Upon A Burning Throne by Ashok K. Banker || 5 Stars To A Complex List Of Characters & This Mahabharata Inspired Epic Fantasy

Upon A Burning Throne is a perfect saga of a stone throne that burns if an undeserving even touch it and a wonderfully complex list of characters who are either burning themselves in the name of doing the right thing or are adamant of burning others, again in the name of doing the right thing.

Stonefire, as it came to be known, did not simply burn you. 
It devoured you.

This epic fantasy has been pitched as Indian Game of Thrones and doesn’t shy away from stating it’s inspired by the ancient Mahabharata but if there’s something I want to clear out firsthand is: this is so right! It’s definitely inspired by the mythological writings but it’s not merely an impersonation. While there are evident as well as subtle similarities between Mahabharata and Upon A Burning Throne, the latter is authentic in its own sense. 

It accounts for the Krushan dynasty—the descendants of Kr’ush, the man formed of the burning stone itself—that has sat on the Stonefire and ruled The Burnt Empire for ages because they all have one thing in common: “they did not burn.” Though, not every child born in this royal family can be worthy enough to rule and so, the Stonefire burns the children who are not estimable in a ceremony that gathers all of Hastinaga and renowned men from around the world. It’s interesting to see what happens when the new additions to the lineage—a blind child and an albinic one—are subjected to the judging, to find out who is more capable to rule based on the fire that will or will not engulf them. 

They came to watch the children burn.

Though, the story also incorporates the storylines of other regions and characters which gives a sense of achievable diversity to the book. From the desert regions called Reygistan to the high mountain ranges of The Mountain Kingdom, the landscape and setting are worth imagining and easy to grasp. Speaking of the setting, everything is vivid enough to make it dimensional enough but also not overly complex to draw a reader out. A perfect balance that will impress the reader for sure!

“Among the Reygistani, a child is known by their mother’s name. We are a matriarchal society. A woman may take as many husbands as she wishes, or bed a hundred men, it matters not. Her children are her children.”

The characters are vastly different from each other but also intricately woven together to the mainstream dilemma of good or evil. Though, such a huge list of characters makes the story more and more interesting with every turning page and justifies the epicness of Upon A Burning Throne

⚔ Shvate the albinic Krushan prince, next in line to rule The Burnt Empire. Loves his brother and prefers to protect the kingdom by fighting on the field against the traitors and non-supporters. 

⚒ Adri the blind Krushan prince, next in line to sit on the Burning Throne. Loves his brother and prefers to stay within the safe confinement of his palace. Has strong senses and a smart, strategic mind. 

 Vrath the upholder of Krushan law, a demigod—son of Jeel (River Goddess) and Emperor Sha’ant (previous ruler of The Burnt Empire). Protects his family at all costs. Impossible to defeat on a battlefield.

👑 Jilana the current Emperess of The Burnt Empire, widow of Emperor Sha’ant and grandmother to Adri & Shvate. Wants Hastinaga to always stay the capital kingdom and not be threatened by any outside forces. 

💣 Jarsun a monster with Krushan blood, brother to Emperor Sha’ant, was banished from Hastinaga due to traitorous actions. Now, ruler of Reygistan. Demands his daughter, Krushita, to sit on the Stonefire as the rightful heir. 

🗝 Karni & Mayla wives of Shvate, strong women. 

🗡 Kern born with golden armour, son of the Sun God, born with the best of a fighter’s abilities. 

“Go home, embrace your son, and perform a sacrifice thanking the gods that he still lives. The reason he does is because the boy was only defending himself. If he had been attacking, then your son, and all the others, would now be dead.”

Moving on, the story itself and the writing is commendable. The book is divided into four parts that range over different timelines and characters but finally brings the narrative to enough peak that you can’t wait for the sequel! It’s a multiple POV that is narrated through a third-person perspective and essentially plays the scenes and sequences in the most wonderful manner. In fact, there’s even a short chapter or two from the eyes of a crow and a vulture so that can help a reader understand why I’m appreciating the writing so much. 

Overall, Upon A Burning Throne is a definite recommendation for all those who want to add a diverse read to their pile of books and would love to dive into the world of an epic fantasy that is laid on the base of an even more epic mythological scripture. 

Disclaimer: I received a physical copy of this via my participation in a blog tour but that, in no way, affects my rating and/or opinions about it. Thank you, Simon & Schuster India! This post may contain affiliate links.

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With The Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo || 5 Stars To A Delicious Recipe Of Diversity, Dreams, Coming-of-Age & Cooking!

With The Fire On High is the most delicious recipe of a coming-of-age, teenage parent who loves her daughter, Babygirl, to the ends of the world. There’s a core of racial and sexual diversity along with the hard recounting of a judgemental world while the base is all the dreams Emoni wants to see rise up. It’s a story worth devouring for all the characters who support and love this strong woman in every different way. Oh, and it’s topped with so much food, so many recipes, and so many musical recounting of the flavors of a dish!

It shouldn’t be a surprise that I loved this after being awestruck and highly impressed by The Poet X a few months back. Acevedo had easily made it to my list of favourite poets and seeing her prose fiction lined up for a release, I knew I was going to be impressed again. And sure I was!

And maybe I’m stereotyping her, too. Pretending to know what kind of a woman she is because of the kind of women who have hated on me…and all the black and brown girls we know from home; who have shaken their heads and tsked their teeth, and reminded us we weren’t welcome in their part of the city…in their world.

The best aspect of this story was the diversity. And not just the diversity that labels you according to colour but a diversity that you embrace with all your heart; the culture that you want to show off through the things you do best–like Emoni recreating her family dishes with a little something extra. But the main character isn’t the only one blessed with the strength to wear their identity and their own ambitions with pride. It was refreshing to see a set of supporting characters who did support Emoni but who also carried their own stories forward. 

And ain’t that what it means to be a sister [best friend]? Holding things tight when the other one is falling apart?

Angelica, Emoni’s best friend, is a lesbian and a talented designer who is given the much-needed spotlight as the most supportive best friend one can ever ask for. Honestly, seeing these two made me shout goals more than anything! ‘Buela, Emoni’s grandmother, is an understanding woman of age and knowledge. She knows what’s best for her grand-daughter and the little Babygirl, and does all she can do for these two girls she loves. But she also doesn’t shy away from walking on a path that doesn’t just confine her to a set of roles. 

“I want to be remembered for something great. I want to leave a skyscraper sized mark on the world that reminds people, [character] was fucking here.”

I nod along with [character]. I know just what she means.

I’ve always said that dreams and ambitions in stories are something I preach. I’m a strong believer of reaching for the moon so you can at least land among the stars, and seeing Emoni be such an enthusiast about her talent and her love for cooking is an honest inspiration. It’ll make you want to cheer for her with all your heart or you might end up being super motivated yourself. She has been portrayed as one of the most hustling teenagers I’ve ever read in fiction and that excites me like nothing else. She knows her priorities but she’s also not ready to give up on what she finds the most comfort in: cooking! 

I want her to know her entire life her mommy may not have been much but that her mom did everything so she could be an accumulation of the best dreams.

The representation of a teenage parent and most importantly, a mother, is heartwarming and the dripping with honesty. Right from the little sacrifices Emoni has to make to the fact that she doesn’t even consider them sacrifices because she knows she loves her daughter too much to not prioritise her over a few other things, every detail of her parenting journey is raw and displays affection in the best way possible. 

And something special does happen when I’m cooking…an innate need to tell a story through food.

Cooking is the essence of this story! It’s established as the most important aspect of Emoni’s life and no one’s complaining because honestly, who doesn’t like to read about food, about the way it’s being savored, about all the flavors, and sometimes full-fledged recipes. Evidently, Emoni has a talent for twisting dishes to make them taste different and even more delicious. Truth be told, reading this will compel you to become a chef and rush to that kitchen of yours…or to simply dine out or order something because everything sounds mouthwatering.

Some girl–or boy–(Angelica’s always reminding me not to be “so damn hetero”) is going to find themselves caught up with Malachi. I can already tell.

Well, that was a fair warning but trust me, you can’t stop yourself from falling for this love interest because he’s so much more than that! Malachi is a true friend first and his broad-minded male mind is a pleasant surprise because he doesn’t pay heed to what others say about a girl or what defines a girl according to norms. He’s immediately interested in Emoni front he first sight but no, it isn’t cheesy or cringey by any chance. It’s the most endearing and adorable love story that involves jokes, smiles, dimples, and all the cuteness you can imagine. 

And I know I should love the freedom, but I don’t think I’m ready for all the safety nets to be cut loose.

A coming-of-age story that defines a young adult character’s push toward the new adult direction due to circumstances is what calls to me. I always feel empathetic to characters who find themselves doing things no one of their age is doing because they need to take up responsibilities. It’s a very personal checkbox for me but I strongly believe it heightens the empathy and realism of a story always.

We all make choices about people. Who we want to hold close, who we want to remain in our lives, and who we are just fine without.

And there’s so much more I can say to help you understand how much I loved this book but it’ll only make you pick up the book a second later and fairly, I don’t want you to spare even a second. Just pick this up and fall in love with one, if not all, the amazing aspects of this story.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this via my participation in a blog tour but that doesn’t, in any way, affect my rating and/or opinion. Thank you, Elizabeth Acevedo, HarperCollins International and the lovely organiser–Karina @AfirePages! This post may contain affiliate links.

Follow along the blog tour schedule and check out all the amazing reviews!

Also, there are TWO International giveaways for a signed copy of With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo and an exclusive t-shirt inspired by the book (check out the designer here!) The giveaways are open until May 22nd so go on, enter asap!