The Jasmine Throne
Updated: Jul 16, 2021
Rating - ⭐⭐⭐
"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."
The Jasmine Throne is the first installment in Burning Kingdoms, a brand new YA fantasy series by Tasha Suri coming to you on June 8th.
First and foremost, thank you to NetGalley and Orbit Books for sending me a copy to review. Please note that this in no way affects my opinions. Also note that because this is an ARC, so things may be subject to change for the final copy.
I am overall on the fence about how I feel about this book. On one hand, I didn't think this was a bad book, but on the other hand, I thought that the plot and characters were not as well-written as I was hoping it to be. Here are all the reasons why I thought so.
As for most YA books, I found the writing very easy to digest. One issue I has was that because of the cultural setting/influences of the book, the names were hard for me to pronounce, but that is on me.
The biggest flaw when it comes to the format of the book has to do with the perspectives. Based on the synopsis for the book, I was expecting there to be two main POVs - Malini and Priya. It was made evident that I was wrong for assuming that as the number of POVs kept piling up the more you went on. There were chapters dedicated to a person who would only show in that chapter alone.
Needless to say, I had an issue with the excessive amount of POVs. I don't think it was beneficial for the story to be told this way. While it makes sense that by having multiple perspectives you get different sides of the story, but it took away from both the plot and character development. I'm sure the same story could have been told with less.
Right off the bat, I thought that the setup for the story was a bit weak. I thought that it could have been more hard-hitting and informative. While it does set up the main conflict of the story, I don't think that the story was strong enough to support it. The basis of the plot is to overthrow the tyrannical Emperor Chandra, but not only is the emperor a mostly absent character, it is barely shown as to why people are trying to overthrow him. Sure he does some heinous acts throughout the book mainly through the use of other characters, but I felt like I was being told he was cruel rather than being shown.
Another element of the story that I felt was a bit weak was the addition of the rebels lead by Ashok. While this plotline made sense in relation to the rest of the story initially, it took a pretty steep dive bomb the more you read.
All the plotlines in this, by the end, diverged and ended very abruptly. It made me feel like the author didn't really know how to end the book and it also made it feel very much like a set-up for the next book or the ending to a standalone. So, by the end, the plot got a bit messy and kind of fell apart.
A lot of the reason why my enjoyability also plummeted was due to the use of themes that I just don't personally like the read about. There is a large focus on religious extremism and manipulation which just isn't for me.
This is set in a world where specific people like our main character Priya, called Temple Children, manifest abilities. As to why they have these abilities and how it works is not explained, all you know is that they can do things other people can't. The Temple Children are called -born depending on the number of times they enter and come out of something called the Deathless Waters. Again, why they do this is not really explained.
There is also a disease called rot which we don't really know much about. We know it manifests as roots under the skin and can result in blossoms externally and can only be held off with the use of sacred wood. Why this disease is occurring is a mystery to me.
Overall, I think the world-building could have been thought out more carefully in order to explain why these elements are important to the story.
As I said earlier in the writing section, I thought that the character development suffered due to the large number of POVs. Too many characters meant less room to develop them and as such, they weren't fleshed out enough. I also found that there was a lot of going back and forth when it came to decisions.
As for specific characters, I didn't care much Priya or Malini (or their relationship). I considered both of them to be unreliable due to the fact that one of them had fractured memories and the other is drugged up. I thought that the dynamic between them was confusing and it felt like it was being forced. Their relationship was just stuck in this weird place and I don't think it amounted to anything in the end for me.
I also really did not like Ashok, although I'm not sure whether or not I was supposed to. Ashok is the leader of the rebels and is seeking to upend the Emperor's tyrannical rule. For a motive it is not necessarily bad, but where his character falls short for me is the fact that the decisions he makes in order to fulfill his goal are really questionable. I also thought that the way his character arc developed was not what I was expecting nor what I wanted by the end of the book.
The only character I liked was Bhumika, who was someone you did not want to mess with. Almost ready to give birth, she doesn't even hesitate to put herself in harm's way when needed. She was also the most logical character and sensible person in this which I appreciated.
I thought that while this wasn't a bad book, it lost control of the plot. The characters that were supposed to drive the plot also didn't do anything for me, mainly because there were just too many perspectives.
If you are looking for a new YA fantasy series to delve into that is inspired by Indian culture, I would still give this a shot though.