“Fat moths the size of palms wreathed my hair like pearls and moonstones. And then, as I had done since before language burgeoned in the velvet clefts of the mind - I danced.” (230, Chokshi)
Ripe with vivid descriptive language and an enthralling story with roots in Hindu myth, The Star-Touched Queen is unlike any fantasy novel I’ve read before. Mayavati is a brilliant, but ostracized Princess of the kingdom of Bharata. Maya is not welcomed in by the harem wives or their children because of her horoscope. The highly superstitious society is terrified of her because the horoscope reads of a marriage paired with death. Despite this, she is adored by one of her younger sisters, Gauri, whom she regularly entrances with stories of magic, heroics, and realms beyond dreams, giving the reader context of the myths the novel deals in.
The small kingdom of Bharta is marred by war and their Raja (King) devises a plan of political convenience with Maya at the center. She must marry a prince or Raja from another kingdom. On the eve of her wedding as Maya plans to run, her father comes to her and reveals his true intentions. He gives her a painless poison she is told she must drink right before her decision is made so as not to offend any other kingdoms, as all will see rejection as an affront. On the day of her wedding, alone in the Great Room, Maya prepares to drink the poison. Before she can, however, a stranger appears out of the shadows. Maya is caught by surprise as he knocks the vial of poison from her hands, but doesn’t hesitate to grab a knife-sharp pin out of her hair and demand who he is. He introduces himself as Amar, the Raja of Akaran, and one of her suitors. He also brings to her attention the fact that all the suitors have caught onto the Bhartan Raja’s plan and have coordinated attacks on the palace. Amar tells her he could help her escape and after a moment of considering her fate if she stays in Bharta, she agrees and throws the garland of white carnations around his neck symbolizing their marriage. They escape just as the fighting enters the palace and she is whisked off into the Otherworld. A place outside of the mortal realm where demons, spirits, and everything in between walk freely, just like the stories she told Gauri. This is where the tale really begins as Maya, the Rani (Queen) of Akaran, explores the secrets her new home.
From here I’ll let you unravel the tale.
Whew - that was a lot of information (64 pages worth) I just crammed into 2 paragraphs. But truly, it’s only the beginning of a story that dared my imagination to go just a little bit further with every word. Even though the foundation of The Star-Touched Queen is based in Hindu myth, everything about this novel radiates originality. The setting is fantastical, often bejeweled, and always shimmering in starlight. The characters sometimes carried distinctions of common archetypes, but were always likable; even a flesh-eating demon managed to get a few laughs out of me.
But what really captured my attention was Chokshi’s ability to craft a narrative bound in both light and shadow, using language whose beauty launches the story into the stars. Written in two parts, the story echoes two different lives sharing the same soul.
Reincarnation is a common theme suffused throughout the story; it's one of my favorite parts. The idea that the same soul could venture through the world in different forms is extremely interesting and opens the door to a lot of questions and, as always, the idea of a soulmate makes my heart melt. Overall, this book dazzled me and I’m very excited to see what other stories Chokshi weaves with her masterful and distinct use of language.
Roshani Chokshi is the New York Times bestselling author of The Star-Touched Queen and A CROWN OF WISHES. Her middle grade debut, ARU SHAH AND THE END OF TIME, will release April 3, 2018 with Disney/Rick Riordan Presents. Her next young adult novel, THE GILDED WOLVES, is slated for Winter 2019. Chokshi's work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Shimmer, and Book Smugglers. She was a finalist in the 2016 Andre Norton Award and the Locus Top Ten for Best First Novel. Her short story, "The Star Maiden," was longlisted for the British Fantasy Science Award.
You can buy The Star-Touched Queen HERE