The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi is, without a doubt, one of the most visually stunning books I’ve read in a long time. Don’t mistake me; when I say visually stunning, I mean the images she’s created—the worlds, the settings, the imagery—not necessarily the cover, although that is beautiful also. I was completely enthralled not only by her beautiful prose and the imagery of the novel, but also by Mayavati (Maya) and Amar.
Mayavati, the daughter of the reigning Raja of Bharat, is the titular “star-touched queen.” She is cursed by a terrible horoscope, and rumors of her impending ill fate follow her everywhere: she has no shadow; if another’s shadow crosses with hers, death will find that person. She confounds tutor after tutor, and prefers to hide in the rafters above her father’s meetings, gleaning whatever knowledge she can. She takes scrolls from her father’s archival room, because she “love[s] the feeling of discovery, of not knowing how much I wanted something until I had discovered its absence.” She is rebellious and disliked by many, and she knows this, but she is not deterred by it. The one thing that finally unsettles her is when the Raja tells her he will hold a swayamvara for her, and she will have a chance to choose a husband. This, theoretically a privilege because the Raja allows her to choose, displeases Maya; she would rather be free, and she had always believed her father would not marry her off because of her cursed horoscope.
But, choose a husband she does, though not in the way she’d planned. Her marriage is not as she’d thought it would be either, and thus the stage is set for Maya to find out the truth about her horoscope. She also learns much about her husband, Amar, who is bound to silence about the secrets of his kingdom, Akaran, and those who populate his kingdom.
Chokshi’s world—which is based on Indian folklore and other mythologies—is as wonderfully mythic as it is visually fantastical. There is the Night Bazaar, an “unearthly city” that constantly exists half in daylight and half in the night; Kamala, a talking, flesh-eating horse that seems as bent on helping Maya as she is on eating her, and the rooms in Maya’s new palace seem to open to reveal other worlds entirely. The vivid imagery reminded me at some times of What Dreams May Come, so vivid were the descriptions. Another parallel to the film is the idea that once paired, our souls are forever matched and will always work their way back to each other. Once a soul is “star-touched” by another, they will forever be connected in some way.
I have no doubt this enchanting offering from Roshani Chokshi will lure many more in; I look forward to hearing all of the praise this novel receives upon publication!
“In Bharata, no one believed in ghosts because the dead never lingered. Lives were remade instantly, souls unzipped and tipped into the streaked brilliance of a tiger, a gopi with lacquered eyes or a Raja with a lap full of jewels.”
“No matter where we are, we’ll always share the same sky. We can always find each other in the same constellation.”
“Together, we danced a quiet happiness, fashioning a room for stars and skimming our palms across cities kept behind mirrors.”
“A memory is a fine legacy to leave behind.”
“Emotion belonged to life, a thing the stars could never experience.”
“I have slung the ghosts of memories across my back for years and it has done me no good and earned me no victuals.”
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.
A lush and vivid story that is steeped in Indian folklore and mythology. The Star-touched Queen is a novel that no reader will soon forget.