Author: Roshani Choksi
Published: expected April 26 2016
Source: publishers via NetGalley
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.
A lush and vivid story that is steeped in Indian folklore and mythology. The Star-Touched Queen is a novel that no reader will soon forget.
Reading The Star-Touched Queen is a pleasure (one extended as long as possible), and it's even more of a remarkable one when you consider that it is this author's debut novel. This story just doesn't read like it's by someone new to the genre; Roshani Choksi already seems to know what she is doing and deftly uses her many available authorial talents to create a lush, atmospheric fantasy read. Choksi is the rare author who has that easy-seeming ability to craft whole worlds with a sentence and The Star-Touched Queen is a freshly imagined and gorgeously realized book.
Roshani can plot rather well and creatively (and does so), but it is her prose and her characters that really shine the brightest. There's a lot to love about this book and how the author cleverly plots and progresses the storyline, but I fell in love with the writing even before I was snared by the plot at the heart of The Star-Touched Queen. I'm a sucker for pretty prose and this felt like a more fantasy-ish version of The Night Circus written by Laini Taylor with Indian mythology and folklore. Several of the themes central to this book (sisterly bonds, doomed futures, heroic princesses who save themselves, mysterious love interests) make this a story I would also feel very comfortable recommending to fans of another favorite: Rosamund Hodge's mishmash of fantasy and fairytale Cruel Beauty.
Maya, the main character, is the beating heart of this book, and Roshani Choksi has crafted such a vibrant, realistic young woman to take up the storyline. Her feelings of isolation, her deep love for her sister and for her desert home, her anger, her drive for more in her life-- all these things and more make up an already-defined character who undergoes significant development over the course of the book. I wholeheartedly loved Maya and thought her narration was well-balanced; believable but also fantastically magical. Her character counterparts -- Gauri, Gupta, Dinah, Amar etc. -- aren't as well-realized as Maya herself, but Choksi takes care to make each into dimensional people with lives and motivations all their own.
The issues that I had with The Star-Touched Queen's execution are minimal in scope of the broader virtues, and also barely impact the overall enthusiastic feeling I have for the book and its characters. From the start of those three hundred fifty pages to quite nearly the end, it felt like the perfect (diverse!) fantasy read. However, I thought the ending itself was a tad rushed and used a bit of an easy resolution for all involved. I liked that Maya was proactive in the outcome and also cast in the hero role, but it seemed too simple for the buildup that directly preceded it. The book does a great job of ramping up the tension and the stakes, but the payoff fell just the slightest bit flat. It needed more of a struggle before the finality of the end to really satisfy.
Roshani Choksi has offered up an impressive first novel and writes like a veteran. There are many reasons why readers should give this a try: the writing is lovely and finely-wrought, the plotting is creative and inventive, the inspiration(s) are noticeable but don't overwhelm the plotlines, and these characters are dynamic and engender emotion easily. The Star-Touched Queen is a great first impression and guarantees my continued, very pointed interest in whatever else this author writes next.