Hardcover, 342 pages
Published April 26th 2016 by St. Martin’s Griffin
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.
So far we have focused our fae-loving hearts at the Western version of fae. The Seelie and Unseelie courts, well, at least I have but now it is time to shift attention to somewhere far more fascinating if only for its novelty.
“A memory is a fine legacy to leave behind.”
This story with a princess as many stories do but unlike other princesses, Maya is no blonde, blue-eyed damsel waiting for a prince. She has been cursed by the stars, or so she feels. As the synopsis says, Maya’s stars say that she will bring death to her groom which means that…no one wants to be her groom. Which is fine with her because it lets her pursue other hobbies such as learning strategy to rule a kingdom she does not have. She lives in a harem, subject to scorn and hostility from her father’s wives who consider her very existence a blight. She has an interesting relationship with her father (and this was my favourite part of the book). She knows he loves her and she loves him back but she also knows that his role as king diminishes any other attachment he may feel. Even so, she is betrayed when she becomes an object to be traded from one person to another.
“Will we see each other again?” she asked softly.
Gauri fell silent. “In this life?”
I turned to face her. “What do you mean?”
“Mother Urvashi says that if I’m bad in this life then I’ll come back as a goat in my next life. Which means that there is another life.” Gauri didn’t look at me, focusing instead on tightly twisting the hem of her gown. “So will you see me again before I’m a goat?”
But fate as other plans for Maya and she finds herself spirited away from the land she called home in the arms of a man she only knows as Amar. With Amar, she ventures into places that she thought existed only in stories. The wondrous night bazaar that is peopled by beings who seem too fantastic to be real, where trees fruit edible gems and dreams come to coloured life.
“Trust is won in years. Not words.”
Amar takes Maya to an empty palace and asks that she stay her questions, her curiousity, for the space of one month after which he will be happy to answer all, to reveal all. Maya is bedazzled by the strange and the wonderful. Her feelings for Amar grow slowly but gain momentum because she recognizes him on an innate level. But, if you will excuse the triteness, the course of true love never did run smooth. Maya loses everything and in doing so, she regains herself. The self she hadn’t known existed beneath the human shell she wears.
The prose A Star-Touched Queen flows like silk. Not everyone will be a fan of the lyrical style but everyone will agree that Chokshi has a way with words. She sets up a scene, builds it up, increases the tension, and then lets it shine. I also really appreciated how Maya learns to be her own person before she becomes a half of another equation.
But we are here to talk about the fae or rather the Indian version of the fae. The research Chokshi must have done is integrated flawlessly into the narrative and the world of the dead springs to glorious life. There are apsaras, naags, rakhshas, and my favourite a pishacha (flesh-eating demon) named Kamala who is probably my favourite character in the entire novel. There is also an elephant who makes clouds. The point is, it was so refreshing to read of mythical creatures whether you want to call them fae or not of a different culture.
The book is rather heavy on the romance and yes, that gave me pause but you all know that I am not of the mushy persuasion. However, the strength of this book lies in the glorious prose and worldbuilding and if there are sappy scenes galore, I will take it.
Just…give this book a try. For Kamala.
I had not idea this book had Fae in it! :D I really should bump it up in my TBR pile.