The Star Touched Queen, Roshani Chokshi – Book Review

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25203675Fate 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.

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The Star Touched Queen is the story of Maya. Maya, a princess of Bharata, has a terrible horoscope which states that her marriage will result in death and destruction. Because of this, she is shunned in the palace. All the bad things that happen around her are blamed on Maya’s horoscope, stating that her presence was the bad omen which made bad things happen. Maya just wants people to stop treating her the way they do. She dreams of being a scholar, because she knows that after knowing her horoscope, no one will want to marry her and she couldn’t descend to the throne as she is a girl. But, her life changes when her father arranges for a swayamvara, for her to chose a groom for herself from a platoon of princes, for a political alliance. Maya choses Amar and starts to fall for him, but he has his own secrets, which cause a rift between them and leave Maya in a place where she is fighting, not only for her own life, but for that of the world.

What I absolutely loved about the story was the writing. It was lush and beautiful, full of imagery and context and simile. The narrative is captivating and you can’t help but love it. Yes, the extreme amount of ‘purple prose’ used got on my nerves in places, but it was such a refreshing change to read something like this. A feast for the eyes. This book is extremely well written with SO MANY PRETTY WORDS. I adore that!

The plot is basic and simple. I think that is the beauty of it. The motivation of characters to act the way they do is simple – love, jealousy, revenge. It shows how far a person can go to just extract revenge for something they believe is the fault of someone else. The whole book revolved around the revenge plot of one woman who felt that Amar had wronged her.

I liked Maya, the MC, an okay amount. She started as this headstrong girl who wanted to break free of the patriarchy and carve her own path herself. I really admired that about her. But, halfway through, she did such a stupid and naive thing. I mean, I couldn’t believe she did it. Her character arc for the first half had shown that she was reluctant to trust anyone, but then, suddenly, she’s blindly trusting this one person, just because she saw one memory of the two of them together. I didn’t like that part. I mean, Amar had been trying to gain her trust for half the book and she didn’t trust him, was quick to write him off, but she trusted this person within seconds of meeting them. It didn’t make any sense to me. Especially since the story started moving forward only from there.

And then, there’s Amar. He was an enigma and mystery in the beginning of the story and he stayed that way till the end. Literally. By the end of the story, all I knew about Amar was what job he had and that he loved Maya unconditionally. That is it. Amar and Maya had maybe 10 complete, meaningful conversations in the story and more than half of them were before Amar could tell Maya anything about him and his kingdom. I would have liked to know more about Amar, about who he is as a person. Is he kind, smart, charming? Or is he villainous and cruel? I don’t know. I wish I did.

The worst disappointment about this book is how stilted the romance is. Maya and Amar both are prima facie great characters and they had amazing chemistry in the beginning. Their relationship could have been beautiful, but, it was not explored in the story. I wish they had interacted more, spent more time together, gotten to know each other. Amar appears after 5 – 6 chapters in the story and the second half is virtually free of him. He only appears in the last 30 pages. So, yes, he didn’t have much screen time, but what time they had together is glossed over, just saying that Amar was showing Maya around the palace and all its intricacies. They could have been a great couple and I wish that their relationship had been given more screen time. I really do.

What I absolutely adored about this book was all the references to Indian Mythology that were scattered throughout the book. Some of them wove into the main theme beautifully and some were mentioned in the passing as stories and folk tales, but I loved them all. It felt so good to read about them.

I felt that this book could have been so much more beautiful if the author had explored Amar’s character more. There were good things and bad things, but overall, reading TSTQ was a beautiful journey and I enjoyed it, for the most part.

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13695109Roshani grew up in Georgia, where she acquired a Southern accent but does not use it unless under duress. She has a luck dragon that looks suspiciously like a Great Pyrenees dog. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Uncanny Magazine, Shimmer, and Book Smugglers. She is the 2016 finalist for the Andre Norton Award, and a 2016 Locus finalist for Best First Novel. Her short story, The Star Maiden, was longlisted for the British Fantasy Science Award.

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