A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi
Book Two of The Star-Touched Queen series
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: March 28, 2017
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley
Summary (from Goodreads):
Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes—a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.
Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels.
Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.
What I Liked:
Last year, I read The Star-Touched Queen and while I enjoyed it overall, I didn't love it like most people did. It was a wonderful story, but I wanted the hero to be less one-dimensional, and I wanted the romance to be more direct and present. I am extremely pleased with A Crown of Wishes because it has everything I liked in The Star-Touched Queen - AND the issues I had with The Star-Touched Queen are not present in this book. I liked A Crown of Wishes more than The Star-Touched Queen, and I think it is better than its predecessor.
Vikram has always known that he will inherit the throne of Ujijaiin but he will only ever be a puppet Emperor. The council has never treated him like a full-blood prince - given that he was adopted by the Emperor. When Vikram is invited to play in the Tournament of Wishes, he does not refuse. He must find a partner, and that leads him to Gauri. Gauri, princess of Bharata, has been a prisoner for months. When the prince of an enemy kingdom offers freedom in exchange for her being his partner in a deadly and magical game, she accepts, hoping to kill him and be rid of him quickly. But they discover that they needed each other more than they realized, if they want to make it out of the Tournament alive, and win. The prize is a wish for any victor, and both Vikram and Gauri have desires born of their cruel pasts. But desires are dangerous, just as dangerous as secrets.
One thing that I was extremely excited to discover is that this book is written in dual POV - we get Gauri's first-person POV, and Vikram's third-person POV. I complained about how I thought Amar felt so one-dimensional, in The Star-Touched Queen. Well, that problem was very, very fixed in this book, given the second POV (Vikram's).
I'll start with Vikram, since the story starts with Vikram. I would argue that this book is just as much Vikram's as it is Gauri's - she does not hold the spotlight. Vikram is the Fox Prince, an eighteen-year-old prince who is clever and very intelligent. He is not a warrior, and he doesn't even carry weapons. That surprised me, because what prince in any world (made-up or real) isn't trained to be a warrior? I liked that Vikram is different in that sense - he isn't an alpha, he isn't a warrior. He isn't a passive, scared boy either. I love how clever he is, and how he is so patient and steady.
Gauri, on the other hand, is a warrior princess. She is brash and bold and wild. She wants her throne, and she is determined to get it, doing whatever it takes. Gauri is the "alpha" in this story, the one who demands and takes and bosses. I liked her a lot because I could see parts of myself in her. She isn't cold-hearted like many believe her to be (like she believes herself to be). There is more to Gauri than the Jewel, the princess of Bharata, the warrior.
The two of them together is like fire and ice. They antagonize each other, needle each other, irritate each other, but they stick together, save each other's lives, and look out for each other. Their friendship (at first it's friendship) is a slow-growing thing that doesn't have the best start. But I liked seeing them grow to care for each other, and then I liked seeing that turn into something else.
This book isn't a necessarily a romance, but I loved the romance. I loved how Vikram and Gauri's romance is a slow-burn one that is also more direct and strong than the romance in The Star-Touched Queen. Neither character here plays games with each other, or runs from each other. Rather, they learn each other and find their way. Even with Gauri's emotional and mental armor, and Vikram's selflessness, the pair never shy away from each other. It's a sweet romance.
This story is so much fun to read! Fun, and sometimes heartbreaking, but a lot of fun and sometimes hilarious. Vikram and Gauri travel to the Otherworld in order to try to win a wish for themselves. They must complete several tasks, and also try to stay alive. The tasks require both of their strengths, and for them to overcome their weaknesses and fears. This story is so thorough and engrossing - you'll feel like you've read a lifetime's worth of a story, and not a month's worth.
Also, props to the author for doing such good research and/or including so much of her culture in this book. As an Indian girl, I can't tell you how happy it makes me to read a book that features aspects of Indian culture, written by an Indian author. Chokshi does a lovely job with the Indian influences she incorporates in the story.
Masterful storytelling and writing, as always. I think everyone agreed that the writing of The Star-Touched Queen was phenomenal. The author gets even better, in this book. I love how lush her writing is! Also I have to say, I love how many food references there were. So. Much. Food.
I won't say anything more because I don't want to spoil anything, but I really enjoyed this book. I loved the dual POVs, the character development, the romance, the Tournament. The ending is PERFECT. Trust me, it's a great ending, and it's so satisfying. I'd love to know the logistics of a certain aspects of the ending, but maybe the author will write an epilogue. Or a book three...?
What I Did Not Like:
I honestly can't think of anything to write about here! The author "fixed" the issues I had in book one, so I'm pretty satisfied. Maybe seeing Gauri feel more guilty over a certain aspect of the ending? It was her fault, in any case. Let me keep quiet!
Would I Recommend It:
I recommend this book, whether you liked The Star-Touched Queen or not, whether you read The Star-Touched Queen or not. Remember, I liked it but didn't totally love it like many people did. I can safely say that this book was (even) better. This book is full of great diversity, rich culture, and lovely storytelling and writing. And a gorgeous cover!
4.5 stars. I'm rounding to 4 stars which is technically the same rating I gave The Star-Touched Queen, but know that I liked this book more. Both books had a tough and admirable heroine, but I think the inclusion of Vikram's POV and the stronger romance made this companion sequel a better book than The Star-Touched Queen!
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