I’ve been meaning to try Tasha Suri’s books for a while, but this seemed like it might be a bit of a daunting introduction. It just looked… chunky, and my attention span is not that great. But I set it up as a book club choice, which means I was bound to at least give it a go — and in the end, though I started late, I ripped right through it. It’s deceptively more-ish, and I found myself reading it in great big chunks. I quickly grew to love Malini and Priya, and the way they’ve each been profoundly messed up (at close quarters and long-distance) by Malini’s brother Chandra.
There are a number of complexities in the book which it dances with well: mixed loyalties and the fear/risk/reward of collaboration with colonial interests, and deciding what will do the least harm and how, how, how to proceed when all the choices look bad. This is best personified by Bhumika, an Ahiranyan woman married to the Parijati regent of her home, pregnant with his child — and fiercely loyal to her Ahiranyan heritage, making bad choices because they’re the only ones she can make. Some of Priya’s confusion about whether to work with Ashok or not, because she loves him as well as fears him and what he will do, comes across extremely well.
Mostly, it all rests on the relationship between Malini and Priya — a bad idea, and one that Priya at least resists on several levels, and yet one which seems almost inevitable from the first time they meet.
There were things I thought were a bit less subtle, like Rao’s name/prophecy and some of Ashok’s behaviour, but overall it came together really well, and I’ll definitely pick up the next books (and Suri’s others).