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The Star-Touched Queen (Star-Touched, 1) Hardcover – April 26, 2016
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A lush and vivid story steeped in Indian folklore and mythology, Roshani Chokshi's The Star-touched Queen is a novel that no reader will soon forget. An instant New York Times bestseller!
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.
From School Library Journal
Praise for The Star-Touched Queen:
New York Times Bestseller
#9 on the Summer 2016 Kids' Indie Next List
An Amazon Best Book of the Month
A Goodreads Best Book of the Month
“Chokshi's prose is captivating, and the pages come alive …. Maya is a strong heroine, and while there is romance, an emphasis on familial love adds another level of richness to a folkloric fantasy about sacrifice, self-discovery, and making your own destiny.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Richly imagined, deeply mythic, filled with lovely language… this is an author to watch” ― Kirkus Reviews
"Magic is woven into every word of the STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN. Vibrantly imaginative and gracefully written, I was spellbound from the first line. A dazzling, sensuous feast of world-building, romance, and mythology." ―Sarah J. Maas, New York Times Bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series.
"Roshani Chokshi has crafted a bewitching tale with a setting so vivid and unique, I wished I could step right through the pages." ―Amy Ewing, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Jewel
"Chokshi's storytelling glimmers like magic on every page-a novel meant to be savored." ―Cindy Pon, author of Serpentine and Silver Phoenix
"A luscious, bloodthirsty fairy tale with all the romance, magic, and gorgeous mythology I could ask for ―Tessa Gratton, author of Blood Magic and The United States of Asgard series
"Gorgeously poetic writing gives vibrant, sensuous life to the worlds of THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN." ―Kate Elliott, of Court of Fives
- Publisher : St. Martin's Griffin (April 26, 2016)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1250085470
- ISBN-13 : 978-1250085474
- Reading age : 13 years and up
- Lexile measure : HL700L
- Grade level : 7 - 9
- Item Weight : 1.2 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.44 x 1.27 x 9.58 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #928,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Reviewed in the United States on December 12, 2018
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This is a book about a woman of color by a woman of color. The cast is all people of color--specifically Indian people. The fantastic creatures that appear come from Indian folklore and mythology.
In many ways, the diversity stops there. No queer characters appear in the book. There is no discussion of disability. Class does not come to the fore.1 Readers longing for an exploration of these themes may want to look elsewhere.
Mayavati was born with bad luck. Her horoscope states that her marriage will join her to death, devastation and destruction. In the land of her birth, Bharata, a bad horoscope taints a person.
Maya is shunned by the wives and daughters of the harem, left to her own devices, until fate moves her to a place where her death can be used as a political tool. But she does not die. She finds herself married to a mysterious king of a mysterious land--Akaran, where creatures of myth and legend roam. Amar, her new husband, tells her she has powers she never dreamed of, and that he can teach her, but only if she doesn’t ask too many questions, and only if she doesn’t explore the new palace. But, of course Maya’s curiosity gets the better of her.
First, I have to say that Chokshi’s writing is gorgeous. I’ve read her short stories, so I knew that going in. She has a wonderful way with unexpected visual metaphors that surprise and delight me:
"This was the court of Bharata, a city like a bone spur -- tacked on like an afterthought."
"A sound spidered through the floor."
The book is beautifully written, a real pleasure to read. Chokshi is the kind of stylist I am jealous of as a fellow writer as I know my own writing is much more prosaic than hers. Hers sings; it’s lyrical. You can get lost in the words.
The structure of the book, too, is so clever once you know the story. *Of course* Maya told all of those stories to Gauri!2 *Of course* the details she made up proved to be true when she makes it to the Night Market! I REALLY WANT TO TELL YOU THINGS RIGHT NOW THAT ARE SPOILERS but I will not, so please read the book so we can discuss, ok?
The narrative is lovely, too. I really rooted for Maya. As a character she is ambitious and she is suspicious. She sneaks into the rafters of her father’s diplomatic councils and learns about warcraft and politics. She yearns for power. She knows she is smart, and she wants to use her sharp and cutting mind for *something* for *anything*. It was not surprising to me that when presented with the opportunity her new husband, Amar, represents that she would take it. She may be attracted to him at the outset, and grateful for his rescue, but she does not immediately fall in love with him. I loved this tension within her, the suspicion of him (she openly says she does not trust him to him) and this desire for power.
Maya is such a strong character. She has such agency throughout. Chokshi draws her as a complete human being, and allows her to both rise to full glorious potential and to give in to her weaknesses. She falters. She learns from her mistakes. One of her mistakes is very dire, indeed, and she does what she needs to, sacrifices what she has to, to make things right. Maya is a better, more mature version of herself by the end of the book. Not a different person--still herself, still recognizably herself, but grown up. The character work in THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN when it comes to Maya is truly excellent. The characterization of some of the minor characters--Kamala and Gauri, especially--was also very strong.
I wish the characterization of the other two main leads, Amar and Nritti, were as strong. Amar remains throughout a besotted cypher. We know he loves her, and that he has secrets, and that’s about it in terms of his character development. Honestly, in terms of plot, he doesn’t have much else to do, but there could have been a great deal more shading here to differentiate him from the other Brooding But Secretly Very Loving Love Interests I’ve read.
Nritti is a much more interesting case. She is the book’s main antagonist, and her role in the plot and in Maya’s life3 is a complicated one. They were friends, until they weren’t, and Maya only half-remembers a shadow of a feeling of trust in Nritti. Until Nritti’s backstory is revealed, it’s key that her characterization is very strong--that the reader feel that she is trustworthy, that we have a strong connection to her, too, stronger to her, perhaps, than to Amar because her role in the story is not so well telegraphed by narrative convention as Amar’s is. But she winds up ambiguous. And then she winds up duplicitous. And as a character, for me, she wound up a hollow, strange mess of wasted potential.
Nritti, also, was highlights worrisome issue in that there was an underlying element of femme...suspicion? in the book. It seemed as if the more feminine a female character was, the less Maya could trust that character (from childhood, an example would be the harem wives who exclude her). Gauri, her sister, grows into a soldier. Kamala, a female-identified flesh-eating horse demon that appears in the last third or so of the book ends up being a much more interpretable, sympathetic, and interesting character than Nritti. Kamala has more shading and depth. So it isn’t that Chokshi didn’t know how to write her non-human characters, or characters that are at first glance repugnant. It’s that Nritti never quite formed. I think this is an Unfortunate Unintended Consequence, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen in the text.
Still, I would recommend this book. The weaknesses with Amar and Nritti are, to me, quite well balanced by the strength of Maya herself, and by the beauty of the writing. I very much enjoyed this book, and I am excited to see what Chokshi does with the next book.
1: Arguably there is a glancing blow at class made in the book when Maya returns to Bharata as a sahdvi. I don’t count this, personally, as a discussion of class since she experiences her role as a sahdvi as a costume/disguise. She never claims the status fully. This is a book about a princess. Maya is a princess who was abused emotionally and psychologically, yes, but she was first a princess and then a queen, and her social position and worldview is different throughout the book than a peasant or a pauper.
2: GAURI!!!! I am very excited that the companion novel, A CROWN OF WISHES, is all about her.
3: Technically, in Maya’s *lives* since Nritti knew Maya in a previous incarnation, too.
A story entrenched in Indian folklore and mythology, we find ourselves poured into a world that is very far from our own. Our main character Mayavati, Maya for short, seems to be doomed from the start. In the world of Bharata, its citizens rely heavily on the stars to help dictate their whole lives, and the lives of others. Maya's horoscope is deemed the most tragic of all; a life that will be paired with death and destruction. Her father, the Raja of Bharata (in our terms, a King of his land), does not take stock in prophecies that are said to be written in the costellations.
While Maya loves her father for this, he does not stop his many wives, or their daughters, from tormenting her and ostracizing her from everyone. Maya's own mother died during child birth, an event that added to Maya's cursed horoscope beliefs; Maya feels all alone.
Mother Dhina, the top wife of Maya's father, who's status was raised based solely on her own hardships of countless still-born births and her own victories against encountering death, she is pretty much the Queen. She's ruthless against Maya, and never lets her forget that she's a blight on the world. We as readers, pity Maya from the start. And easily grow to hate Mother Dhina too.
The story progresses quickly with the events that unfold. Maya's land is on the verge of losing the war against the other Raja's. A quick plan is hatched by Maya's father, thrusting Maya into a betrothal with another Raja. But devious in his plans, he gives Maya poison in a vial, and says to kill herself. Basically, the plan was to lure the enemies to their land and then attack. But Maya's father believes he's doing his daughter a favor by letting her make her end her way, rather than becoming the wife of an enemy Raja.
Of course, Maya sees this as deep betrayal. However, she comes close to killing herself. Until, she's saved by the Raja of Akaran, a mysterious man named Amar. Maya later finds out he's the ruler of the Otherworld, a place that's between the living and the dead.
Things become more complex, and I won't divulge anymore information on plot. I will say that this book is chock full of amazing quotes that I would love to now share.
"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."
Who doesn't want a timeless love that feels as familiar as your own mind and body? Duh!
"No matter where we are, we'll always share the same sky. We can always find eachother in the same constellation."
"I know your soul. Everything else is an ornament."
I guess Amar doesn't find her pretty? Hehe, just joking. Seriously though, Chokshi continuously writes some amazing lines.
The reason this book did not get 5 stars is mainly out of my own personal aesthetics. I find it hard to fall in love with books that dive into "suspension of belief" material. I'm not familiar with Indian mythology or its culture, but I often found myself deeply confused by the imagery. I felt disconnected, as if I wasn't invited to a very important party I'm supposed to attend. An author that's writing about a culture that's very specific, yet writes for an audience that is diverse, needs to make their work relatable. I should be able to pick up the book and understand everything your telling me, even if I'm not from that culture.
A lot of the world within the book, seemed so far from my own, or any other world I've read about, it was hard to fully appreciate it. I couldn't completely fall in love with the world or it's characters. It was so frustration because I love the ornate writing so much. But if you can't completely draw me in, where I'm 100% invested, then I feel like the author has failed in telling their story properly. And it pains me to say this, but there were times the ornate writing and imagery made the situation even worse. It was in these moments, I honestly felt like I was on an acid trip, completely high and seeing things that did not make any lick of sense.
A Star-Touched Queen is coated with flowery words and spell-binding language and imagery. A story about a girl who's fate seems tragically sealed. And a man who's shrouded in darkness, but finds the light in our favored young protagonist. If you like the element of suspension of belief, this is the book for you. However, if you like your characters and world more grounded in reality, this is not the story for you. In the end, readers will soar high in the sky, become mesmerized by the stars that are our characters, and dance with fate as we see our characters' own fates unfold.
Top reviews from other countries
Princess Mayavati has a bad horoscope, her future marriage is destined to be disturbed, partnered with death and all sorts of doom and gloom, and this bad vibe means a great deal to her people and her father the Raja. No pressure. Unfortunately their opinions of her are so low due to their superstitions, and their Kingdom is under lots of pressure to hold the fort, so the only way the Raja can solve this problem is to marry her off to an ally right? Well, that's what I thought too. Predictable YA. But you're wrong, he'd rather get her to drink some poison and kill her off. Fathers!
Somehow Mayavati finds herself in the Night Bazaar, a place full of otherworldly creatures and stalls filled with mysterious items; she is heading to Akaran with the Raja, Amar. She is to be his new Queen of this underworld. Amar is largely quite mysterious which was fantastic for me - I love to be given tiny bits of information about a character, ever lost in trying to figure them out, rather than having the characters immediately swoon over each other, lock eyes and have some cringe-worthy insta-love. Chokshi absolutely nails the relationships she develops in this book to make them believable, but also to make you want more - a rarity in YA fiction where romance is involved.
There are so many different threads to this story. Akaran and the duties required of it's rulers (Now Amar and Mayavati) are mysterious, unusual and highly creative - the descriptions of controlling someones fate are especially beautiful. The creatures within are unique, fun to read about and highly imaginative. Unfortunately, that's kind of the problem with this book (but really quite a small one, given how clever it is); the writing is so beautiful and the descriptions of what Mayavati can see and is surrounded by are woven so intricately and expressively that you actually lose track of what is really going on - the descriptions are almost too colourful, too distracting, that the plot suffers for it.
Despite this, if you're willing to get sucked it in to a truly well-developed Night Bazaar with unpredictable characters and some highly original ideas then you absolutely should read this; its lovely to read and imagine all of the culture, smells and rich descriptions. But keep in mind you might lose your head in Akaran; it likes to play tricks on you.
Really torn between 3 and 4 stars for this one as I loved it but there were also a few problems.
The world building and magical element were good, but it was very confusing at times.
I loved all the characters and their development, especially Kamala and Amer.
The plot was also a bit slow at times and forgettable.
I doubt I will pick up the 2nd book but overall it was a unique story and based on one of my favourite Greek myths, Hades and Persephone, while also incorporating Indian mythology.
If you liked this book I would also recommend: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh and Persephone by Kaitlin Bevis.
I don't know where to start! So I'll just start everywhere and this review will be all over.
I LOVED Amar. I loved his pretty words and I loved his encouragements of Maya, to be HER and not to think the way she thought he wanted her to, but to think her OWN way. He even said at one point he was fine with WHATEVER decision she made, but she had to THINK. It's obvious he's very in love with her and it kinda gives some of the game away - but then it's meant to.
So, understandably, I was LIVID with Maya for the way she reacted when she found out who he was. Especially with their belief system! On a side note, these people had a lot of issues with people dying despite their believing in reincarnation... (this could be a major plot hole OR just simple evidence of the stupidity of humans. Honestly, I'm taking it as the second, because there really are some silly people out there and I can totally see someone reacting this way.)
Where was I?
Oh yes, LIVID I tell you! Luckily she sorts herself out and gets on with it and I commend her on that, but I'm still not a fan. Ok, you can argue it all started with miscommunication , but ugh! I'm so close to saying Amar needs a new match. But, I guess some people might think her reaction fair.
It's very hard to try putting what I want to say into words, basically it can be summed up in two sentences, but this is a (hopefully) spoiler free review! So I'm trying to beat around the bush. (SO sorry if I failed!)
Apart from that I enjoyed this world and it's characters. Some of it was predictable, the way legends and myths can sometimes be, but at the same time there were some well hidden things that rounded out the whole thing nicely. If you're a fan of elegant writing and vivid imagery this is a book for you. Personally I'm a fan of flowery, shiny lines that take some re-reading to understand. The more you read them the deeper they are. LOVE it.
And there's a knitting elephant.
Though I have to say I AM very confused. I was seriously hating on Maya for a bit there and yet I've given this book 4 Voodoos! (Pretty sure it's not all for Amar). I'm also pretty impressed I kept going after I swore a blue streak at Maya and I think that that says a lot about this story and how it's written. Maya did grow into herself and I think that, if Amar can forgive her for stumbling a bit, we probably should too.
I'd love to know if this was based on a spesific myth/legend, so I may drop the author a question on goodreads. I'm also highly curious who the next book will be about. There's one main loose end that I can see, so hopefully it'll be over that!
As Maya's world is taken from her, she must find a way to get back her life and protect the world from evil. At no point was I bored - I was racing through the chapters to find out what happens! It's a truly beautifully written book and I can't wait for the sequel.