Genre | Fantasy
Page #s | 533
Publishing Date | June 2021
Author of Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash Tasha Suri’s 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.
The Jasmine Throne brings Indian culture and female protagonists to classic epic fantasy tropes of subjugated countries and mysterious magic. It is a fast read despite it’s size, due largely to the fact that chapters switch POVs to the person whose story is most interesting at any given moment. The shape of the story is both familiar and excitingly new, and I cannot wait to see how the series progresses.
This is a political and magical novel about a once-powerful subjugated nation that chafes under empirical rule. The story centers on two women in particular: Priya, a handmaiden with a secret, and Malini, disgraced sister of a tyrant emperor. They are each powerless in their own unique way due to being women in a traditional fantasy world that is ruled by men. Suri quickly signals that she aims to subvert this trope rather than validate it by creating a world in which women’s value comes from their literal sacrifice on a pyre. Malini refuses to die, the first feminist assertion of many that play out subtly and surely.
With men in power, violence is the default. Although there is an argument to be made that the female characters seek alternative means of rebellion and resolution, it is never so simple as “women = good pacifists and men = bad warmongers.” This complexity is also shown in the multiple Parijati (the empire) and Ahiranyi (the subjugated vassal land) characters who fall at all points of a morality spectrum. Everyone struggles to identify the line between necessary violence and overkill. I loved that there was no simplistic delineation between good guys and bad guys. Everyone is trying to navigate a middle way (except for two very bad baddies).
The politicking takes center stage, but there is ever-increasing attention given to a seriously cool magic system. The land is infested with a beautiful and creepy rot that kills people as it turns them into plants. The plague began when old magic returned to the world, but once again Suri takes the complicated path in exploring this power. The power is deadly, but it may also heal. Accepting the power empties you out, but it may make you more yourself than ever before. Different characters hold different opinions, and there are no sure answers by the end of the first book, at least.
The only thing that didn’t quite work for me was the pacing of the book. It felt like the climax of the story occurred 100 pages before the end. Although several (extremely) important events happen after this point, I kept feeling like it ought to be wrapping up. However, it was still a page turner!
I loved this book, and I’m eager for more from this world and from other queer feminist epic fantasies.
What Makes This Book Queer?
One of the cultural legacies lost when conquered by the empire, Ahiranyi believe that love can exist between men and men or women and women. This is now outlawed, which means people talk around the point and speak carefully to make their feelings known.
I love a fantasy story with romance, and this one is great! The slow burn romance between two women feels utterly earned and exciting because they know each other’s desperation, manipulativeness, loyalty, and care. They know the best and the worst of each other, and I am here for it!
Who Would I Recommend This Book To?
Give The Jasmine Throne to your fantasy nerd friend who is tired of all their books focusing on straight white men.
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