The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
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.
Although I had never envisioned marriage, I had thought of love. Not the furtive love I heard muffled in the corners or rooms of some of the harem wives. What I wanted was a connection, a shared heartbeat that kept rhythm across oceans and worlds. I didn’t want the prince from the folktales or some milk-skinned, honey-eyed youth who said his greetings and proclaimed his love in the same breath. I wanted a love thick with time, as inscrutable as if a lathe had carved it from night and as familiar as the marrow in my bones. I wanted the impossible.
Sorry about that.
Oh. My. God. I’m speechless with glee and my head is spinning from this fantastical, lovely, exquisitely built tale. The story can best be described as Greek mythology in a mythical Indian setting. AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH
Seriously, both of those elements promise to be magical, and trust me when I say you will not be disappointed by the way they are represented in this book. I have always been fascinated by the image of the Indian royal court and the harem. Call me a romantic, if you will, but I love the colors, I love the harems, I love the power play and the backstabbing. I love the richness, and vibrancy of it. It’s something that has always fueled my imagination, and this book delivered on every front.
Seventeen-year old Princess Mayavati lives in the royal courts. Though she is a princess, a charmed life it is most defintely not. The belief upon horoscopes prevail, and upon her birth, Maya was predicted to have a cursed life. As such, she may be a princess, but she lives her life as one ostracized.
It’s not all bad, because nobody pays attention to her, Maya gets the run of the court. She reads. She spies on her father. That independence soon comes to a close when Maya gets the shock of her life; she is to be betrothed to the a foreign prince to avert war between their nations.
Life is over as she knows it. Instead of freedom, Maya will now live a life in a gilded cage to a stranger. But her wedding is a bit…unexpected.
A soldier’s hand grasped for me, but Amar pulled me away. Arrows zoomed past, but each time one came near, he would whirl me out of the way. He moved fluidly, dodging javelins, always a few steps behind me, a living shield.
Oh snap! Not your traditional wedding, that’s for sure.
Against all hope, Maya finds happiness. She finds love. She finds a partner. But what fun is it if the story just ended there? There’s magic and mystery and hidden rooms, and then there’s the mystery of her groom itself. The groom that’s just too good to be true, and perhaps is.
That night, I dreamed of locked doors and baying hounds, rooms that were night-dark and a beast-king that smiled and laughed around a mouthful of broken stars to sing one phrase over and over: I know the monster in your bed.
Maya is such a wonderful character. She may have suffered from her loneliness, but she never becomes a martyr. She has strength that comes from such loneliness. And unlike other characters in other books who frustrates by building an impenetrable wall of bitchiness around their heart, Maya is open to what her heart desires. One criticism may be that she is too easily susceptible to romance, but I compare it to a man dying of thirst, confronted with a bounty of water.
The world building is incredible. From the mythology within her world…
In all the tomes and folklores I had read from the archives, there was no limit to the worlds around us. Somewhere unseen were demonic realms filled with laughing asuras and blackedned suns. There were austere kingdoms on the peaks of mountains where phoenixes serenaded the moon and the halls of the gods glinted with lightning. And there was our own, human world, mortal, with only the comfort of stories to keep away the chill of death.”
And the romance! THE ROMANCE! IT’S HOPELESSLY ROMANTIC.
“What do you want from me?
He stopped, the smile was gone from his lips.
“I want your perspective and honesty,” he said, before adding in a softer voice, “I want to be humbled by you. My kingdom needs a queen. It needs someone with fury in her heart and shadows in her smile. It needs someone restless and clever. It needs you.”
IT’S WILDLY, MADLY ROMANTIC AND GUESS WHAT? I DON’T GIVE A SHIT. It was beautiful and glorious and my heart sings with joy.
All quotes are taken from an advanced reader’s copy and is subject to change in the final edition.