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.
The Star-Touched Queen, a young adult fantasy with inspiration from the story of Persephone and Hades and Indian mythology, is Roshani Chokshi’s debut novel. A companion novel about the main character’s younger sister Guari, A Crown of Wishes, will be released in March (side note: it has a gorgeous cover!).
Both the mythological influences and the story sounded wonderful, and I’ve wanted to read The Star-Touched Queen ever since I first heard about it. Though I did enjoy the fantasy aspects, I thought the highlight of the novel was Maya’s personal journey. When she lived in the harem, she was despised and blamed for any ill luck due to her horoscope, and shortly after she learns of the special regard her father has for her intellect, he informs her that “even a favored daughter is still just a daughter” (pp. 28). He still sees her as a political pawn, easily sacrificed for his kingdom.
Then, just as it seems that her fate is sealed and she’s ready to accept that her horoscope is coming true in an unexpected way, she’s presented with a new possibility: escape, and a life with a new husband who wishes her to rule as his equal. She goes from having very little freedom and choices to having some power over the lives of others as the queen of a mysterious realm. Soon after she’s beginning to learn the extent of her abilities, she makes a huge (but understandable) error—and without hesitation does her best to rectify it.
That strong determination makes it easy to want to see Maya succeed, especially when coupled with the weight she felt when making decisions affecting the lives of others. It’s not a responsibility she takes lightly, and I thought her wish to know the names of those concerned spoke volumes about the type of person she was:
“Wouldn’t it be easier keep [sic] your victim faceless?”
I shuddered. “Not a victim.”
“What else do you call one hemmed in by fate?”
“Human,” I said, bitterness creeping into my voice.
“What about guilt, then? Why open yourself to pain?”
“Guilt is what makes you accountable.”
I also enjoyed the thread of hope that ran through Maya’s story. She feels constrained by her fate, but she loves stories and finds an uplifting message even in the darkest of them because it shows that there can be other interpretations and ways of thinking about a problem that seems impossible to solve. When faced with a large obstacle, no matter how insurmountable it may seem, she perseveres.
The writing was often beautiful and evocative, but at times, I thought it was stylistically beautiful without conveying a full picture. Nevertheless, it was rarely a distraction and I found the first two thirds of the novel quite engaging even though I never quite loved it. However, the last third of the novel was a mixed bag for me, and I now must confess an unpopular opinion about why: Kamala.
I know. A flesh-eating demon horse sounds like an amazing addition to any novel, and I seem to be very much in the minority on this one, but I found her dull, overdone, and repetitive. She kept repeating similar sentiments, and I felt that her dialogue was trying much too hard to be humorous and failing to be amusing. Despite having some good moments toward the end, the novel started to lose me after Kamala became Maya’s companion.
The Star-Touched Queen tells a lovely, mythic tale about fate and a queen whose choices have great consequences, for better or worse. Although I found later parts of the book less compelling, I enjoyed the novel overall and look forward to Roshani Chokshi’s next book.
My Rating: 7/10
Where I got my reading copy: I purchased it.