This book was way too beautifully written. I sighed every time a description came my way because heaven help me, even the DEAD DEMONY THINGS were described beautifully. I really enjoyed this book.
THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN
by Roshani Chokshi
St. Martin’s Griffin, April 2016
YA fantasy, romance, mythology
Rated: 4.5 / 5 cookies
Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…
But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.
So I don’t know Indian mythology very well, but when I sat in on a Chokshi signing, I knew I needed this book in my life. Chokshi injected cultural inspiration and mixed Indian deity myths with the more well-known Hades and Persephone story (because yes to Underworld love XD), I mean, what’s not to love about that, right? I also just came off of a reading of The Winter of the Witch, and this book was definitely along the lines of poetic prose with plot.
Except his voice…
It drilled through the gloaming of my thoughts, pulled at me in the same way the mysterious intruder’s voice had tugged. But where the woman’s voice brought fury, this was different. The hollow inside me shifted, humming a reply in melted song. I could have been verse made flesh or compressed moonlight. Anything other than who I was now.
I mean, if that was any indication of how things are going to be described scenically and romantically, I’m totally down for it!
In any case, what struck me as divine was the description of absolutely everything, including the worldbuilding. The book itself is split into three parts, the same amount as the worlds that Maya ends up visiting. Maya’s life as a daughter of a powerful raja isn’t exactly ideal: she’s mostly ignored by her father because she’s a girl and she’s hated by the harem mothers because of the horoscope attached to her birth, one that connects her specifically with Death. I mean, it’s written in the stars, so it’s bound to happen, right? Frankly the only comfort she has in Bharata is her younger half-sister, Gauri, who she tells fairy tale stories to in order to make life tolerable.
“Tell me about the other realms,” said Gauri wistfully. “I’m going to live there when I grow up.”…
“There’s our world, which has you, and is therefore the best one.” Gauri grinned. “Then there’s the Otherworld, with its Night Bazaar and strange but beautiful beings. And then,” I dropped my voice to a whisper, “there’s the Netherworld, which holds Naraka, the realm of the dead.”
Gauri shivered. “What’s there?”
“Demons,” I said.
And boy oh boy, how very spot-on these stories could be, even without Maya realizing it.
A lot of the story touches upon various ideas that Chokshi integrates well. There’s the idea of inescapable death, of a tapestry that shows the interweaving of fate. I really loved the description of the tapestry, but I won’t get into that because it was pages of exposition and information, and you really would have to read it to get the breadth of the piece.
There’s the idea of power and how it gets wielded, especially since much of it is through sheer will and change and sacrifice. Maya, upon entry into the Night Bazaar and Akaran, has no idea what she’s initially doing and balks at the power found at her fingertips. She eventually comes to her own and realizes how she can wield her power, but it took work and I loved that sheer force of will she manages to harness later on.
No amount of captivity could strip the wild from the tiger. Amar was no different. He was feral. He was mine.
This was quite literally the moment I fist-pumped in the air and went: “GEDDIT MAYA”. I do love her as a character.
Then there’s the idea of reincarnation, which totally kaboshed the notion of “insta-love” once the story got under way. There’s a lot that Amar isn’t telling Maya, and eventually we find out that this is actually not the first time the two have met or even got together. But, lo and behold, Amar pretty much goes all “my soul sees its equal in you” (credit to Renee Ahdieh for that one…) and pretty much makes a blood oath the minute he gets Maya into the Night Bazaar.
“I make this bond to you in blood, not flowers,” he said. “Come with me and you shall be an empress with the moon for your throne and constellations to wear in your hair. Come with me and I promise you that we will always be equals.”
Honestly, if a tall dark handsome death god delivers the moon and stars and promises a ruling of equals in his kingdom, I’d totally take the deal, too, insta-love or not.
The romance isn’t hyper-sexually charged, which is actually a welcome sight, but it doesn’t make it less beautiful. The flirting is cute and swoonworthy, and reminded me a wee bit like Khalid from Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn (because of course it would).
“The truth,” said Amar, taking a step closer to me, “is that you look neither lovely nor demure. You look like edges and thunderstorms. And I would not have you any other way.”
Whisper those sweet nothings, Amar. You be you.
The only thing I was slightly bummed about was how not everything could be tied up at the very end. It wasn’t a very long book, and I understand Gauri gets her own story in the second book, but the end was so rushed! I totally wanted more resolution with Maya and Amar. But it’s a very little caveat. I have more feels in the positive direction, promise!
4.5 out of 5 cookies!