From the mortal world to the Otherworld, Roshani Chokshi's The Star-Touched Queen will take you on a magical adventure, full of exquisite dialogues and passages, witty banter, a heroine you want to root for from the beginning, a romance that will make you swoon, and world-building that will set your imagination ablaze. This is one of my favorite reads of 2016 thus far!
As a fan of both Greek and Indian culture and mythology, I was thrilled to receive an Advance Reading Copy of The Star-Touched Queen, which features a lush Indian setting and references to Indian food and relational titles, making me wonder if perhaps the kingdom of Bharata does indeed exist somewhere within the vast, wild, beautiful country that is India. The world-building and supporting descriptions of setting and place in this story are truly stunning. Not only do we get to know the kingdom of Bharata, but we also become familiar with the kingdom of Akaran, the latter of which is just as disturbingly creepy as it is beautiful in the mind's eye.
The characters are top-notch, too, and I was an immediate fan of our female protagonist, Mayavati (or Maya for short.) She is a lonely but strong-hearted girl, with a desire for freedom and education, and with clear feministic ideals. When, in a strange twist of fate, she becomes the queen (rani) of Akaran and wife to the mysterious Amar, she takes things in stride. After a lifetime of derision, Amar's steady confidence in her and love he shows towards her (the romance!) is just what she needs. That is, until she begins to hear strange voices in her new home and discovers a hidden room that causes her to doubt everything she thought she knew about her new husband and kingdom. When Maya makes a decision that rips at the very threads of her world, she is plunged into an intense, heart-pounding race against time to make things right.
The romance, without giving too much away, is sweet and subtle. Roshani Chokski chose to focus less on the physical approach to romance, and more on the romance of words spoken in strong yet quiet refrain. Amar's way with words will make even the hard-to-please swoon in their seats. I highlighted quite a few passages!
I would be remiss if I didn't mention a certain, er, demon horse in my review. Now, don't let the mention of a demon horse, who can talk no less, sway you from reading this beautiful story, dear reader. Kamala is so well-written, sass and all, that you don't even question the existence of a (talking) demon horse. She is natural within the setting, and I'll bet you $5 that, despite your initial apprehension, you'll come out of this story wishing that Kamala were your spirit animal!
The Star-Touched Queen is a masterpiece of magical realism in Young Adult literature, full of originality, luscious imagery, a plot that is both whimsical and nightmarish, characters you both love and hate, and an astonishing conclusion that will leave you wanting for more. You'll find this beauty in stores on April 26, 2016 -- if you buy one book in April, dear reader, make it this one!
Special thanks to St. Martin's Griffin for sending me an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.