Today is the release day of Roshani Chokshi’s second novel, A Crown of Wishes! In celebration of this much-anticipated read of mine, I’m sharing a review of her first novel, The Star-Touched Queen. This book, while not for everyone, is a striking, magical debut and has put Chokshi’s future books on my watch list!
Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?
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.
The Star-Touched Queen is a vivid, whimsical story with a distinct fairy tale flavor. While not exactly a retelling, it draws liberally from such well-loved myths as Hades and Persephone, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and a host of Indian stories with which I was previously unfamiliar.
The most distinctive thing about the book is Chokshi’s writing. Her style here is flowery, descriptive, and indulgent–definitely the most lexically advanced YA books I’ve read in a long time. For me, it was like a flour-less chocolate cake: a few tiny bites are delectable, but eating too much will make your stomach flip. Fortunately, as the book went on, Chokshi found her rhythm and got the purple prose more in check. Unfortunately, the first two or three chapters were a struggle to get through, and some of the passages were, in Maya’s own words, “as inscrutable as if a lathe had carved [them] from night”.
Maya is a great character: scholarly and spunky, with a big heart. She’s also openly ambitious, which is a less common trait for YA characters, but I appreciated. Her wit and canny observations helped to carry the book. Amar, her romantic interest, was in many ways a typical brooding YA love interest, but his sweet-talking, serious self won me over nevertheless. While I, personally, really liked most of the interactions between Maya and Amar, the insta-love is a bit strong with this one.
The highlight of the book for me was seeing the wide array of beasts and beings that populated the Otherworld, and all the odd happenings that Chokshi could conjure up in a world not bound by the constraints of reality. This book is a stunning display of creativity. The scenes and the magic are wildly fantastic, stretching the boundaries of imagination. All this whimsy can be a bit overwhelming, though; since most of the action in the book is magical, rather than physical, it was sometimes hard for me to get a beat on what was actually happening. Then again, magic only has to make so much sense.
Overall, The Star-Touched Queen is a hit-or-miss novel. If intricate, gorgeous, poetic writing makes you swoon and you love a fairy tale romance, this is an absolute must-read. If insta-love or prose like a blooming lavender is on your list of top pet peeves, you should probably pass this one by. If your preferences lie somewhere in the middle, it’s worth giving this a chance. You may just find yourself dazzled!
All in All…
- 4/5 sea stars
- Published April 26th, 2016, by St. Martin’s Griffin
- 342 pages
- For fans of Laini Taylor, retellings, mythology, East of the Sun and West of the Moon