Upon A Burning Throne: A Sweeping India-Inspired Epic Fantasy.
"...He is a piece in a great game, brought here for a purpose..." - Adran
A sweeping epic following two brothers and their progeny of an immensely powerful empire, each with what is considered a weakness that could potentially endanger their ascension to the throne. Ashok K.Banker gives us grand, lush, dramatic prose that fully enmeshes the reader in the colourful, ancient, sprawling world of the Burnt Empire.
There is history, political intrigue and machinations, familial dynamics, sibling bonds, gods, demigods, demons, sages, mages, gender roles, teachings; all coalescing to mold and influence the outcome of the destiny of our characters and their world. Banker writes devious, hateful, power-hungry, compelling, smart, and powerful villains, while also giving us heroes that are strong and must rely on ingenuity, brotherhood and familial support to overcome the battle for their homeland.
The zone and style of the conflicts as well are varied, some unfolding in very familiar settings and formations, while others are completely original, intriguing and deeply unsettling, as such, reading this book was very sensorial in the feel, as Banker made sure that his readers were steeped in the sounds, smells, and sights of the atmosphere he created.
I did feel the latter two thirds of the book dragged a bit, as if the occurrences were just fillers that could have been handled in a more condensed way. It also was wearing to have every single aspect of a decision, position, and action ruminated and expanded upon. However, Banker was meticulous in setting the stage on which his story would unfold: creating the landscapes, introducing, placing, and removing the players, and fleshing out their characteristics; crafting his vast and varied world, and infusing all with the culture of an ancient India.
Banker also tried to balance the portrayal of female energy and characteristics, though I could have done without the selfish, short-tempered, entitled daughter-in-law; it would have been unrealistic to actually expect there to only be well-rounded, conscientious female characters. I also could have done without the stereotypical 'fat' character, who at an important meeting, was more concerned with consuming food than information. He also did not last very long on page. I really wish that authors would move towards normalizing all body types and shapes, without falling into the skewed and unhealthy societal view.
"An empire constantly fighting its people is an empire in decline."