Book Review: THE JASMINE THRONE BY TASHA SURI

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Tasha Suri’s books hold a special place in my heart. When I heard about the publication of The Jasmine Throne there was no way I could pass up reading this book. With this review, I have finished the Sapphic Trifecta! You can check out my other reviews here:

I look forward to hearing what you think about The Jasmine Throne! Read on to find out my own thoughts.

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. 

GOODREADS // STORYGRAPH // AMAZON // BLACKWELL’S

TRIGGER WARNING: explicit violence including immolation and self-immolation, gender-based violence (this does not include sexual assault), homophobia and internalised homophobia, suicidal ideation, self-mutilation, abusive family dynamics, child murder, body horror (plant-based, cosmic), forced drug use and depictions of addiction/withdrawal, colourism
I RECEIVED AN PHYSICAL COPY OF THIS BOOK FROM THE PUBLISHER IN EXCHANGE FOR AN HONEST REVIEW.

CHALLENGING THE NARRATIVE OF WOMEN IN INDIAN STORIES

Growing up, it wasn’t uncommon to hear what a good Indian woman was supposed to be. It all boiled down to one word: subservient. In The Jasmine Throne, three women drive the narrative: an exiled princess, a maid-servant, and a noble lady. Three women who have survived and built their strengths in a world that expects them to disappear. This woman-centric Indian fantasy is all my heart has yearned for.

The book opens with Malini’s heart sisters’ burning and her refusal to burn alongside them. Fire is a recurring theme in this book wherein the fires purify a woman who burns. Because she refused to burn and planned to depose her brother, Emperor Chandra, Malini is exiled to the Hirana, which once housed temple children, people with powers unseen. There, she lives her days under the influence of poison and stories of fire—a slow, torturous way of taking away Malini’s independence and control. However, despite her weakening state, she remains a calculative and shrewd bargainer.

At the Hirana, Malini meets the once temple child, Priya, who accidentally reveals her nature. She is made a reluctant ally in exchange for Ahiranya’s freedom. Although this book was promoted as “morally grey lesbians,” I would be unwilling to call Priya a morally grey character. Rather, Priya is full of compassion and kindness. Her refusal to play into Malini’s hands and her eventual agreement were because she could not bear the princess’ suffering.

“Power doesn’t have to be the way the regent and your rebels make it be,” Priya said eventually, making do with her own artless words, her own simple knowledge of the way the world worked. “Power can be looking after people. Keeping them safe, instead of putting them into danger.”

This book is about the power women yield in the shadows, the way they carry their rage, nurturing it and weaving through the men’s politics with grace. None of our main characters is well-adjusted, likable people. None of these women is guided by a moral code; Lady Bhumika, the Ahiranyi wife of the Parijati regent, is my favourite. She plays the role of a “good wife” while tightening the weaves on her own goals. Unlike Priya, her morality stands behind Ahiranya’s freedom. Morality and hurt circle these women as they fight the horrors of their past, stare hollow futures in the eyes and refuse it all.

A FAMILIAR AND INTIMATE WORLDBUILDING

Many reviews have described the worldbuilding as interesting, lush, and so on, but, to me, it is a familiar comfort. The temple description, the food, the clothes and even the minor details of how characters behaved reminded me so much of home.

Each scene was intimate and rich. The magic system was unlike any I’ve read. In this book, magic is connected to spiritual waters, unspoken names, prophecies, and nature itself. It is alive; inThe Jasmine Throne, magic is earned. It requires surrender before it can be wielded. The intensity of this system brings it alive. Whether it is the immersion in spirit waters or the deciphering of the stars, every symbol is intentional.

THE PUSH AND PULL OF CHARACTER RELATIONSHIPS

This book explores is the complicated relationship we have with family, especially those who hurt us. The push and pull of the characters as they seek power to take back what was lost, to dominate, to avenge, and to live freely. This book explores the lengths one goes through to gain that and the people they sacrifice along the way. The author presents us with neither good nor bad characters, like Lady Bhumika, who is forming her own resistance, or Rao, Malini’s ally and an Alori prince. Each character was so well-developed with agendas that often clashed. Yet when we read from their perspective, we understand why they pursue these goals single-mindedly.

“Malini wanted to explain that being monstrous wasn’t inherent, as Priya seemed to believe it to be. It was something placed upon you: a chain or a poison, bled into you by unkind hands.”

Another relationship that readers are sure to love is the budding romance between Priya and Malini. While it is incendiary, their romance does not take away from the central plot of the book. Rather it is a slow, trembling thing as they skirt between the desire to use each other and the slow blossoming of affection.

This book does not shy away from the drama and tension. It explores power, and the play’s characters take at it. The Jasmine Throne is a book that burns away the pages of traditional Indian stories to reveal that women and their stories have always been there.

🌸 Have you read The Jasmine Throne?

🌸 Which fantasy book with LGBT+ characters would you recommend I read next?

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: THE JASMINE THRONE BY TASHA SURI

  1. Aja (The Overall Showman) says:

    Great review! This was one of my favourite books from last year and its sequel is my most anticipated this year. I would recommend you to read The Priory of The Orange Tree if you haven’t yet! That’s a part of *my* sapphic trifecta.

    Like

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