Title: The Jasmine Throne
Author: Tasha Suri
Publisher: Orbit Books
Publication date: 08 June 2021(US) 10 June 2021(UK)
Age group: Adult
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.
- South Asian
Trigger and Content Warnings
- Explicit violence including immolation and self-immolation
- Colourism, xenophobia
- Gender-based violence/violence against women (this does not include sexual assault)
- Homophobia and internalised homophobia
- Suicidal ideation
- Abusive family dynamics
- Child murder
- Body horror (plant-based, cosmic)
- Forced drug use and depictions of addiction/withdrawal
Note: I received an arc of this book from the publisher and Caffeine Book Tours as part of my participation in their tour. This does not affect my review in any manner, all my opinions are honest and unbiased.
Reviewing The Jasmine Throne: An Enchanting South-Asian Sapphic Fantasy
The Jasmine Throne is a beautifully written desi fantasy about two girls fighting for power. The author’s writing is so lush and descriptive that you can easily see yourself wandering in the Hirana or the woods of Ahiranya. Every single detail adds to a breathtaking picture which keeps you glued to the pages.
Fair warning, this is quite a slow-paced book but that doesn’t mean it lacks action in any way. The slow-burn is very real though and half of the time I was just screaming at Priya and Malini to kiss. Suri takes her time building the world and it’s politics as well as introducing the reader to a range of characters. Speaking of characters, I really need to commend the excellent usage of multiple point of views. While most of the book is narrated through the view of Malini, Priya, Bhumika, Ashok and Rao there are some side characters as well who jump in between to give us pieces to the story, enriching the narrative with their voice. Is the multiple pov becoming a thing in fantasy now? If yes, I absolutely love it.
Priya and Malini are both very complex characters you can’t help but be curious about. On one hand we have Princess Malini who is calculative and fierce. She wants power and revenge, she yearns to see her brother Chandra taken down from the throne and she will stop at nothing. Her moral compass is certainly awry to the point Malini is scared she’ll destroy everything and everyone in her path. She may not be physically athletic or capable of wielding weapons but she has an intrinsic knowledge of power and politics and the expectations that people have from her and she expertly uses all this information to manipulate those around her.
“She knew how to lie, of course. She did so often. But the value of a truth, carefully carved to meet the needs of her audience, was much greater, and far more difficult to disprove.”
Priya on the other hand is kind-hearted and running from her past. Once strong, she doesn’t have faith in herself and her abilities anymore. All she wants is to forget, but too bad that her specific skill set of physical strength being able to command the Hirana is just what Malini needs. While Priya too is a morally-grey character who thinks of what’s best for her family and loved ones, she’s not as ruthless as Malini. Priya has her own inner strength and nature magic and it’s easy to see how her heart rules over many of her decisions.
“She would not kneel. She would not speak until she wanted to speak — until she had the answers she hungered for.”
And together these two made such a dynamic duo! It was quite a while before the actually met and started working together but even up till the end you would never know whether they wanted to kill each other or make out. I love how Suri wrote these two in opposites. While Malini had a clearly defined path and purpose Priya was quite lost. These two never completed each other, they needed each other. And yet there’s just a fierce bond between them that is impossible to ignore. I quite enjoyed their brief romance and can’t wait to see what the second book has in store for them.
“Outside of here you may be the imperial princess and I may be nothing, but here I’m something useful. I have something you need. And I will not be your tool or your weapon. I will be your equal.”
It’s so difficult for me to properly dissect and write my thoughts because this book is a masterpiece with layers within layers that I’ve barely scratched the surface of. But I absolutely loved some of the themes and subplots Suri introduced in The Jasmine Throne so I cannot not talk about them.
“There is power that is showy and fierce. And there is power grown slowly, and stronger for the time spent braiding its ancient strength.”
I quite enjoy the manner in which so many fantasy books these days talk about power. The author explores it in so many ways in The Jasmine Throne. On one hand we have the political power that certain figures in the narrative hold, the magical power of the elders and the temple children of the Hirana as well as the power men hold in society. It’s always interesting to see how these different kinds of power overlap and intertwine. Any leader has power but what kind of power really moves people?
“Power doesn’t have to be the way the regent and your rebels make it be . . . . Power can be looking after people. Keeping them safe, instead of putting them into danger.”
At first glance you would think that despite being a princess, Malini held no power, having been imprisoned by her brother and left to wither in the Hirana. In the end her power had nothing to with being a princess. Her power lay in the way she understood and manipulated others, her knowledge and inner strength and how she held herself. Similarly, as a Queen Bhumika was given no importance by her husband Vikram. He thought of her to be soft and powerless but Bhumika’s power was her kindness and her ability to surround herself with people she could trust, those who were loyal to her.
Suri also depicts the expectations a society places on women and how their importance is deemed by their purity. Ahiranyi women were seen as filthy and impure and even Parijati women like Malini and her heart-sisters were required to burn in order to be pure. Men expect women to simply bear children and tend to the household, to the point their value and worth is attached and limited to those very things, something the author addresses through Bhumika’s pregnancy.
“A child should not be a chain, used to yoke a woman like cattle to a role, a purpose, a life she would not have chosen for herself. And yet she felt then, with an aching resentment, how Vikram would use their child to reduce and erase her.”
The book also touches on the desires of women. The patriarchy sets in certain roles and expectation, childbirth being the most important one of them and at its core, woman loving woman denies them that very thing, going against every norm, making the women evil and monstrous in the eyes of the society.
“I’ve avoided marriage. I’ll never willingly beget children with a man. And what is more monstrous than that? To be inherently, by your nature, unable to serve your purpose? To want, simply because you want, to love simply for the sake of love?”
I could also talk for hours about the different kinds of complex relationships in this book. I think I especially love the bond between Ashok and Priya which was a mutual love-and-hate. Alright that may be a bit dramatic but both these characters terribly hurt each other and yet their love for the other sibling could not be torn away from them, despite their frustrations. Priya wanted to hate the man Ashok had become and Ashok was angry that Priya wasn’t trying to see where he came from, that after all he did for her this was how she was repaying her. This was a sort of toxic relationship in the beginning with one side holding all the power and advantage but slowly turned into one that reflects reality. Love is complex and ugly. It doesn’t excuse anything and yet you can’t cut out your love for someone from your heart and I just deeply admire how Tasha Suri wrote that.
Okay, before this review turns into a gigantic thought dump, I just want to discuss one last theme of imperialism. Ahiranya is a sort of imperial colony dominated by Parijatdvipa with the Parijatis believing that Ahiranyi are like dirt. On many occasions, Parijati soldiers and leaders like Santosh talk of entirely getting done with Ahiranyis, suggesting mass massacre. And yet they continue to exploit Ahiranya and its people for resources, trying to mold them to be like Parijatis and erasing their culture. Since this book is inspired by the history and epics of India, it is clear that this is a parallel drawn from the Britishers colonisation of India and I especially adored the following lines on this theme.
“But there is a subtle pain the conquered feel. Our old language is nearly lost. Our old ways. Even when we try to explain a vision of ourselves to one another—in our poetry, our song, our theater masks—we do so in opposition to you, or by looking to the past. As if we have no future. Parijatdvipa has reshaped us. It is not a conversation, but a rewriting.”
Overall, this is an absolutely stellar book and I’m in awe of Tasha Suri. I cannot wait to see what awaits us all in the next book 🙂
My Favourite Quotes
“But some men dream of times long dead, and times that never existed, and they’re willing to tear the present apart entirely to get them.”
“I’m monstrous because I have desires. Desires that I have known all my life that I should not. I’ve always wanted things that would place me in danger.”
“Tears were a weapon of a kind, even if they made her fury smolder and rot and writhe inside her.”
“But we all have more than one face. We have to have many faces in order to survive, don’t we?”
“The people you care about can be used against you. And strength—strength is a knife turned on the parts of yourself that care.”
“It is only that, the moment I saw you, II knew I would seek you out. Just as I sought the deathless waters. Just as I sought my brother. Just as I seek all things—without thought, with nothing but want.”
“Royal women are only crowned in death.”
About the Author
Tasha Suri was born in Harrow, north-west London. The daughter of Punjabi parents, she spent many childhood holidays exploring India with her family, and still fondly remembers the time she was chased around the Taj Mahal by an irate tour guide. She studied English and creative writing at Warwick University, and now lives in London where she works as a librarian. To no one’s surprise, she owns a cat. A love of period Bollywood films, history and mythology led her to begin writing South Asian influenced fantasy. Tasha Suri has won the British Fantasy Society Best Newcomer Award and Starburst Brave New Words Award
A huge thank you to Caffeine Book Tours and Orbit Books for this opportunity. You can follow the rest of the blog tour here 🙂
Is The Jasmine Throne on your TBR? Have you read it yet?
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