‘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…’
The Jasmine Throne is an excellent read, especially if you enjoy complex politics and the exploration of human nature. None of the characters seem ever to be truly one thing or the other and there is nothing so simple as good and evil in the story (except for Malini’s brother, in my opinion), with actions and intent in shades of grey perceived depending on alliances and beliefs that may or may not survive. Everyone has their secrets and deliberately presents themselves in specific ways to different faces and depending on the situation, to the extent that it feels difficult to trust many of the characters or feel secure in understanding them, which makes for a wonderfully unpredictable journey. To single out one character, it was Bhumika who I found to be a surprise, for though there is clear evidence of her loyalty and strength, I was never certain how far she was willing to go for the cause.
The relationship between the former temple children is a particularly interesting one, especially the shifts in supposed power and what each of them is willing to do to help their people and restore them to how they believe it should be. Bhumika has perhaps played the most strategic game, intent on assisting those that she can by concealing the depth of her strength behind a cultivated kindness and a marriage for which she has surrendered much. It feels as if Priya has almost the least success in concealing her true herself, for though she has managed to hide her gifts, she reads as the most open-hearted of the cast and the most generous with whatever she has to hand, whether that is sacred wood for the children suffering from the rot, or her time and energy. Ashok is presented as the more reckless of them, driven by desperation and fury, and while it seems that he is a threat to his sisters and others, he ultimately doesn’t seem able to navigate the world as well as Bhumika and Priya, his rage something that makes him dangerous and simultaneously only the greatest risk to himself.
Malini is a delightfully complex character and unapologetic about who she is and what she wishes to achieve. She takes no issue with using those around her as and when she can, yet she is not entirely without conscience, as blind to it as she seems very determinedly to be. Those around her are assessed for their usefulness, especially Priya in the first instance, who, being less adept at hiding her feelings, is someone she appears to find easy to read. Even imprisoned and drugged as she is, she refuses to become a victim (though there are times when it seems she is play-acting the part), and is quite plainly biding her time until an opportunity presents itself. Though Priya’s strength of character and her more magical abilities are well established by the time Malini begins to set her newest plan in motion, it’s easy to feel anxious about just what Priya is stepping into by creating her alliance with her. This said, neither of them are entirely honest with each other, unable to afford the risk of unveiling the true extent of their natures, and, as the narrative unfolds, there’s more than one instance that leaves the reader wondering which of them is manipulating the other – and which of them is doing this more successfully.
The Jasmine Throne is a brilliantly immersive read, its world-building rich and tangible, and its politics and societies thoroughly engaging and grounded in an exploration of complex morals and ethics. I very much look forward to the next books in the Burning Kingdoms trilogy and highly recommend it for fans of fantasy and those with an interest in reading about the complexities and impact of conflict. Thank you, Orbit Books, for sending me a proof for review!