I love fairy tale retellings and The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi felt fresh and familiar at the same time. Our heroine, Maya, is one of the Raja of Bharata’s daughters. She has spent her life as an outcast in the palace, as her horoscope predicts that she will partner with Death. Her mother is long-dead and her father’s harem doesn’t step up to care for her. She has a close relationship with one of her younger sisters, Gauri, but has no other friends.
The kingdom of Bharata is at war, and to try and forge a peace her father makes a dangerous plan for Maya’s marriage. Chaos ensues and Maya finds herself spirited away to a mysterious and magical land with a suitor named Amar. It is clear from the start that Amar’s kingdom is full of secrets, as he cannot reveal the true nature of his plans until a month has passed. The more Maya learns the more confusing things become.
Steeped in Indian folklore, The Star-Touched Queen feels familiar in that in many ways; it reminds me of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series or Rosamunde Hodge’s Cruel Beauty. At the same time, Chokshi builds a world that feels new and exciting from lots of fantasy work currently being published.
Maya is a clever character and I like that she is an intellectual warrior. Like Marie Rukoski’s Kestrel in The Winner’s Trilogy, she uses her wit to fight her battles, rather than weaponry. Before she is whisked off to Amar’s kingdom, and her father’s plan to marry her off, she hopes to spend her life in study. No one expects that she will marry because of her terrible horoscope, so she anticipates a life spent learning.
I love Maya’s relationship with her little sister, especially what we get to see of Gauri when she’s grown a bit. I’ve heard a rumor that the sequel to this book will be about Gauri, which excites me because she was such a vibrant character and we don’t get to see enough of her in this novel. Additionally, Maya’s relationship with Kamala, a flesh eating horse, is unusually sweet and the dialogue between them is funny enough that I found myself laughing aloud. Chokshi has a deft hand when it comes to mixing the horrific and strange with the beautiful, which was a bright spot in the book.
The worldbuilding and Chokshi’s descriptions of both Bharata and Amar’s kingdom, Akaran are lush and create a beautiful backdrop for the story. If I had one complaint, it would be that the book feels too rushed. The book is defined by two distinct parts and I think each could have been a book in its own right. There were some loose ends that didn’t get picked up that I feel could have used a bit more fleshing out. Basically, The Star Touched Queen was wonderful in so many ways, I would love to have had more time with the world Chokshi built.
Fans of Renee Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn and Melissa Grey’s The Girl At Midnight will find common ground here in terms of the love story between Maya and Amar. Misunderstandings about Amar’s intentions abound. I hesitate to say more because doing so will ruin the story, but let’s just say that Maya doesn’t know what she thinks she knows and ends up paying dearly for it.
Overall, I enjoyed The Star-Touched Queen and look forward to reading more of Chokshi’s work. If you’re looking for a magical reimagining of Indian folklore, or just a fairy-tale retelling, I think you won’t be disappointed.
Allison Carr Waechter is back with her books after a long and painful slump.