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The Oleander Sword by Tasha Suri – ARC Review!

The prophecy of the nameless god—the words that declared Malini the rightful empress of Parijatdvipa—has proven a blessing and curse. She is determined to claim the throne that fate offered her. But even with the strength of the rage in her heart and the army of loyal men by her side, deposing her brother is going to be a brutal and bloody fight.

The power of the deathless waters flows through Priya’s blood. Thrice born priestess, Elder of Ahiranya, Priya’s dream is to see her country rid of the rot that plagues it: both Parijatdvipa’s poisonous rule, and the blooming sickness that is slowly spreading through all living things. But she doesn’t yet understand the truth of the magic she carries.

Their chosen paths once pulled them apart. But Malini and Priya’s souls remain as entwined as their destinies. And they soon realise that coming together is the only way to save their kingdom from those who would rather see it burn—even if it will cost them.

Malini is determined to claim the throne from her brother, but she faces battle on multiple sides. Her brother, Chandra, who wishes for her to burn, her generals who would rather follow her brother, Aditya, and who undermine her at every turn, and knowing that a brutal fight is awaiting her, she does the only thing she can think of to win. Now Thrice Born, Priya spends life as an Elder of Ahiranya trying to stop the spread of the rot, a thankless task that never seems to end. She longs for freedom for her people, a life of safety under the rule of those who worship the Yaska like the days of old. She thought her life would take Malini from her, but instead it draws the pair together once again. Their destinies are entwined, and they will need each other if they are to see their desires become reality. But everything comes with a price, and Malini and Priya must decide how much they are willing to pay to make their future come to fruition.

Similarly to book one we follow the story from multiple POV’s. The majority we had in the first book: Malini, Priya, Bhumika & Rao, but in The Oleander Sword we get even more POV’s that Suri uses to not only build her world, but to foreshadow, showcase the danger that our characters are in, and give us an idea of what is coming. There are some I can’t mention for fear of spoilers, but suffice to say they all play a pivotal part in Suri’s storytelling and at no point does the jump in pov’s become disjointed, they all come at the perfect time in the story, just when we need a breather, a little bit more information to drag us even deeper into the story. I love the depth her multiple pov’s bring to the story, we get to see relationships develop out of our main characters, as well as the intricacies between the other characters and while Malini and Priya are still our main perspectives I have always loved following the smaller pov’s alongside them, especially when they give us little clues to whats to come.

Malini is a women trying to take control of her Kingdom with the threat of one brother on the throne and the other refusing to take it despite the men wanting him to. She knows her rule is tenuous at best, that she hasn’t yet earned the respect of her generals, the men following her, rather they are following a prophecy. Constantly undermined and written off because she is a women, but she is whip smart and unafraid of the men who seek to control her. She is determined to become the prophesied ruler of Parijatdvipa, and nothing will stand in her way. Priya, now a Thrice Born is an Elder of Ahiranya, something she never truly wished for. She wants the power, just not the responsibility, and is more than happy yo let Bhumika deal with the politics while she deals with the rot. When she travels to the camp with Malini she faces an overwhelming lack of trust, dislike, fear, but she will do anything to secure freedom for her people, and Malini has promised that. Bhumika also has a larger pov in this book and I genuinely loved reading from her perspective, she is the honey to Priya’s sharp edges, she knows how to work the elite of Ahiranya, but when something happens out of her control, she realises that her hold over the people was tenuous at best.

Tasha Suri has clearly never heard of second book syndrome! The Jasmine Throne was a slow starter, Suri took her time building her world, the lore, the characters and I loved it so much, but thanks to the majority of that work being done in book one, The Oleander Sword moves at a much faster pace. There are still slow scenes, still plenty of lore and world building for those who love it, but the thing I loved most about this book was reading the battle scenes. Suri has this way of writing fight scenes that almost drag you into her story, make you feel like you’re experiencing it right alongside her characters. Some of the scenes gave me chills, some had the hairs standing up on my arms. I have been a lover of Suri’s writing for a while now, but this story took it to a whole new level. She brought the perfect balance between the scenes where she spends time on character growth, building her world and the faith of the people who live there, and the battle scenes, be those actual fight scenes of rather a battle of wits, of sharp tongues and even sharper words.

There are a lot of moving pieces to this book, there was Malini is fighting to become Empress, the war she fights in the camp to earn the respect of the men surrounding her. And alongside this things are stirring in Ahiranya, things that I can’t talk about without giving away spoilers, but things that certainly help us realise where the story will be going in the final book. One of the things I love throughout this series is the overwhelming strength of the female characters. In a time and place where they were seen as second class, as something to be valued, but never seen for their true worth. Suri uses Malini to create a space for women to be strong, to show who it truly is who holds the cards. She has her generals for their knowledge, but her true strength comes from the women who surround and protect her.

The romance was just *swoon.* These two badass lesbians have my heart, and I think a large part of that is because though they care for one another, would do almost anything for them, they both have their own destinies, their own people to look after. After the end of The Jasmine Throne, when they were separated with no reunion in sight, I’ll admit to being a little sad, but I enjoyed the scenes at the start of this story where we get to see them being themselves without the other, we get treated to a whole boat of longing, thoughts of the other. And then when they get reunited, the knowing that they both want to be alone, to spend time with one another, but knowing that it just isn’t possible in a war camp full of men who don’t fully want to follow a woman, and certainly wouldn’t stand for being intimate with someone they see as the enemy, as a witch, dangerous. Suri certainly knows how to get you invested in a romance that has very little chance of ending happily, but boy oh boy is the journey worth it.

I need book three like now. I’m not even kidding. The ending of this book broke me, but was the absolute perfect set-up for what will be one epic series ender. If Suri wasn’t already an insta-buy author for me, this series, and this book especially would ensure she was. If you like your fantasies epic, with characters you would follow to the ends of the earth, incredible world building and a forbidden, doomed romance between two badass women, then you need to pick up this book asap.

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