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Upon a Burning Throne

(The Burnt Empire Saga #1)

3.43  ·  Rating details ·  496 ratings  ·  148 reviews
From international sensation Ashok K. Banker, pioneer of the fantasy genre in India, comes the first book in a ground-breaking, epic fantasy series inspired by the ancient Indian classic, The Mahabharata

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, Ad
Hardcover, 669 pages
Published April 16th 2019 by John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Ashok Banker It's definitely adult epic fantasy!…moreIt's definitely adult epic fantasy!(less)
George According to J_Jens's review at, yes, at least two. Though I can't tell from that how detailed the scenes are…moreAccording to J_Jens's review at, yes, at least two. Though I can't tell from that how detailed the scenes are.

Moreover, Leah Rachel von Essen's review at mentions "one of the most disturbing scenes I’ve read in fantasy"--a different scene.(less)

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Leah Rachel von Essen

The Mahabharata is an epic of epics. It is incredibly long. While the Ramayana is a story of the golden age, the Mahabharata is meant to be about the transition to the modern age of confusion. In this epic, warriors and kings are no longer sure of their moral duties. As a made-up example, you face your brother, who wronged your wife, in war. You are obligated to your wife to kill him; but you are obligated not to kill your brother; but you are obligated by the rules of battle to kill the enemy.

May 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
CW: ableism, incest, rape (mentioned), animal death, graphic violence & gore

I devoured this 650+ page book in 4 days, which I think says a lot in and of itself. It's been so long since I've felt like I couldn't put a book down, and this book was it. I think this book just has so many elements that I love - morally grey characters, complicated family dynamics, political intrigue, rich worldbuilding, and a healthy dose of action and violence to top it all off.

Just a quick disclaimer though that I
Natalie Monroe
Mar 18, 2017 marked it as to-read
Pitched as "Indian Game of Thrones."

Cassie James
I received an ARC of this book and it doesn't in any way influence my opinion on it.

I will start this review by thanking Ashok Banker for fighting to get this book out in the world. This book is not just a book you read, It's a book that you digest, ruminate over and enjoy thoroughly.
Those new to his writing like I am will be so intrigued by the intricate attention to detail and perfect melding of so many plots and characters. Also big thank you to John Joseph Adams for realizing how specia
May 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
woooow !! review to come after I gather the pieces of my soul this shattered
Definitely dove into Upon a Burning Throne because I got the audio ARC from Netgalley for book 2. It just so happens to work out because this one was available on Kindle Unlimited. Double whammy guys!

That being said, I was pretty intrigued to dive into this one. I'll admit that I was getting tons of Game of Throne vibes - which is good because so many other people mentioned that save vibe in their reviews. Phew! Glad we are all vibing together.

As for the characters, it felt like a lot to keep t
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dnf-pile
This was a tough one.

I read a slew of 1 star reviews I agreed with. I read tons of 4-5 star reviews I agreed with. This novel is *very* YMMV. (Your Milage May Vary - highly depending on reader proclivities.)

In the end, I could not finish this after 236 pages. And yes, I know how foolish it is to rate a book you haven't actually finished. I never claimed to be a sage of common sense.

I do, however, have a goodreads account that I can do whatever the hell I want with.

The good: Delicious world bu
Apr 11, 2019 rated it did not like it
DNF @20%.

Upon the Burning Throne opens up with the most dull, long-winded, derivative prologue I've read in recent memory, and that kind of set the tone for the next couple of hundred pages. One dimensional characters, prose that's riddled with info-dumps and lists (good lord, so many lists *clutches head*), and is, apparently, a terrible retelling (of The Mahabharata) to boot.

At least the cover is pretty.

Review copy provided by the publisher via Edelweiss. All opinions are my own.
May 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed, dnf
2.25/5 stars.

DNF at 267, though I may pick it up again at some point. This book had a lot of potential but it was just so plotty and all of the characters lacked any substance. I thought the prologue was really cool and I was excited to see Adri and Shvate compete with Jarsun’s daughter, but she literally never was mentioned again (even in Jarsun’s chapters).

I also really hated the way literally all of the female characters were treated. All of them were objectified in some way or another and t
Jul 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
This truly was an epic fantasy read, wreathed in culture, myth, and intrigue. More thoughts to come, especially on why I did not give this book 5 stars. But I am always up for epic/high fantasy sagas that are not eurocentric. Banker really set the stage on which his story would play out: creating the vast world, 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.

"...He is
Steph (stephaniebookish)
May 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I’ll be writing a review once I pick myself up off the floor but this was a wild ride from start to finish
May 13, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even though I'm giving it 3 stars, I did enjoy it. I just didn't LOVE it. It was also hard for me to get through and I didn't have that push or need to keep reading it. I kept taking breaks and going on to other books. With multiple POVs and the epic scale, I probably would have enjoyed this a lot better as an audiobook with multiple narrators. My library didn't have the audiobook and audible has one but I didn't have a credit.

I love that it's pitched as "Indian Game of Thrones." and I totally
Uma    | Books.Bags.Burgers
Actual Rating - 3.5

First of all, a big thanks to Simon and Schuster India for providing me with a hardcopy of this book as a part of the blog tour.

Pitched as an epic retelling of Mahabharata and as the Indian Game of Thrones, I was intrigued by this book and the prologue which is kind of long but captivating. I finished reading this book last night and have a LOT of thoughts.

↠ The world building is phenomenal. It's so detailed and the author's descriptions are extremely vivid. Right from the
Kaffeeklatsch and Books
Well this was another big tome that I had high hopes for this year.

Unfortunately it was just okay.

It felt like it dragged on a bit and with the hundreds of different kingdoms it was quite confusing at first. I didn't really connect with the princes and had high hopes for the girl contender of the throne to make her appearance, which she didn't.
I'd assume that this is going to happen in the next installment, but at this point I am not sure if I am going to continue with this series.
The battles
Jan 19, 2021 rated it liked it
2.5/5 stars

CW// ableism, rape (mentioned)

I was super hyped to get to read Upon a Burning Thorne, it sounded like everything I could want in an epic fantasy. Gods and demi gods, a fight for the throne political intrigue, but unfortunately I just don’t think it was for me.

The story starts off with an incredibly long prologue. The drama that goes down on the first page had me hyped, but then it drags out. The author proceeds to info dump, giving us a unnecessarily long history lesson.

I didn’t find
Mar 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I tried to read Upon a Burning Throne by Ashok K. Banker last year, but I couldn’t get through the prologue at first. I don’t know if I was just in the mood to read a fantasy epic this time around, but I loved every moment of this book. I’d consider this a diamond in the rough. People are calling it an Indian “Game of Thrones” but it’s so much more than that. This book is heavily inspired by Indian mythology, fantasy, and fable. There are times when it reads like a dream and things aren’t always ...more
Jun 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
This was a surprisingly fast read for an almost 700-page tome. Horrifying fantastical details and an impressive setup for further epic installments, marred by sexism and problematic portrayals of female characters. I would have to re-read to be sure, but I doubt this book would pass the Bechdel test.
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
Meh. Definitely not worth the page count. DNF, but got to page 500 before I realized I was only persevering for the sake of finishing. The parts from the children’s perspectives were the most interesting, but the patriarchy inherent in the succession of the kingdom was problematic. Mothers who can’t connect with children that are the product of sex that they didn’t want to have, and lots of magical god men... I didn’t like the queen saying that another woman was a whore, or the sex one prince ha ...more
Nov 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sci-fi-fantasy
I really wanted to like this book. It had an interesting setting not done very often with a mythos that few have used but it just wasnt a good book. I plowed through but I will only remember this book as a book that had promise but failed to deliver.
Elle (ellexamines)
Sep 25, 2017 marked it as zzzzz-coverporn-etc
Shelves: x-coverporn
Indian sibling game of thrones I love?
May 22, 2021 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 12, 2021 marked it as tbr-2021
Need to read this ASAP!!!
Jan 27, 2021 rated it it was ok
CW: for ableism, sexism, SA and more. YMMV also spoilers.

Despite being based on the Mahabharata epic, Upon a Burning Throne manages to distinguish itself enough from the original in ways that benefit the overall narrative. Where it fails is the adherence to the original characters and plot which once recognized completely takes you out of the immersion of the fantasy world the author has worked so hard to build.

Speaking of worldbuilding, despite some praising the characters, I coudn’t help but
Nivedita Dhar
Jun 20, 2019 rated it liked it
“Was this even his mother? He had no way of knowing for certain. Then again, did it really matter? To his mind, his heart, she was his mother. That was all that mattered”
Well, this is first retelling of "Mahabharata," though I haven’t got any idea if there has any other retellings of Mahabharata. So, the Author has played a little with the name of the characters of Mahabharata, e.g. Karni (Kunti) , Kern (Karn), Vrath (Bhishma Pitah), Shvet (Pandu), Adri (Dhritarashtra) Sha’ant (Shantanu).
Pavitra (For The Love of Fictional Worlds)

Also Posted on For The Love of Fictional Worlds

Disclaimer: A Physical Copy was provided via Simon and Schuster India as part of the Blog Tour. The Thoughts, opinions & feelings expressed in the review are therefore, my own.

Upon A Burning Throne is the start to what looks to be a fantastic and intriguing fantasy and is only compounded by the fact that it is not only simply and quite well written; it is also engrossing and has an enchanting world any reader would love to dive into.

Upon a
Dec 09, 2018 rated it liked it
I got lost in the plot and characters of this book. While the idea of an epic fantasy with an Indian backdrop appealed to me, the reality of it was a bit to confusing and detailed for me. Those who are looking for an intense, detail oriented, game of thrones like book would enjoy this work. I just wasn't the right audience for this book.

** I received a copy of this from netgalley in exchange for an honest review. **
Upon a Burning Throne starts out with potential.  It tells the story of the succession of a kingdom - two children born to the royal family.  One child is born blind, the other a child with albinism.  The nobility is at first aghast, for these are not "normal" children.  Nonetheless, the burning throne claims both children as heirs.  A third child, the daughter of an outcast brother of the regent, is presented.  The burning throne accepts her too, but the royal family doesn't, and her father swe ...more
May 24, 2019 rated it did not like it
It is very rare for me to not finish a book once I start it; but I’m sad to say Upon a Burning Throne made this list before I finished the prologue. I really wanted to give this book a chance because the stunning cover and premise is usually exactly what I love; a story set in a world based on a culture that I don’t often see in fantasy-esque literature.

Why you ask? Well to start with, the exposition in this novel was incredibly disconcerting. I am a big fan of high fantasy and world building b
Gabrielle Schuffert
May 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019
I received this book for free from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

When it comes to world building, Ashok K. Banker has done a great job in his new novel Once Upon A Burning Throne but overall the book was a miss for me. There was a huge cast of characters to wade through and even the list at the beginning of the book grew frustrating as I continuously flipped back and forth on my tablet. The chapters were short and switched narrator each time so it never
Nov 19, 2019 rated it liked it
This was a very strange book. It was essentially a copy of the Mahabharatha with different names, some fantasy elements and a few plot twists. I kept reading the book because I became fascinated to see if anything new would happen.. I give three stars because the writing was good and am taking two stars out for not creating anything really original.
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Ashok K. Banker also writes under Ashok Banker.

Over 70 published books from HMH, PRH, S&S, Lantana, Scholastic, more. I AM BROWN (2020) is a Book Trust Great Book 2020. A KISS AFTER DYING (Penguin/Michael Joseph 2022). Type "AKB eBooks" on any Amazon website to find my work.

Other books in the series

The Burnt Empire Saga (2 books)
  • A Dark Queen Rises (Burnt Empire Saga, #2)

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