Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Series Review: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Roshani Chokshi is a new-to-me author and one to go on my auto-buy list. I initially received an advanced review copy of Crown of Wishes, not realizing it was the second book in the series. So that is what led me to pick up The Star-Touched Queen, Chokshi's debut novel, and I was blown away. What an outstanding entree into the writing world!

The series is based heavily on Hindu and Indian folklore, which was something new and interesting for me. While I found myself looking up many of the terms, it was a fascinating and enlightening learning experience. 

The Star-Touched Queen is full of beautiful prose in a captivating fantasy realm. It follows our heroine, a sixteen year old Mayavati, in a an epic tale of love, betrayal, and adventure. We first meet Maya growing up in a harem, one of the many children of the Raja of Bharata. Cursed with a bad horoscope and the death of her mother during childbirth, the women of the harem have never been kind to Maya. Her only bright spots in the kingdom are her half-sister, Guari, and her scholarly pursuits. But when Maya's life takes a fatal turn, she is swept away to a world of fable, dreams and nightmares by a handsome and mysterious raja.

I don't feel like the story always moved in a linear fashion, as there were several plot ascensions that sometimes climaxed and sometimes took an unexpected turn. It made for a wonderfully strange  and meandering tale that was reminiscent of a Salvador Dali painting inside The Neverending Story (the book, not the movie) mixed with the Hades and Persephone myth. This may all have roots in Hindu mythology... but as this was my first experience in this culture, I was woefully ignorant. However, I loved the cultural influence and was happy to continue the series.


Following The Star-Touched Queen, I was able to dive right in to Crown of Wishes. While this story had the same cultural influence, the tale had a different flavor. We have transitioned from Maya's story to that of her half-sister, Guari, known as the Jewel of Bharata. Guari is now an eighteen-year-old young adult, beloved by her people and despised for it by her brother, the Raja Skanda. Guari is betrayed by Skanda and winds up imprisoned in Ujijain, home of Vikram, the Fox Prince. You may remember Vikram from The Star Touched Queen, where his threads of fate were decided by Maya. 

These characters were both quite unexpected for me. Guari has turned from a sweet girl into a hardened and jaded warrior, attempting to navigate the political intrigue of Bharata. Vikram has grown into a handsome and intelligent man, with a great personality and perpetual positive outlook. The two join together to compete in the Tournament of Wishes held by Kubera, the King of Wealth and Treasures in the realm of Alaka. The two must work together to conquer desires, face their fears and make sacrifices to win the tournament and be granted a wish. As Guari and Vikram were working toward a common goal, the plot of this installment was more linear and cohesive. The pace was still meandering at times, but was more focused on the end-game than we saw in The Star-Touched Queen. While I enjoyed the challenge in this story, I did miss some of the beautiful prose from the last installment.

Vikram was an engaging hero, and unexpectedly funny. I loved his teasing nature and how it affected the prickly Guari. In contrast, Guari was sometimes a hard heroine to love... the political intrigue has taken over her life to the point of paranoia and distrust of everyone. The two fought most of the time, but it was all part of a slow-burn romance that saw the couple growing closer together with every challenge. 

Crown of Wishes was chock full of mythological characters, and I spent a lot of time on Wikipedia as I read this story. While there is a small glossary at the back of the books, I wanted to know more about the mythological figures and realms. I also enjoyed several of the secondary characters, which helped enrich the story - my favorites being Aasha (a vishakanya) and Vetalas (a being that inhabits corpses). 

I recommend this series to fantasy fans and those interested in Hindu mythology. I voluntarily reviewed an advanced copy of this book that I received from the publisher, St. Martin's Griffin.

Series:     Star-Touched Queen #1
Pub. Date:April 26, 2016
Publisher:St. Martin's Griffin
Length:342 pages

Series:     Star-Touched Queen #2
Pub. Date:March 28, 2017
Publisher:St. Martin's Griffin
Length:352 pages