the book. However, Malini is a bit different. Raised as a princess of the grand Empire, she also struggles with the trauma of her past. Her brother Chandra is vicious and cruel, so of course he would become Emperor. The beginning of the book finds Chandra burning alive two of Malini’s handmaids, and dearest friends. This is supposed to be an act of devotion, one that will protect the Empire from the spread of the rot and the magic of the Ahiranya. But Malini refuses to go quietly to her pyre, and instead is sent to die slowly in the Hirana.
It is clear that Malini is the smartest individual in her family. And it was obvious to me that she is the one who should rightfully be ruling the Empire. The only reason Chandra became Emperor is because her oldest brother gave up the throne to become a monk in service to a nameless god. Neither of these men seem to deserve the throne. But over the course of the story I couldn’t help but wonder if that throne should even exist in the first place. But Malini is dedicated to replacing her mad brother with a better ruler. She demonstrates time and again her own cunning, intelligence, strategic savvy, and ruthlessness. She will do whatever it takes to remove him, even if she is seen as heartless or cruel by those around her.
The Many Faces Of A Woman With Power
Author Tasha Suri | Photo by Shekhar Bhatia | Image via the Author’s Website
Throughout The Jasmine Throne, author Tasha Suri explores the many faces that these women must wear to exist in the world. Both Priya and Malini have spent their lives wearing different masks for the world, in order to both protect themselves and get ahead. So when the two of them meet, there is a slow unraveling of these masks. Until they reach a point where it seems only they know the true face of the other. They don’t quite trust each other. But there is a growing affection and attraction between the two that feels inevitable. (In fact, we included this title on our list of best queer fantasy novels for Pride month. Check out that list for more LGBTQ novels!)
The slow burning romance between Priya and Malini is an important element of the story, but it is never the focus. Instead it is a natural part of their identities, that they slowly begin to accept. Although there is an implication that women who are attracted to other women in the Empire are considered “impure” and likely to be burned alive by Chandra, there is not actually any homophobia in the text. It is an interesting contradiction, that I’m sure will be explored further as the series progresses.
A Lush World Brimming With Magic And Romance
Image via Orbit Books
The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri is a beautifully written book. Her evocative language brings to life the scents and textures of this Indian-inspired world. And the chemistry between Malini and Priya is electric. In fact, the relationships at the heart of the book are all extremely believable and relatable. From the tension between siblings who both love and detest one another, to the brewing romance between the two women at the center of the story. It all works extremely well in setting up this new fantasy trilogy from author Tasha Suri, as The Jasmine Throne kicks off her new Burning Kingdoms series. We recommend this title for fans of The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart, and Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse.
The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri is out now from Orbit Books. We look forward to seeing where the series goes from here. And of course we’ll be keeping an eye for news of the next book in the trilogy as we learn more. To stay up to date on all of the latest news, be sure to follow Comic Years on Facebook and Twitter today.
Emily O'Donnell is a writer and photographer with roots in some of the earliest online fandoms. She cut her genre teeth on the Wizard of Oz books at the tender age of 6 years old, and was reading epic adult fantasy novels by the age of 10. Decades later, she still consumes genre fiction like there is no tomorrow. She is delighted to be living through the golden age of sci-fi and fantasy popularity. She is unashamed of the amount of fanfiction that still lingers online under her name.