The Jasmine Throne (Book Review)
By Tasha Suri
4 / 5 Stars
I received this as an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.
An elegantly written novel, The Jasmine Throne is a lyrical and languid fantasy that weaves magic and politics.
The novel is set in a world inspired by the history and epics of India, where a captive princess and a maidservant in possession of forbidden magic become unlikely allies on a dark journey to save their empire from the princess's traitor brother.
It is beautifully constructed, in that the sentences flow with a prose that perfectly balances describing a scene and incorporating turns of phrase. I was never confused while reading it and though the world-building was on the light side of things, I understood the motivations and drives of the characters. That being said, I could have used more explanation into how the world worked regarding the various Lords and how their fiefdoms interacted with the emperor.
I enjoyed the premise and the non-Western inspiration for the novel. The alternating viewpoints allowed for different perspectives on the action taking place, though I wish we’d gotten a few more chapters with some of the antagonists.
Unfortunately, I found the story quite slow. Part of this could have been because I knew going in that it was a lesbian love story, so the build-up to their relationship was dampened for me given I was expecting it. While I usually prefer slow-burn love stories, this needed a lot more passion. It was too chaste for adult fantasy. I wasn’t expecting any bodice-ripping (as a sex scene isn’t necessarily the end result of sexual tension), but there was a lack of intensity behind the romance that kept me from “shipping” them as a couple. This could be because we don’t get to see the women interact other than in periods of heightened drama - they never get to flirt, to talk, to break down barriers in a casual or at least calm setting. The romance was, to put it very simply, flat. I really enjoyed other facets of the novel, though I didn’t love them. I thought the magic was interesting, I enjoyed the political aspects, I loved the female-centred cast, and there were side characters that I cared for, such as Rao and Captain Jeevan, but overall I was left underwhelmed by the novel. I wasn’t engaged to the point of loving it, though I believe a lot of people will be.
It took some serious contemplation before I realized that my main issue was I found the novel a little formulaic. We know from the start what the love story will be, Priya’s connection to the Hirana took too long to get to despite the reader knowing there was one from the get-go, and I expected the twist at the end from pretty much the start. Maybe it wasn’t intended to be a twist, but it felt like it was supposed to be one, given the build-up to it.
Don’t get me wrong - I’m not trying to tear the novel down. I think it’s a beautiful book that I did enjoy, I just feel the need to explain why I didn’t love it. Will I read the next in the series? I’m not sure if I’m compelled enough, to be honest.
I’m recommending it to people who enjoy lyrical fantasy.