The Jasmine Throne (Burning Kingdoms, #1)

The Jasmine Throne was an utterly engrossing novel; I can’t remember the last time I was so absorbed in a book.

It’s the kind of novel that creeps up on you. It starts off with two seemingly straightforward plotlines: there’s Priya, a maidservant who helps a homeless boy by finding him a position in the regent’s mahal, where she works; and Malini, who’s been exiled by her brother for disobeying his orders. So far so good, but there is so much more: more captivating backstory, more nuanced worldbuilding, more intricate character dynamics.

When I started this book, I thought it would be a solid 3.5 stars. I was enjoying it, and I was interested to see where it would go, but I didn’t feel deeply invested in its story or its characters. At some point, though, The Jasmine Throne hits it stride and goes from pretty good to completely unputdownable; at some point while reading this book, I went from ok let’s see what happens next to [dramatically dabbing my eyes because I was getting so emotional that it was making me teary-eyed]. Like I said, The Jasmine Throne creeps up on you: you don’t really realize how invested you are in its story until it hits you like a brick wall.

In retrospect, I think the way Suri chose to slowly develop her world in the beginning ultimately worked in the novel’s favour. One of my favourite things about the worldbuilding in The Jasmine Throne is that it never felt bogged down by obvious exposition or info dumps. You learn about the world of this novel in bits and pieces, from chapter to chapter, so that by its end you realize that you’ve absorbed so much information and detail without necessarily having it explicitly spelled out for you. And the worldbuilding is just excellent. I particularly loved the focus on plants and nature, the ways that they can be both beautiful and monstrous, vitalizing and destructive–all themes that Suri vividly brings to life through some real standout, and absolutely striking scenes.

And the characters! They were beautifully developed. I cried, multiple times, not even because something tragic happened, but just because I was so moved by the earnestness and the vulnerability of these characters. There is so much heart to these characters; they’re all, in their own ways, trying to cope with the hand that they’ve been dealt, to move towards healing when so much is pushing them in the opposite direction.

I just loved this, and I am thrilled that we have two more books to look forward to in this series.

Thank you so much to Orbit for providing me with an e-ARC of this via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

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The Trojan War Museum: and Other Stories: Bucak, Ayse Papatya:  9781324002970: BooksWow. What to say about this stunning and innovative collection of short stories…

Perhaps my biggest impression of these stories is how much heft they have. Every single one of Bucak’s stories is fleshed out and complex, with a real depth to both its narrative and its characters. And because of this, they work on almost every single level. Firstly, I cannot overstate the rich diversity of these stories, both in terms of theme and plot. There is “Little Sister and Emineh,” a tale of two girls who find each other in the midst of the Chicago World Fair in 1893; “A Cautionary Tale,” a tale-within-a-tale that manages to deftly examine xenophobia and the often Orientalist lens with which many stories are read by the West; “The Trojan War Museum,” a masterful exploration of the toll of war and violence and what they mean when they become enshrined in a place like a museum.

Secondly, and what was much more impressive to me, is that these stories were so emotionally powerful. I remember I was enjoying “Little Sister and Emineh” as I was reading it and then I got to the ending and it absolutely floored me; I almost cried. By the time I got to the last story in the collection, “A Gathering of Desire,” I just fully cried at the end. I’ve read full novels that haven’t so much as made me feel sympathy for their characters and here is Bucak making me cry in the span of a single short story. She’s just that good.

In her acknowledgements at the end of this book, Bucak writes that this collection has been in the works for over 10 years, and let me tell you, IT SHOWS. This is a confident, rich, and beautiful short story collection that I would recommend to anyone who is looking for a good story, period.

(Also can I just say that I’m in love with this cover????)


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Image result for This Is How You Lose the Time War COVER“Words can wound—but they’re bridges, too . . . Though maybe a bridge can also be a wound? To paraphrase a prophet: Letters are structures, not events. Yours give me a place to live inside.”

This is How You Love This Book:

You start reading it and it’s this cat-and-mouse back-and-forth between two women from two opposing sides of a time war, of all things. But what begins as an adversarial, albeit playful, show of bravado unfurls into something unexpected: a connection. It is a thread that is tenuous, unsure of its presence, but present nonetheless. And then the adversarial becomes symbiotic; these two women hold each other up in and through their letters. They are each other’s confessionals, writing and ciphering, deciphering and reading. The thread becomes taut, asserts its presence, makes itself known—that is to say, these two women fall in love.

Zoom out from the moving, almost effortless beauty of this story and you remember: oh yeah, we’ve got a time war on our hands. There are pasts to modify, futures to alter, courses of history to reroute, to nudge this way or that. This is not a metaphor; this is the world of these women. There is a war to win, agents to outsmart, rules to follow, secrets to keep.

The thing about This is How You Lose the Time War is that it does both those things simultaneously and masterfully; it is both the forest and the trees. You are so absorbed in the almost intoxicating intimacy of Blue and Red’s correspondence, the way they increasingly skirt closer to truths about themselves and what they mean to each other. But this is not happening in a vacuum: they live, after all, in a world where they weave and up down the course of time at their will, where what is at stake is the future of their respective sides. This is a world with its own terminology, its own tangled history, its own rules and fine print. But you finish this novel having such a complete sense of both the trees and the forest; the searing closeness of its protagonists, but also the backdrop which has at once enshrined and obstructed this closeness. The more the trees of these characters grow taller, the more the forest sprawls like a carpet to ground them in their world. That is to say, this novel draws the contours of its world even as it colours in those contours with characters of vivid, layered interiorities.

Reader, I loved it.


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