Book Review: The Jasmine Throne – Empires, Intrigue, & Magic? Alright.

The Jasmine Throne – by Tashi Suri
Season 2, Book 1
Discussion Date: November 13, 2021

Dice Rating:

The d4, You rarely use it, yet you need it in your set. A d4 book might have the odd NPC or environ idea, though there wasn’t much pulled from it. Also possible this book just wasn’t for you and thats ok too.

Cover Synopsis:

Exiled by her despotic brother, princess Malini spends her days dreaming of vengeance while imprisoned in the Hirana: an ancient cliffside temple that was once the revered source of the magical deathless waters but is now little more than a decaying ruin.

The secrets of the Hirana call to Priya. But in order to keep the truth of her past safely hidden, she works as a servant in the loathed regent’s household, biting her tongue and cleaning Malini’s chambers.

But when Malini witnesses Priya’s true nature, their destinies become irrevocably tangled. One is a ruthless princess seeking to steal a throne. The other a powerful priestess desperate to save her family. Together, they will set an empire ablaze.

Tim’s Review:

I had to process this book a bit before writing about it. It took me longer than I expected to get through this book. I really enjoyed the discription of the queer moments between Malini and Priya. That writing brought me back to the first time I kissed a boy who was interested in kissing me back and the feeling of just falling completely for someone, but with that extra emotion or vibe of will I get caught, and what then? And I am very curious about the Empire(s?) that were developed in this book. I loved that the world was not western medieval classic fantasy. They places, the people, the cultures, the magic, I loved the vibe and felt they all gave off. A really cool new perspective on how to bring different cultures to my tables.

I think this is where my frustration and difficulty with the book lay. There was a lot of set up. There had to be. There was an Empire consisting of Vassal states—not all there willingly, at least 2(?) competing religions and a whole lot of political intrigue; and that was all in the first few chapters—not to mention the sexism and classism. I understand that it all had its place in the book, and it did come to fruition. It was just a lot to get through. I kept having to re-read passages because I would get lost in the names or religions or who believed what.

The technical challenge I have, the book made me feel frustrated. I think it was meant to though. There was more than one time where I was really angry with some of the characters in the book. I hated the classes, the sexism made me irritable, and I think that was the whole point. I think I was meant to feel the internal struggle of the characters. I can’t decide if I was meant to take pity on the ‘princess in the tower’ or not. I think I was meant to. I honestly can’t decide if I did.

I learned after reading (and writing my own opinions) that I am in the minority for not being a fan of this novel, and that is totally cool! There was a lot of talk of feminism in the writing and I wonder if I am missing things being a cis-male—I am aware of my privilieges yet I am still learning to see new things. It is possible that I missed some of what the author conveys.

Running this world in D&D would feel clunky, and the magic is wrong. I think I would use Fantasy AGE by Green Ronin. Even better I think the background magic and grandness of the setting would need The One Ring from Cubicle 7 or possibly The One Ring system that Free League is putting out later this year (I just don’t know what that will be like yet). Regardless of the system I will be using Bhumika in an adventure as an NPC. She was my favourite. Her development felt the most empowering and she was more rounded and less archetypal than the other two felt. She would actually make a fantastic villain because of her long laid plans and her badassness.

I think I have things I can learn from this book. I will be getting the second one as I am curious to see what will happen next and I think i will give this a re-read then too. I am unsure if I was so meh about the novel because Oct/Nov were so damned hard for me. In the end I hold on to my d4 rating, it was not my fav book and I am sure others will love it. For myself I will pull what I can to use in my games—including being aware of any sexism or classism I might bring or try to present in a game.

Questions:

  1. What did you like best about this book?
  2. What did you like least about this book?
  3. What feelings did this book evoke for you?
  4. What do you think the author’s purpose was in writing this book? What ideas were being put forward? Did you get the encoded messages while reading the book or learn it after?
  5. If you could hear this same story from another person’s point of view, who would you choose?
  6. If you were running this story as an adventure, where would it be difficult to allow the players to progress the plot without being pulled along?
  7. What role playing game system would you use? Is there one that best suits the style of the book?
  8. If the characters were Player Characters what would their race, background, and class be?
  9. Which of the characters do you think you could make into Non-Player Characters, and how would you use these NPCs in the game?
  10. Which places in the book would you most like to visit?
  11. What scenes or chapters could you turn into encounters in your adventures?
  12. Did you think the book was too long or short? Were you able to see some pacing opportunities for your own stories?
  13. If you were making a movie of this book, who would you cast?
  14. Did this book make you think of a style of music at all? Create a book group playlist together!

Do you have any others that could be added?

This list is based from Teresa Preston at bookriot.com then modified to the gaming geek vibe that I was hoping to have for this club.

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