Upon A Burning Throne: epic fantasy, with Mahabharata roots.

First of all, I want to thank Simon and Schuster India for sending me a copy of this book as part of the blog tour.

Here’s the synopsis of the book:

In a world where demigods and demons walk among mortals, the Emperor of the vast Burnt Empire has died, leaving a turbulent realm without an emperor. Two young princes, Adri and Shvate, are in line to rule, but birthright does not guarantee inheritance: For any successor must sit upon the legendary Burning Throne and pass The Test of Fire. Imbued with dark sorceries, the throne is a crucible—one that incinerates the unworthy.

Adri and Shvate pass The Test and are declared heirs to the empire… but there is another with a claim to power, another who also survives: a girl from an outlying kingdom. When this girl, whose father is the powerful demonlord Jarsun, is denied her claim by the interim leaders, Jarsun declares war, vowing to tear the Burnt Empire apart—leaving the young princes Adri and Shvate to rule a shattered realm embroiled in rebellion and chaos….  

Welcome to the Burnt Empire Saga.

Here’s my review:

Upon A Burning Throne is a book with an interesting spin on the Mahabharat that is filled with interesting characters with motives that are complex enough to be believable and yet play with the themes of power and family that are so crucial in a high fantasy book of this sort. I loved that the book took many characters that are just passing mentions in myths, and fleshed them out into intriguing and complex characters. The book is also extremely vivid with it’s imagery, and that serves it well in all the action scenes. What I enjoyed most immensely though is that after the first half of the book, there was so much happening that it felt like a web of foreshadowing closing in around me and I ended up reading the last 100 pages or so in one go.

The beginning of the book is rather slow and heavy on world building, and there is a lack of emotional connection between the reader and the main characters: Adri and Shvate. It does take time for one to get invested in both of these characters and that is where the book falls short. But there is a sequence of scenes halfway through the book that will get you hooked in deeply. 
In addition to an intense plot, the book is also very character heavy and has many names and faces that drive the story forward. There’s the Empress Jilana and her demigod step-son Vrath who lead the story at first, but as the book progresses the young Princes Adri and Shvate take center stage. Karni, the counterpart of the Kunti in mythology, was a character I absolutely adored because of her strong will and the determination that she has. The book reads like a grandiose story about this all powerful family but also makes sure to show us the other pieces on the board to understand motives and kingdoms in a very well done way.

I also loved how the book was written in a very raw way, the writing is lyrical at times and doesn’t downplay the violence or the unfairness of many scenes, which adds to the book’s charm as a retelling and has the power to truly immerse you in the fantasy land you’re reading about. If you enjoy reading Amar Chitra Katha comics, or high fantasy epics like Game of Thrones, you will not be disappointed. 

In fact, the end of the book (with all the new characters who’ve been introduced) suggests that the next book will be even better and might be the book you will definitely want to read if you enjoy fantasy with a pinch of violence and questions about what is right or wrong in war.

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