The Jasmine Throne (Burning Kingdoms #1) by Tasha Suri
Published by Orbit
Adult, Epic Fantasy, Queer
Release Date : 8th June 2021 (US) & 10th June 2021 (UK)
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.
“Only the worthy could rise.”
ARC provided by the publisher Orbit UK through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
A story about a princess and a maid servant that is trying to break free from the prison of their past all the while burning empires to the ground. Tasha Suri is back with a new series kicking it off with a fiery first book The Jasmine Throne.
The time has finally come for me to complete my true calling of reading all three books from the unofficial but official Sapphic Holy Trifecta. If you’re not familiar with the trifecta is three adult fantasy sapphic books releasing in 2021 that consist of The Unbroken by C. L. Clark, She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan, and lastly The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri. I can announce confidently that I have read all three as The Jasmine Throne completes my list.
In all honesty, I had zero expectations for the book but after seeing many tweets from mutuals and authors reassuring me that I will love The Jasmine Throne I decided to give it a try. Looking at the rating above it is clear that enjoyed the book.
Before I start my review I would like to appreciate the beauty that is Priya on the cover of the book. Designed by Laura Penepinto and cover art done by Micah Epstein (@micahepsteinart), the fiery colours and the flowers on the borders of the book amplifies the beauty of the art much more.
Not just that it resonates well with the story and represents what you can expect when reading the book perfectly! Also if you look closely there’s vine details and the Priya is sitting on the steps on the Hirana!! I love this cover, it is truly magnificent!
“Are we fighting a war right now, Malini?” “Yes,” Malini said. “We always are.”
After the success of The Books of Ambha duology, Tasha Suri is back with a new series that will entice readers with its glorious floral imagery and heartfelt burning passion to destroy empires titled Burning Kingdoms with it’s first book releasing on June 8th 2021, The Jasmine Throne.
The story follows Priya, a maidservant that works for the household of the regent, as she tries to find her memories long burned away by the flames of her past. One day when the princess is sentenced to exile in the Hirana, a sacred temple of the yaksa, Priya takes a chance to gain more coin and find clues to connect with her past on the Hirana.
When another servant’s attempt to discover the Hirana’s secrets went awry, Priya is pushed to use the power she once held and expose her true identity that she has buried for years. This reveal also exposes Priya to the last person she wants her identity to be known to, the princess of Parijatdvipan empire, Malini. Finding use in the not-so-normal-maid servant Malini decides to ally herself with Priya, her last remaining hope and only ally that can help her survive.
The setting of the story is exquisitely vivid and magnificent as it serves as the center piece for The Jasmine Throne. Tasha Suri’s writing brings forth a beautiful yet cruel world that is filled with botanical opulence and raging purifying fires. This is my first time reading an Indian inspired fantasy, it felt like I am watching a blank canvas being painted with the landscape of Hiranaprastha.
From the hustle and bustle of the market, to the lush thick green forest, to the beautiful garden surrounding the rose palace, and the view while on a dangerous climb to reach the Hirana. Suri’s writing is filled sensory description either smell, touch, taste, or sound; while reading the book you can surely feel all these things. It could be the cacophony of smells at the market, the nails digging into flesh, the taste of flower scented candy, or the swish of a sari. These small details captured me immediately and I was hypnotized beyond my mind.
Even the plague that has befallen the people of Ahiranya is well described down to every detail, it made my body feel like it had to look away but I wanted to keep reading. The botanical body horror is just *chef’s kiss*. And I love when Suri mentions flowers. The floral orgasm that is contained in this book is just wondrous.
By all means, I am no botanical expert but I appreciate the many variations of flowers mentioned in this story and how it all ties in with the world. The title itself has contains my favorite kind of flower, JASMINE.
Fate had not named her. But the choices men had made, and the choices she had made—when her brother had pressed a knife to her neck, when her brother had tried to see her burn—had shaped her and given her a purpose.
Besides the beautiful setting there is the on going political struggle within the Parijati Empire. Though in this first book there aren’t many political sequences but the few scenes Suri included in the story is impactful and monumental to the story. The current ruler of the Parijatdvipan empire is a misogynistic sadist radical that is on a mission to “purify” the world of the Ahiranya people. It can be said that the emperor is on a mission to commit ethnic cleansing against the Ahiranyi.
The religion this ruler worships is a religion that views sacrifice of women to burning as an act to achieving divinity, hence the name Mothers of the Flame. I love seeing the parallels between the Parijati and Ahiranyi not just in religion but in culture as well such as : The Parijati are more conservative than the Ahiranyi, Ahiranyi doesn’t see gender as an issue when it comes to partners, while the Parijati sees women as lesser especially the ones that deny the flames and is patriarchal. I was fully immersed into the world and I find it fascinating to see how everything connects in the story. Just thinking about it gives me chills!
She thought of the feel of Ahiranya unfurling in her mind. Of power in her blood. Of what it meant to be touched by spirits—to be a temple child, a keeper of faith. To be . . . elemental.
It wouldn’t be a fantasy story if it didn’t have a certain aspect of magic in it and can I say out of all the books I’ve read this year the magic in The Jasmine Throne is one of the most intriguing magic systems I’ve encountered in a while. Starting the book it took a while for the magic to be revealed and when it was done the gradual ascent to understanding the Yaksa magic is satisfying.
As someone that loves a religion based magic that derives from gods I am living for the lore. I wanna talk about the magic but it might spoil everything so I will try to be vague as possible. The magic in The Jasmine Throne is a type of communion magic and grants power to the chosen followers of the Yaksa.
Yaksa is an elemental being that I can only imagine looking like a Treant but more humanoid. Only the chosen followers are worthy of the yaksa’s powers and there are layers to achieving full power to manipulate the earth, grow plants, and control nature all together. There are three trials that they must survive through with unpredictable results, those who aren’t worthy die during these three trials. If they survive the first trial they are granted a taste of power and gradually the powers will mature after passing the second and third trial.
Though the magic is like a battery, they can fade with time the longer they are separated from the Hirana. It is not that easy either to receive the powers because not everyone is worthy. Anyone can hone the powers but the action is similar to drinking water from a pond and not from a creak with flowing water.
Suri’s concept for the Yaksa magic is interesting and well balanced. Personally, I am an admirer of checks and balances in books that have a magic system. The Jasmine Throne clearly achieved this balance magnificently without it being too intensely technical to the point it breaks the mood of the plot, it is weaved well within the world building and done slowly for readers to follow. Any reader can easily grasp the magic! I have to say it is the perfect example of a well structured magic system that is well engrained within the world similar to the Green Bones in Jade City by Fonda Lee.
She could make herself something monstrous. She could be a creature born of poison and pyre, flame and blood.
Suri expertly integrated heavy topics such as women’s role in a patriarchal society, being queer, discovering one’s identity, oppression, and so on through her world building and characters. I have mentioned in the previous paragraphs how brilliant Tasha Suri’s world building is now I want to get to the good stuff which are characters!
In The Jasmine Throne there are two core characters that serves as the fuel to the story, they are Priya and Malini. Both characters are very well fleshed out with clear motivation and purpose. Their dynamics are full of yearning and deeply intimate.
Suri’s writing definitely extends the vulnerability to readers even more as the emotions bleeds out from the page everytime these two characters share a moment together. Each scene between the two in the Hirana, where they bargain or share their dreams or open up to one another readers get a glimpse of how broken they are. They both have deep wounds that is caused by familial love that are sometimes too fierce and intense it burnt them. I liked that their relationship blossomed into something beautiful where they both find solace in each other as they give in to their vulnerability and shed all their defences.
I want to say that both character’s development are like ping-pong they bounce of each other. But if I compare them, Priya’s character development is much clearer and whole. In the story Priya’s development is more structured and apparent to me. While Malini’s only started developing nearing the middle around 50-60% into the book. Since it is the first book I can see that the story is much more centered around Ahiranya and Priya, I think we can hope to see more development from Malini in the second book.
“This face. This face right in front of me. The face you’ve shown me, the fact that you kissed me. I know it. I know you,” said Priya. “I know exactly who you are. There are other versions of you that I don’t know. But this one . . .” Her fingers were against Malini’s lips. “This one is mine.”
There are other characters with strong presence that Tasha Suri included in the POVs besides the Priya and Malini. They are Rao, Bhumika, Prem, and Ashok. I want to shine the spotlight to Bhumika, the wife of the regent of Ahiranya, one of the female characters that plays a big part later on in the story. Bhumika’s arc is probably the second most interesting compared to the other characters, the first being Priya.
Bhumika is the embodiment of a strong woman getting shit done, the woman sacrificed herself and her true calling to protect the people of Ahiranya by marrying the regent. Her whole arc contains commentary about how society views women and how it views a woman’s value is limited to having kids while sitting being pretty.
There are similarities between Malini and Bhumika as they are both highborn women with cunning abilities to manipulate and maneuver through many political obstacles in their way. They both strongly radiate the aura of gaslight, gatekeep, girl boss!
Even though I can’t talk about all of the characters in The Jasmine Throne rest assured that the characterization is well done with believable development and are very well fleshed out. There’s no character that feels like a side character and each character will have their own moment to shine in the story.
“I wanted peace. I was willing to pay the price that peace demanded, however broken that peace was. … , I will do what is needful. I will take up the role that was once mine.”
As a reader I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Jasmine Throne it checks everything that I look for in a fantasy book from the down to earth and believable characters, the character interactions, the amazing world building, the underlying topics within the story, etc. But there were moments when the pacing of the story is too slow for me especially during the ending.
The way that the ending went down the flow is like a roller coaster ride, there is a climax then it dips then climax again then dips and so on. It felt like there are too many climaxes and dips. Even though the ending was wrapped up nicely and left at a good note to start the second book, for me it felt slightly draining because of the constant escalation then dips.
When I got to the big moment it became anti-climactic and fell flat for me, when it was supposed to be the moment that delivered the last smash. Please mind this is just a small thing in an all round awesome book and I was sick while reading that could also play a factor too. Nonetheless, it didn’t not hinder me from loving the story as a whole.
The moment I saw you, I felt a tug. You are the feeling of falling, the tidal waters, the way a living thing will always turn, seeking light. It isn’t that I think you are good or kind, or even that I love you. It is only that, the moment I saw you, I knew I would seek you out. … Just as I seek all things—without thought, with nothing but want.
Final thoughts, The Jasmine Throne is a book filled with sapphic yearning between two strong characters that is driven to set an empire ablaze. It is a vivid, nuanced, and a story that wakes your senses with in depth world building, beautiful atmospheric writing, and underlying themes that challenges the expectations and limitations of woman in a patriarchal world.
Complete with a cast of characters that is as equally as commanding in presence and wonderfully fleshed out. I will say it again, Tasha Suri created a banger of a first book to a promising trilogy that I will keep my eyes out for. Fair warning, there are trigger warnings for this book that readers should pay attention to before picking this book up.
I am very excited for this book to be released in June and I can’t wait for readers to meet Malini and Priya, especially Bhumika. Pre-order your copy now or wait until it’s release or request it at your library or buy the e-book. Please read this book! It will not disappoint and thank me later <3
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.