Thank you to Orbit Books for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
TW: Discussions of being burned alive
I really loved the story though it was really dark at times. The world that Tasha has created was incredible. I loved that it’s inspired by Indian/Desi culture and all the things that was so familiar to me. From things like the clothes and food to the architecture and language, it was just so wonderful to see it in the book.
The discussions of how colonisation and the oppression of the indigenous populations and erasure of their culture and history was written into the story so well. It was a complex nuanced discussion which we see through both the oppressed and the colonisers and how it has impacted different people and communities. How the oppressed have lost their language and culture how they have become the most vulnerable and poor, unable to live safely and peacefully. How people will have different definitions of what resistance looks like and what lengths people will go to, to put an end to the occupation.
This book has some incredible female characters from Malini who can be ruthless to achieve her goals and kind hearted Priya who will always look out for those she loves and Bhumika who’s powerful in her own way despite people thinking she is weak because she cares for the poor and vulnerable. I loved seeing how women can be powerful in their own way and there isn’t just one “right” way to be strong and powerful.
I loved seeing the different points of view and how these women made a difference in a society that holds little value for women and how they are in many ways better and more resilient than the men in their lives. I am so excited to see where the story will go next after the ending of this book. I am especially looking forward to seeing Malini taking down her brother!
I think my one issue with the story was that I felt the romance between Priya and Malini felt a little forced, I just didn’t find they had chemistry or depth in their relationship past the attraction they had to each other and that they were both fighting for an end to the oppression of their people.
I am still really excited to read the next book especially because I completely fell in love with the world building and the story had me hooked from the beginning and I cannot wait to see where the story will go next.