Having all the depth of a pavement puddle, I was lured into requesting the NetGalley arc of this book, because of the beautiful cover. Did my obsession with bright pretty things play me false?
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, has other plans for her.
And that is ALL I’m prepared to reveal of the blurb, which then immediately lurches into major Spoiler territory, as it happily provides most of the main plotpoints of the book. Please take my firm advice and avoid it until you have had a chance to read the book, first. Chokshi’s handling of the narrative in this book is non-linear and well executed – it would be such a shame if you read this lushly told novel with prior knowledge of the storyline.
The prose is rich and lyrical, spinning a beautiful world with a brutal undertow. It reminded me, in parts, of N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Maya’s angry bitterness at being reviled for a horoscope she can do nothing about, informs her behaviour. She is outcast and resentful – I really liked the fact that she didn’t resort to victimhood or any form of self pity.
As I sank into Chokshi’s opulent writing, I prepared for the story to slowly unfold – but instead, the narrative steadily gains pace as it whisks up a gear once Maya escapes from her father’s palace and enters a completely different world. The success of this book entirely hinges on the protagonist – not only is the story in Maya’s first person viewpoint throughout, but narrative pivots around her and her actions. It would have been so easy for Chokshi to turn her into a Mary Sue, or some martyred victim and it is to the author’s credit that she manages to avoid both pitfalls.
It helps that there is a solid cast of supporting characters in this fantastic tale of rulers and deities – chief being Amar, the mysterious king. Again, the romantic element of the story is well controlled, with plenty of passion and emotion evoked without tipping into sentimentality or becoming clichéd. However, my favourite character is the flesh-eating horse who initially befriends Maya with the hope that she will let him snack on her arm. And yes… if that comes across as amusing – it is. At a time in the book when everything else is very grim, this mordant humour is both welcome and appropriate.
I read late into the night, half dreading the ending. This roller-coaster read was so enjoyable, I both didn’t want it to end, and was also afraid it would be a dismal disappointment. But Chokshi triumphantly pulls off a climactic, wholly satisfying ending to an accomplished Fantasy read that takes the story of an outcast princess and manages to turn it into something memorable and different, due to her beautiful prose. She is One to Watch.
The ebook arc copy of The Star-Touched Queen was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book