This is a difficult review to write because so many things I want to talk about are huge spoilers. But the main thing to knw is: I loved The Oleander Sword.
If you have not read The Jasmine Throne, please go do that. These books…these books are amazing. I feel like crying the whole time I am reading because they are so beautifully written. The characters are so vivid and the storytelling so lush. I can barely contain my anticipation for the third book, but I’m also a little afraid of what it will bring for these characters I love so much. Suri is so tender with her characters, even when they are being monstrous or having monstrous things done to them. Malini and Priya are the two hearts of this series, but I found myself aching for many of the other characters (not Chandra, never Chandra).
The Oleander Sword is packed with plot and movement. Empress Malini and her army move towards the imperial seat of Parijat, Harsinghar. Emperor Chandra seeks to kill and discredit her. Strange things are happening in Ahiranya, and the rot is spreading. There are plenty of machinations to satisfy those who love strategy and political maneuvering, but also sweeping emotion for everyone who wants to remake the world into a kinder place.
If thinking thinky thoughts is your bag, Tasha Suri looks at loyalty and faith. One layer of the battle between Malini and Chandra is one of faith – who has the divine right to the throne of the empire? They both assert their right to rule based on the will of divine forces and the loyalty of their followers is based in that faith. Loyalty and faith are also being tested in Ahiranya. Elder Bhumika is working towards setting her country to rights after being occupied by the Parijatdvipan empire. An unexpected thing happens and instead of rebuilding, she must figure out how to save her people, and possibly the world. Loyalty and faith are strategic and emotional, the result of a million choices and influences. I know why I want Malini to be successful in ousting her brother (see the CWs), but this isn’t a world where a woman can say, “I’d be a better ruler” and have a bunch of men agree and follow her. Malini is always in danger of losing everything because she is a woman.
This book leads you from one nail-biter to the next, from one heartbreak to the next. I have no doubt that all the heartbreak will be worth it, but I have no idea what that the burning kingdoms will look like at the end of book three. I can’t wait to find out.
CW: War and violence. Death by fire, drowning, suicide, battle. Body horror. Grief. Threats and harm to children. Torture off page.
I received this as an advance reader copy from Orbit Books via NetGalley. My opinions are my own, honestly and freely given.