Tasha Suri is another new author for me. I think I have been doing pretty well this year sussing these out, especially in the fantasy genre. And I have to say, Suri does not disappoint with The Jasmine Throne. I think its going to be one of my favorites of the year.
The Jasmine Throne is a very woman-centred story. If I had to pick a main character, I think Priya pull ahead to get her nose in front. Priya is a kitchen maid in the Regent’s Mahal; in the once-kingdom of Ahiranya. When not attending to her reguklar duites, Priya attends to sick children in the surrounding city of Ahiranya. Some of these children a struck with a strange illness that starts turning them into trees—rot—and Priya has some special talents that she trieds to keep on the low.
During her trips to the market, Priya runs into Rukh, a little boy suffering from the rot. She’s not in a position to help him herself, but she thinks that Bhumika, the pregnant wife of the Regent, might be able to help. Unlike most other people, Bhumika has some knowledge of Priya’s background. Not that anyone else would suspect her of being anyone but the dutiful wife of the rather milquetoast Vikram.
This small circle of people expands slightly with the the introduction of Princess Malini. The sister of the newly crowned Emperor Chandra, who’s Parijatdvipan kingdom now dominates Ahiranya, Malini has been imprisoned in the crime of NOT SETTING HERSELF ON FIRE. In Parijatdvipa’s past, the Mothers immolated themselves to give their people powers, and Chandra wanted his sister to do the same. After she refused, Chandra decided to keep her locked up in the Hirana in a drugged up state until she can be convinced. Or die painfully.
It is here that Malini happens to spy Priya using her powers. From here, Malini tries to leverage Priya into helping her escape from her confines and potentially move against her brother. And if other forms persuasion don’t work, Malini is not afraid to try seduction. And thus, what starts as a relationship based on ruthless pragmatism and survival, starts to evolve into something more.
While The Jasmine Throne is strongly character driven, there is a dense layer of mythology on the top, and lot of politicking running around below. And when I say a lot, I mean a LOT. At first you’ll think this is a story involving inter-family aggression and some politics. Then it appears that the it’s the tensions between the varying fractions between two kingdoms that are going to circle to attention. But then there is the fire and the rot, and the pull of ancient powers that might be bigger still… And Suri manages to lay this all out without gratuitous use of info-dumping. Instead, all the little details are more intricately woven throughout the novel, slowly forming a pattern that becomes clearer and clearer the further we dive into it. If you’re familiar with the kind of background political intrigue that permeates The Song of Ice and Fire, this has a similar feel. Just under a rather different fantasy setting.
And while Priya and Malini are our main point-of-view characters, I did appreciate the others, as it is through Ashok, Rao, and Bhumika that we get our glimpses of the entrancing greater picture. Bhumika, in particular, is one of the sharpest and most utilitarian side characters we come across, even though it takes her a long time to show her real face. I only hope that we get to learn more about her background eventually, as it feels like she keeps her cards very close to her chest.
The Jasmine Throne is really incredible, with so much packed in. This is the first instalment of the The Burning Kingdoms Trilogy, and unlike many other instances, I actually knew this coming in this time! I have to thank the local library system for that one—they recommended book 2 to me at the same time, which is now on my wait list. Hopefully I’ll get my hands on it before the year is out!
For Bingo, this is Series, and I should have popped that in last night.