The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: April 26, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley
Summary (from Goodreads):
Cursed with a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, sixteen-year-old Maya has only earned the scorn and fear of her father's kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her world is upheaved when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. But when her wedding takes a fatal turn, Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Yet neither roles are what she expected. As Akaran's queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar's wife, she finds friendship and warmth.
But Akaran has its own secrets - thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Beneath Akaran's magic, Maya begins to suspect her life is in danger. When she ignores Amar's plea for patience, her discoveries put more than new love at risk - it threatens the balance of all realms, human and Otherworldly.
Now, Maya must confront a secret that spans reincarnated lives and fight her way through the dangerous underbelly of the Otherworld if she wants to protect the people she loves.
Inspired by Indian mythology.
What I Liked:
The Star-Touched Queen is one of my most anticipated debuts of 2016 - and novels of 2016 in general. It's one of those books that seem brilliant and a must-have, given a gorgeous synopsis, genre, and cover. Everything about this book appealed to me since I heard about it, so you best be sure I was both excited and nervous to start reading it. But I'm really happy that this book did not disappoint!
The stars have cursed Mayavati her whole life. With a dark horoscope hanging over her head, she knows that she is destined to have a marriage of death. Maya is comfortable with not marrying anyone, but a sudden turn of events changes everything, and Maya finds herself married to the Raja of Akaran, Amar. Akaran is part of the Otherworld, and Amar is no mere mortal. Maya will soon understand what it means to be the Rani of Akaran - for better and for worse.
First thing I'd like to gush about - the Indian influence! I'm Indian so I'm very excited about the Indian mythology and culture so heavily infused into this book. FINALLY, we have a female protagonist who isn't some "golden-skinned" beauty - Maya captures a somewhat typical Indian girl of dark skin. And while the concept of an arranged marriage is somewhat present in the book, I love that it is not the cliche that we usually see in India-based books. So often authors will pick and choose certain aspects of Indian culture to write about - or exaggerate - and often it's arranged marriages. There is so much more to Indian history and culture! I think the author did an excellent job with the diversity.
Usually I'm not interested in stories that deal with reincarnation, whether in a major way, or tangentially. However, I love the aspect in this story. At one point in the story, Maya gets to see all of her past reincarnations, and it's a beautiful thing.
I really liked Maya, though not necessarily at first. At first, I was wary of her; she put too much stock into her horoscope, and she let all of the harem wives get under her skin, even after so many years of the snide comments. But I like how Maya embraced her horoscope, and how she took charge of her destiny when she meets Amar. Everything changes when she meets Amar.
Amar is somewhat of a static character in the book. He's kind of one-dimensional and not entirely there. It's obvious that he does not share the story with Maya, in that it is not his story to tell or his character that is developing. This story is solely about Maya and her journey, and Amar plays a role. I wish we got to know a deeper, more personal side to Amar. I liked Amar a lot and would have loved to understand better, and get to know more personal details about him. Amar is sweet and protective, yet secretive and mysterious.
This story had a Hades and Persephone feel to it (hence why I'm tagging it as a retelling). Amar did not kidnap Maya to the Otherworld, but by her going with him, she agrees to rule the Otherworld with him. And what she finds in the Otherworld, and the Night Bazaar, isn't what she expected. Learning about Akaran is difficult, as is staying away from temptation.
I liked the romance! It's a linear one (no love triangle), and the story takes place over many years (Amar and Maya don't age in the Otherworld), so while we may not see *all* of the development of the relationship, we know that they spend a long time getting to know each other. Parts of their story are so heartbreaking, and other parts are so happy and sweet. I lived for the sweet moments!
I love the cadence of the story. I was never bored, and the author always had me turning pages and eagerly awaiting the next scene. I picked up this book in the height of midterms, and yet, I could not put it down (and that's saying something - usually I'm very disciplined when it comes to midterms and studying).
Overall, I was swept away by this beautiful story. It's a standalone, and certainly wraps up like one. I was satisfied with the ending, though I can see why the author is writing/wrote a companion novel to follow (in a different character's perspective). I can't wait to read her story!
What I Did Not Like:
I already talked about this a little above, but I wish Amar was less static and one-dimensional. Maybe it was just me that saw him that way. We don't get a ton of backstory about him, besides some of his interactions with Maya. And he never quite felt *real* to me, just a man filling a certain role. He literally could be anyone, any face, any male.
I also wish there were more Amar/Maya moments! Trust me, they spend years together (they don't age in the Otherworld), so we know that all these swoony and cute moments exist theoretically, but we only get to see... a bare minimum. Like, less than five, I think. Not enough! More swoon and fire would have been great!
Would I Recommend It:
I highly recommend this novel! It's a beautiful and heartbreaking and lovely story with a very satisfying ending. Chokshi hit all of my feels with this book, and took my emotions on a roller-coaster. I certainly wasn't expecting that! I liked this book a lot and would recommend it to anyone who likes YA fantasy and/or mythology!
4 stars. This novel did not disappoint me at all. I look forward to reading the companion novel (that character's story is going to be fantastic, I can feel it!), as well as more books by the author in the future!
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