“The truth,” said Amar, taking a step closer to me, “is that you look neither lovely nor demure. You look like edges and thunderstorms. And I would not have you any other way.”
― Roshani Chokshi,
I only have one problem with The Star-Touched Queen… but it’s kind of a big one.My issue is, I felt confused and had no idea what was going on for about 40% of the book. Initially, I thought that this was probably my fault. I’m prone to daydreaming, and I know very little about both Indian mythology and the Hades / Persephone myth. However, after checking out a few reviews on Goodreads, I soon realised that I’m definitely not the only one who had trouble following the story line. That being said, if you’re a very attentive reader with some background knowledge about mythology, you’ll probably enjoy this book a lot more than I did. What I did like however, was the fascinating setting and the surprising inclusion of a bloodthirsty talking horse / demon, named Kamala.
Mayavati is a forgotten princess. When she was born, an astrologer predicted that Maya’s fate would be cursed by death and destruction. Because of this prediction, Maya is shunned by the Raja (her father), his harem of wives, and her numerous half siblings. At age seventeen, Maya has gotten used to being ignored and resigned herself to a quiet life of learning and spinsterhood. However, the Raja has a plan of his own, and seeks to use Maya as a pawn in order to gain power over his many enemies. Maya knows the Raja’s plan will almost certainly lead to her death, so when a handsome stranger shows up to whisk her away on his water buffalo, Maya hastily accepts. This stranger turns out to be Amar, ruler of the mysterious and magical land, Akaran. Though Maya finds herself intrigued by Amar, she is reluctant to trust him, knowing that both he and Akaran hide many secrets.
This first part of the story, I really enjoyed. It’s when we start uncovering Amar’s secrets and learning of his true duty that I became confused. I don’t want to give much more away than that, as there are a lot of twists and turns in The Star Touched Queen, and the mystery is one of its best elements. I will however say, that this is where you really need to start paying attention, as the story gets a lot more complicated when we start to learn about Amar’s magic.
There are a few interesting side characters in this book, but really it’s all about Maya and Amar. Maya is a well rounded character, and I liked her love of riddles and passionate protectiveness of her sister Gauri (the only person in the harem residence who shows Maya any kindness). Amar, however, didn’t really have a lot of personality. I feel like his only characteristic was his intense love of Maya. Other than that, we really don’t know much about him. Is he funny? Handsome? Wise? I have no idea. All I know is that he’s obsessed with Maya. Surprisingly, the most likable character in the book was Kamala, Maya’s wisecracking animal sidekick. When Maya first meets the demon horse, Kamala is only after one thing: a taste of Maya’s flesh. However, the two form an uneasy alliance and agree to travel together. Though Kamala spends much of the journey loudly vocalizing her desire to take a bite out of Maya’s arm, the two slowly form a bond. It’s completely random and unexpected, but their sweet friendship was one of the highlights of The Star Touched Queen for me.
Though I enjoyed Amar and Maya’s romance, it was a little melodramatic at times. Five minutes after meeting her, Amar is talking about a love that last eternities and professing his desire to write her name in the stars… whatever that means. Later, we realise that Amar has his reasons for saying such things, but at the time all I could think was, “Woah, slow down Amar, you guys met like half an hour ago.” Basically, Amar is very full of flowery prose, and while it was sweet, it didn’t really feel like love to me. There was a lot of talk and very little action. However, Chokshi’s writing really shined in Kamala’s dialogue. The character was both witty and morbid, a combination that totally worked.
For the first fifty or so pages, I really adored this book. Maya was introduced as a fiesty heroine who sought to carve out her own destiny and it seemed like she had an exciting life ahead of her. However, once she got to Amar’s realm, things got weird and confusing. Ultimately, I only really enjoyed the first half of the book. However, I did like that first half enough that I’ll attempt to read the sequel.