One is a vengeful princess seeking to depose her brother from his throne. The other is a priestess searching for her family. Together, they will change the fate of an empire.
Imprisoned by her dictator brother, Malini spends her days in isolation in the Hirana: an ancient temple that was once the source of powerful magic – but is now little more than a decaying ruin. Priya is a maidservant, one of several who make the treacherous journey to the top of the Hirana every night to attend Malini’s chambers. She is happy to be an anonymous drudge, as 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 . . .
Thank you to NetGalley and Orbit Books for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
What a powerful book! The Jasmine Throne absolutely swept me away, I have never read anything quite like it. Suri has built an incredible and concrete world with Parijatdvipa. As soon as I read the prologue, I knew I was in for a ride. The central story is set in Ahiranya, which used to be a powerful nation that almost ruled the entire continent (I think, the map was sadly not ready for the ARC I read) during what was called the Age of Flowers. But then a group of women from Parijat burned themselves on a pyre to gain the power to stand against Ahiranya. Since then Parijat has ruled, worshipping the Mothers who sacrificed themselves, and Ahiranya has been crumbling, its religious power lost during the burning of the temple and all its Elders and children at the order of the Emperor, its people and lands consumed by the rot.
‘But Priya, who’d once been taught traditional Ahiranyi as a temple daughter, knew that the Ahiranyi had never had names for the forest. Ahiranya was the forest. The woodland was as unnamable as each breath of air, as indivisible as water.’
I absolutely love the flower imagery that pervades the book. You see it immediately in the title, and it continues throughout. Especially within Ahiranya, with their Age of Flowers and the Yaksa they worship, who were creatures made of growing things, and are said to have become the sacred trees of the forest when they died. As I said, a fantastic world with so much rich history, folklore, religion, and politics. It felt so incredibly real.
The characters certainly add to this. I felt immediately the strength of each of them, especially Malini and Priya, the main point of view characters. They nearly walked right off the pages, their personalities so crisp and original. Priya is a maidservant in Hiranaprastha, but she is much more than the orphaned girl who the Regent’s wife took pity on; her past is linked to the Hirana, the temple in which the Ahiranyi Elders and temple children used to worship, and in which they all burned. Malini is the sister of Emperor Chandra, a dangerous man who has twisted the faith of the Mothers to his own ideal of a pure world. He imprisons Malini in the Hirana as punishment for refusing to burn on the pyre as willing sacrifice, after she conspires to restore the throne to her elder brother, Aditya. In this way, Priya and Malini’s fates collide, and they each need the other to reach their goals.
‘Priya. A common name across all of Parijatdvipa. A sweet name for round-cheeked little girls and meek brides alike. This woman was neither.’
These women are hard-edged, and so are most characters in The Jasmine Throne. Though both Priya and Malini act out of a desire to better the world around them, they both have a very interesting relationship with the monstrous, and what it means to become the person you need to be in order to bring about that change. Alongside that is the powerful conversation this book is having about empire, about conquered lands, the erasure of culture and language along with a conquered nation’s power, the damage wrought by the people trying to liberate themselves. As I said, what a powerful book. I don’t want to say much more because this is the kind of story that holds joy in the unfolding, and all I can do is urge all fantasy readers to pick this up, because I am sure it will not disappoint. The perfect blend of sweeping empire and close character study, of frantic scenes and still, yet powerful, moments. An immediate favourite.
Published: 10th June 2021 by Orbit
Series: The Burning Kingdoms, book one
Narration style: third person past tense, multiple narrators
Format read: eARC
Copy owned: no
Trigger Warnings: violence, body horror, blood, confinement, burning