Title: The Star-Touched Queen
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: April 26 2016
Hardcover: 342 Pages
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.
Stand alone or series: Book 1 in a new series
How did we get this book: Bought
Format (e- or p-): print
FULL DISCLOSURE: We have published a story by Roshani Chokshi, The Vishakanya’s Choice.
Princess Mayavati of Bharata is one of many princesses who live in her father’s harem but the only one with a unique horoscope that predicts a marriage of death and destruction. Cursed by the stars and all but an outcast amongst her sisters and Mothers, Maya has resigned herself to a life of learning amongst her beloved books, lonely but for her love of her sister.
But war has come to her father’s Kingdom. With it, the prospect of a marriage of convenience for Maya in order to secure peace. As a student of politics herself, Maya understands the need for a political wedding and when that prospect turns into something else altogether darker, she bitterly understands that too, ready to do what is needed of her in order to save the kingdom and her sister.
But just before that fateful moment when everything would be over, a mysterious stranger walks into her room and makes an offer she can’t refuse: to become the queen of the fairway kingdom of Akaran. For Maya, the prospect of taking her life in her own hands is good enough to make her accept Amar’s offer, in spite of any misgivings or doubts she might have. But Akaran is more than a kingdom: it is a place of otherworldly lore, of silent walls, of shadows and light – and Amar tells her all of its secrets will be revealed in due time.
But maybe not soon enough to prevent tragedy to strike once more.
Beautifully told and with gorgeous writing The Star-Touched Queen is one of my favourite books of the year so far. It tells the tale of a young woman on the edge: of here and there; of life and death; of love and loneliness – and all the choices that lie in between. The matter of “choice” is at the centre of this fantastic story: it is something that both eludes and controls Maya’s life and her story arc lies squarely in finding what is beyond her grasp and what is not.
There are mysteries, secrets and twists that are better left untold for they make the story richer and profounder. Suffice it to say that the novel is rooted on Fantasy, Quests, Folklore with a focus on a young woman’s journey to find herself, to take control of her destiny and to fully develop and embrace her own power.
Thus, identity and agency are essential to the story but they are not all there is to it. Maya is surrounded by a plethora of characters, most of them female. Those relationships are too central to the narrative and are either motivators or hindrances. The point being, they are threaded, woven into Maya’s arc just as much as her personal quest is. In fact, there would be no personal quest without those friendships, relationships, enmity. There is no scarcity here, women are plentiful, most of them as well portrayed as Maya, including a female, cannibalistic talking horse who starts wanting to eat Maya and ends up as one of the best characters in the novel.
There is also romance – and here is perhaps the novel’s only minor misstep. It involves a trope that I am usually not overly fond of, one that makes the romance almost an inevitability. The novel finds ways around that sense of “inescapable” love by making the characters not only work for it, but also in the way that it frames Maya’s personality around it. It is in many ways, a lovely romance but one I wished had been more fleshed out. The ending though gives a sense that their story is only but beginning. And that’s a good thing.
In case it’s not clear, I truly am deeply in love with this book – with its gorgeous writing, its beautiful themes, its incredible heroine. It reminds me of so many of my favourite fantasy novels such as The Hollow Kingdom and Chime. But the best comparison I can think of is that this reads a lot like The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin. And that’s the best compliment I can give it.
The Star-Touched Queen is the story of a young woman who has a great and terrible destiny. All the years of her young, teenage life, she has been ostracized by the other wives, half-siblings, and her father, the Sultan, because of her horoscope. Maya–this young heroine, princess, and storyteller–has been foretold to wed death and destruction, and for this fate, she is to be given in marriage as a sacrificial pawn by her father, to keep the kingdom from war. Except… that isn’t what happens. Not exactly.
Maya finds herself in an extraordinary position, the ruler of an extraordinary land, with an extraordinary responsibility.
Things to know about The Star-Touched Queen: Roshani Chokshi has a brilliant imaginative scope in her writing, and is utterly convincing when it comes to worldbuilding. I loved the blend of real and fantasy in this book, the worlds between worlds, the demons and monsters and magic throughout. Another thing you should know: The Star-Touched Queen is very heavy on the poetic prose. Very heavy. This is both a strength (because when the prose works, it’s fantastic), but also a weakness (because sometimes the writing is overwrought, tends to favor style over substance, and sometimes strays into campy territory). This latter point is a matter of taste, of course–Ana loved it; I was less a fan.
Another thing to know about this novel: the characterization is spot-on. I loved every second of getting to know Maya, her love for learning, her sense of justice, and her sharp edges. As for the other characters–they have their own constraints, strengths, and flaws. I loved them all, too, very much (thought I am loath to spoil anything).
The last thing you should know about The Star-Touched Queen: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms comparison is an accurate one. Like that book, this one is incredibly imaginative, featuring incredible world-building, a powerful and unexpected heroine, and (mostly) beautiful writing. Also like that book, the romance angle is my least favorite part. But don’t let that deter you–The Star-Touched Queen is pretty freaking amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I cannot wait to read more from Roshani Chokshi.
Ana: 9 – Damn Near Perfect
Thea: 7 – Very Good (leaning towards an 8)
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