Book Review: The Star-Touched Queen – Roshani Chokshi

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Title: The Star-Touched Queen (2016)
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Extent: 342 pages
Release Date: April 26, 2016
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Goodreads Description

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.

Review

The moment I tucked into The Star-Touched Queen and read a couple paragraphs, I knew I was in for a wild ride. This book was a lovely mix of mythology and drama, a story inspired by Indian folklore and somewhat based on Greek mythology — specifically the story of Hades, the god of the underworld, and Persephone, who in the original myth was abducted by Hades to live with him.

Chokshi’s writing was great from the very start: elegant, imaginative, descriptive but not overly so. It was also incredibly easy to get into, which I appreciate, because fantasy books tend to go on and on setting the stage and are at a high risk of becoming boring (like A Game of Thrones, personally speaking), but not this one. This one, however, is descriptive but also evocative — case in point, this is the opening paragraph:

Staring at the sky in Bharata was like exchanging a secret. It felt private, like I had peered through the veil of a hundred worlds. When I looked up, I could imagine—for a moment—what the sky hid from everyone else. I could see where the winds yawned with silver lips and curled themselves to sleep. I could glimpse the moon folding herself into crescents and half-smiles. When I looked up, I could imagine an existence as vast as the sky. Just as infinite. Just as unknown.

The world-building was vivid. This was a world inspired by Indian culture, and while I’m not familiar with it enough to speak on its authenticity, what’s in this book is gripping, captivating. In saying that, however, the magic system was left largely unexplained — we never found out why things work the way they do, only that they do.

Now, depending on the kind of reader you are, you might not mind and even enjoy this. For me, it was a bit of a negative, but not too much — I prefer powers that make sense and have limitations and so would love a bit more explanation, but I could also suspend disbelief and just ignore all the unanswered questions popping in my head.

Our protagonist, Maya, is a seventeen-year-old princess cursed with a horoscope that spells death. In the court of the king, she is feared and hated, especially by her father’s other wives — yet she’s tenacious, independent, and able to take care of herself. She doesn’t give up hope when things go from bad to worse, and she doesn’t shy away from danger if it promises her a better life.

“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. I wanted the impossible, which made it that much easier to push out of my mind.”

Apart from Maya, unfortunately, the other characters fell short. There wasn’t much information on anyone else, and in that sense, they also didn’t develop at all. We mostly only get to see Amar, who also wasn’t developed that much and was (I feel) a bit over-the-top with his expressions of love and emotions. For example, this scene below happened several days (or was it hours? I think hours) of him meeting Maya:

“I want your perspective and honesty,” he said, before adding in a softer voice, “I want to be humbled by you.”

Heat flared in my cheeks. I paused, the stick in my hand falling a fraction. Perspective and honesty? Humbled by me? Rajas never asked for anything other than sons from their consorts.

“My kingdom needs a queen,” he said. “It needs someone with fury in her heart and shadows in her smile. It needs someone restless and clever. It needs you.”

“You know nothing about me.”

“I know your soul. Everything else is an ornament.”

Maybe that’s just me, but when someone says something like this too soon, it kind of bugs me. It felt too… cheap? It sounds really romantic, true, but it also lacks depth in context.  This was the second reason why I took a star off: I’m not super sold on the romance. There was a major case of insta-love between Amar and Maya, and [spoiler] even after knowing their full reincarnation story, I still wasn’t convinced. [/end spoiler] Personally I would have loved to see more of the ‘getting to know each other’ part before the loud declarations of undying love and devotion came out, and unfortunately the latter really took over.

I actually hovered between a 3-star and a 4-star for this book, but overall I enjoyed The Star-Touched Queen. Entertainment’s pretty much the number one reason why I read, so this book was right up my alley in that regards. Four stars it is! 🙂

Have you read this book yet? Link me to your review or let me know in the comments! 

May 19, 2016: After much (MUCH) consideration, I’ve decided to lower this rating from 4 stars to 3. Although I loved the writing and generally enjoyed this book, it just didn’t live up to my other four-star reads.

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16 thoughts on “Book Review: The Star-Touched Queen – Roshani Chokshi

  1. I’m so glad you liked it! I read the first few chapters last week, but didn’t get a good impression of it, so I took it back to the library.

    One thing that stuck out to me was the language. Like you said, the descriptions were gorgeous–except (for me) when they made no sense. You pointed out a quote about how she wanted a love “as inscrutable as if a lathe had carved it from night,” and that was actually one of the quotes that bothered me. I suspect Amani doesn’t know what “inscrutable” means (who wants an inscrutable love? That sounds like the most melodramatic/least fulfilling type), and it’s obvious she doesn’t quite understand how traditional wooden lathes work (they rotate the wood, while a separate carving tool does the carving).

    Those occasional, nonsensical descriptions really jerked me out of the flow of the story. But if you’re giving it four stars for enjoyment, I’ll put this back on my TBR list! Maybe I can read this for fun, without reviewing it–and therefore I can turn off my inner editor and ignore the little things that might otherwise bother me. I really want to love this book, because it has so much going on that are right up my alley.

    Thanks for the encouragement to give it another try! And great review, of course. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I can see why the language would bother some people. I guess reading it I breezed through the more long-winded paragraphs, so I didn’t even stop to really analyse what a sentence means. I’m admittedly guilty of being ~seduced~ by elegant writing enough to forget that it may have no substance. With the inscrutable thing, for example, I kind of just took it as a hyperbole instead of literally. 😛

      Honestly if you’re not into the writing and can’t stand insta-love I wouldn’t recommend that you give it another try, if only because there are so many other books to read! But if you’re still curious, reading it for fun is definitely the way to go rather than reading it with a critical mind.

      Tbh I’m still kind of marinating on my rating as well, because frankly it’s not as good as my four-star books but I enjoyed it more than my three-star books – I might end up changing it once I actually make up my mind. Thanks for the insightful comment! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s the dangerous and wonderful thing about beautiful writing; it’s so easy to get sucked in an carried away on it. And better to be carried away by beautiful but flawed writing than trudge through technically good but boring writing! I’ll take the former to the latter any day.

        This could be a good test to see how well I can shut my inner editor up and just read. I know (hope?) I’d enjoy a larger percentage of the books I read if I tried hard enough. We’ll see how it goes.

        Still, a three-star book is pretty darn good. I’m looking forward to really diving into it, whatever your final rating turns out to be! 🙂

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  2. I am hoping to read this book sometime this month and I am so excited about it. I love that the story is a mix of Indian and Greek mythology and the fact that the writing is evocative is definitely a plus. I’m sad to see that some of the characters fell flat and I feel like the unexplained magic system might bug me but I’m always willing to give it a shot. Insta-love is more of a miss than hit for me because I too like to see the grow as a couple so we’ll see how this one goes. Lovely review. 😀

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    • Definitely give it a shot! I’ve been hearing more mixed reviews on this one lately – to some people the writing can be a bit too much, though for me it’s quite elegant. Insta-love is like 99% a miss for me too and this book, frankly, didn’t change my opinion on that. 😛

      Hope you enjoy it! Can’t wait for your thoughts. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, I didn’t know that this was somewhat based on Greek mythology! Haha, that makes more sense now given there are aspects of the underworld – I had just assumed that was also derived from Indian mythology.

    You weren’t kidding about being soft on fantasy books! Haha, I’m nonetheless super happy that you enjoyed this book enough to give it 4 stars – I really wish I could’ve, but the romance was too much of a let down for me.

    Even for your spoiler on the insta-love, there were definitely still aspects of insta-love rooted in that when the story was told. I suppose that spoiler made the romance make more sense to me, but I still didn’t fully see the development of their love in that. I completely agree that it would’ve been great if there were more “getting to know each other” scenes in the book.

    On the other hand though for the insta-love, someone in the comments of my review mentioned how the “insta-love” could be explained by the Indian marriage culture of people getting married when they barely know each other. I actually hadn’t really thought of this, so I wonder if my view of Amar and Maya’s interactions would’ve been different if I had this in mind going into the book. What do you think?

    Fantastic review, Reg! 🙂

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    • Yeah, I don’t think that Greek myth part was marketed as loudly. I’m not sure where I heard about it either but I can definitely see some similarities between Hades/Persephone and Amar/Maya, story-wise.

      I really wasn’t kidding! I’m actually still kind of marinating on this rating and might lower it – this is one book that I feel don’t rate as high as my other four-star picks, but aren’t as low as my three-star ones… sometimes I wish I do half-ratings, but it’s a very rare scenario. 😛

      I agree completely that the insta-love aspect was strong even with the spoiler — it definitely doesn’t make up for the lack of relationship development. And that’s a very good point they made about Indian marriage culture… but I don’t think it would’ve affected my opinion, just because Amar was so over-the-top with his exclamations of undying love. :/

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m really glad you liked this book. I do understand why you knocked off a star though. I didn’t actually mind that the magic system wasn’t explained much, it just added to the story for me (really hope that makes sense but I can’t think of how else to explain it!) I loved the world-building in this book and it was a big reason why I rated it five stars.
    I do agree with you about the development of Maya and Amar’s relationship but I think the reincarnation angle kind of made up for that in my mind. Still I would have liked to see their development, maybe they’ll be more of them in the companion novel or something. Great review 😀

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    • It makes sense for sure! An unexplained magic system, depending on how it’s written, can actually add to the mystery/atmosphere. I think with this book it’s very easy to fall into the world and just take it how it is without thinking too much about the logic behind it. 😛

      I’m hoping the relationship will be explained further too! I suspect the companion novel would be about Gauri or some other minor character though.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s one of the things I love best about this book, the setting and the magic, because for me it was written in a way that didn’t need much explaining about all the rules behind it and I just really enjoyed that.
        See I’m thinking the companion story could be about Maya’s sister, I’d definitely be interested in reading more about her adventures! 🙂

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        • I’m really glad you enjoyed it as much as you have! I’d say that overall it’s a very solid debut, and I really can’t wait to see what other things Chokshi can do. Hopefully the companion story won’t take too long. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          • I definitely enjoyed this one, and it’s kind of why we read in the first place isn’t it, for enjoyment 🙂
            I am looking forwards to the companion novel, not sure what’s happening with it though but yeah hopefully we won’t have too long to wait!

            Liked by 1 person

  5. I am so glad you enjoyed this as much as I did! I completely agree – the writing was absolutely exquisite and I loved the concept and how it combined both Greek and Indian mythology. I have to agree with you on the world-building though – it was good, but there were so opportunities where it could have been developed even further. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ❤

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    • Thanks, Zoe! Glad to hear that you enjoyed it as well.

      Yeah, the writing for me was a plus, though I’ve also heard people really hating how long-winded it is, haha. I think the world-building was slightly lacking but not enough for it to be a negative, which is great. 🙂

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