Last year I was blown away by The Star-Touched Queen, a YA fantasy with a strong eastern flavour that swept me away to another place and time. Indeed, it made my top twenty reads of the year – see here. So I was delighted when Netgalley approved my request to read and review the sequel.
Second books are often tricky to write – particularly if the first book is a runaway success. But if Chokshi was feeling the pressure, there is no hint of it in her confident prose. Perhaps there is not quite so much lush description of the fantastical magic landscapes she takes us to in her story of thwarted kings, slighted and angry princesses and tricky magical beings who enjoy playing with human desires.
Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. However – he is a very cunning prince of a sworn enemy kingdom…
Once more, I have given a potted version of the chatty blurb, but I will just mention that Gauri and Vikram end up taking part in The Tournament of Wishes together. This book is structured as mainly a dual narrative, with Gauri’s story told in first person (I) and Vikram’s narrative written in third person (he). Inevitably, this gives us a more intimate and immediate experience of Gauri’s character. She is a warrior princess, skilled in warfare and emotionally wounded by her abusive, tyrannical brother who has constantly managed to outwit her. As a result she finds herself at odds with those she cares most about – and when she tries to help or ameliorate her brother’s sadistic impulses, her interventions are frequently used against her. Small wonder she is a bundle of fury with absolutely no tolerance for Vikram’s wordplay.
While Vikram’s kindly, animal-loving father has been comprehensively outwitted by the ruling council who have essentially grabbed all the power and as Vikram attempts to impose some brakes on their corruption, he finds himself continually thwarted. He retreats into an academic persona, not remotely interested in the violence and warrior mentality that gives Gauri such comfort. They are truly an oil and water mix.
And that isn’t taking into account the fact that politically they have no business exchanging anything other than blows – their respective countries are long-time enemies. So they make an unlikely team. But teamwork is what they need as they are confronted with a series of tricky magical feats they have to overcome. Essentially this is a classic quest story.
What makes it such a rich, enjoyable feast is Chokshi’s engaging prose and vivid worldbuilding. She writes with such sensual conviction, we can taste and smell her magical landscapes and once more I was enchanted and beguiled. But there is no use spinning us a wonderful feast of delights unless the ending is equally satisfying – and there is no problem with that, either. Chokshi manages to bring this story to a triumphant conclusion that had me sighing with pleasure. If you haven’t encountered her writing, then give yourself a treat. Very highly recommended.
Ohhhhhh I can’t wait to read Crown, so I’m really glad you enjoyed it so much! And just out of curiosity: Does part of this story take place at the same time as The Star-Touched Queen, after Maya has gone to Akaran and married Amar? Or does it take place afterwards? I forgot what the age difference was between Maya and Gauri…
It takes place afterwards – Gauri is younger and yes… Maya does play a part in this one, though not so much.
Glad to see you really enjoyed this. It’s one that passed me by – I remember the first book but as I’m trying to cut back my books at the moment (which is indeed a struggle) for now I’ll just keep adding the books I like the look of to my wishlist – which is becoming embarrassingly long – so this and the first can go on the list.
Both of these books are a joy, which a particular vibe all of their own.
Wow. You really loved this one. I confess, the cover is so spectacular I’d pick it up just because of that:)
Oh I really, really love her style of writing – she is a joy to read. And you’re right – the covers are stunning, aren’t they?
Normally I stay away from YA books , I tend to not enjoy many of those , but an Indian origin author , writing fantasy , with Indian characters and set in India (bharata is the Hindi name of India fyi) and as per your review both have been fantastic books … So basically not only have I added this to my TBR but bumped it several thousand places up to read it asap
Oh, I would LOVE your take on this one, Rash:). I’m guessing Chokshi has woven some classic Indian mythic riffs in amongst her wonderful stories, but it would be great to know whether my hunch is right…
Yep will have to wait before I can buy this , since this is the Month of Tax filing in India and I have financial issues to deal with this month , but I’m surely interested in reading this asap
Oh I know that feeling:(. We are also trying very hard to rein in our book addiction, just now.
Wow, a 10 out of 10! I do need to start this series. I have a copy of the first book, so no more excuses:-)
Oh, well if you’ve got The Star-Touched Queen, I’d be fascinated to hear how you get on with it. I am aware she is a Marmite writer – you either love or loathe her writing style. But I think she is a highly talented storyteller in the classic style.
This sounds like a series that will “sweep you away.” No wonder you enjoyed it!
She has a very sensual, lush writing style which I adore:).
I’m still so torn about this series. It feels like it might be a very good match for me, but the “YA” tag instantly makes me think I’m going to be disappointed. And your review is making me reconsider my choice of putting it away (at least for the time being).
She’s an inspired storyteller and the Eastern tradition sings through her prose. There is a romantic element, but while YA romances can be a bit annoying, I didn’t find this one was.
That’s what makes me so torn. Her books seem so promising… but at the same time, I don’t recall any “contemporary” (as when it was written, not when it’s set) YA book I’ve read that I liked.
In which case you might want to give it a miss – there are some books where I blinked at the YA label, wondering if I’d got it wrong – Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series comes to mind, here – but this is definitely a YA book.