cover image Upon a Burning Throne

Upon a Burning Throne

Ashok K. Banker. HMH/Adams, $26 (688p) ISBN 978-1-328-91628-0

Bestselling Indian novelist Banker’s U.S. debut is an ambitious and highly readable, if slightly overlong, opening chapter in a new epic inspired by one of the oldest: the ancient Sanskrit Mahabharata. Half-brothers Shvate and Adri are heirs to the magical Burning Throne of the Krushan Empire. Their right to rule is called into question by disability—Shvate has albinism, and Adri is blind—and the machinations of their malevolent uncle, the demonic outcast Jarsun. In the resulting political unease, secret conspiracies and open rebellion threaten the Burnt Empire and its young princes. Banker (the Ramayana series) impressively depicts the loyalties and rivalries of a huge cast while moving his enormous story at cinematic pace through scales personal, political, and cosmic. The story features some memorably epic battles, including one against an entire living city that’s been grotesquely transformed by magic. There’s more setup for future conflicts than resolution, but readers familiar with Hindu mythology will find the foreshadowing enhances their anticipation of future installments. Fans of doorstopper epic fantasy will devour this tale of gods and princes. (Apr.)