posted at Thursday, April 13th, 2017 at 8:00 AM | Mini Reviews, Reviews, Young Adult
Series: The Star-Touched Queen #1
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on April 24, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Mythology, Romance
Amazon • The Book Depository • Audible
Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?
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, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…
But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.
The Star-Touched Queen has been on high on my list of wants for a long time; I picked up the sequel at ALA as an excuse to finally dive into this book I hadn’t had time to read yet. In some ways, Chokshi’s debut was massively impressive, but in others it failed utterly.
I absolutely full on loved the first fifty pages or so of this book. Maya’s cursed, fierce, and politically-minded. She’s got enough of a sense of humor to prank one of the women in the harem who is consistently mean to her by hiding her shoes. She uses her curse to scare off her tutors so that she can sneakily observe her father’s running of the kingdom, dreaming of affecting change and ruling someday. She’s vibrant, strong, caring, and I loved her immediately.
On top of that, Chokshi’s writing is absolutely gorgeous. She honestly approaches Laini Taylor levels of prose in my opinion. It’s lush, rich, magical, and she has a gift for delivering the over the top and the whimsical in a way that flows and feels natural on a prose level. Her prose is masterful. Unfortunately, as my recent DNF of Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer shows, prose alone cannot make up for a lack of plot and characterization.
The Star-Touched Queen slams into a wall, or perhaps, more accurately, sails into a doldrums when Maya reaches Akaran with her new secretive husband. There’s a Bluebeard sort of feel to his refusal to answer any questions (though he promises that he physically cannot explain until the turning of the moon, which um okay random, and of course she arrived just after a turning of the moon so it’s a max delay) and the fact that his palace is full of all these creepy ass doors he keeps telling her not to open. Maya spends chapters upon chapters moping about, complaining about how they won’t tell her anything, and listening to the obviously creepy and evil voice that tells her to open the creepiest door in the place. This shit is boring. The pacing comes to a dead fucking halt,View Spoiler » which I guess is appropriate for a realm of the dead but jesus christ this is not how you narrative « Hide Spoiler.
This narrative dead space could have been used to establish the ship, but she and Amar are almost never together. He goes about his secret work and she mopes and mistrusts him. For a book that hinges entirely on romance, there is basically no romance in it. Everything is the worst kind of instalove. View Spoiler »She’s a reincarnation of his former lover and they are MEANT TO BE, which I guess means absolutely no work or connection is needed. Boring AF. « Hide Spoiler The passion in the prose cannot disguise the absolutely lack of connection between Amar and Maya.
Worse even than the plot ceasing to have any real forward motion, the Maya of the opening disappears, never to be seen again for the rest of the book. The clever problem-solver with internal strength doesn’t make logical choices, doesn’t draw on her supposedly immense knowledge of fairy tales to figure out that Akaran might be Nakara (I mean, come on that’s barely changed), and doesn’t try to get Amar and Gupta to accidentally let information slip by pestering them with questions, despite the fact that she accidentally does this; it causes minor pain but like they’ll deal.
The entire plot of this book is Maya doing an incredibly, obviously, massively stupid thing (and taking her damn sweet time about it). As soon as she arrives in Akaran, the reader knows that she is going to listen to the creepy voice, which is obviously the creepy figure that visited her the night before her wedding (a scene that’s never really explained and that Maya doesn’t connect for fucking AGES). The reader knows Maya is going to be an idiot and listen to this voice because she doesn’t trust Amar. The reader also knows, because everything is the worst, that Maya will wait until there is only a day or two remaining before Amar would have told her everything.
So Maya does the stupid thing. She breaks everything. She IMMEDIATELY regrets it. Then the rest of the plot is Maya working to put everything right back where it was before. The whole book, plotwise, is a pointless nonentity, an exercise in frustration. To make it worse, the fixes things with so much convenience. Crashed back down in the mortal world, a fantastical talking death horse finds her and is just the companion she needs to fix things, knows exactly where to take her. It’s like a video game for children, where she always meets the person who can tell her what to do next and how to accomplish it. What she has to do to defeat the evil one is so fucking easy, I melted down. This is absolutely one of the worst plots I have ever read.
The Star-Touched Queen has some of the most marvelous writing in YA, but the plot is a complete fail, outside of the fascinating beginning. The characterization is also almost entirely nonexistent, aside from (again) the opening chapters. The world building while vibrant, isn’t well-established, so fantastical creatures appear as if from nowhere to be name-dropped like you should already be acquainted with them.
Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:
I received this book for free from ALA in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi
Series: The Star-Touched Queen #2
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on March 28, 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Mythology, Romance
Amazon • The Book Depository • Audible
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. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes—a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.
Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels.
Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.
After I struggled so much with The Star-Touched Queen, I wasn’t thrilled to pretty much immediately set out on A Crown of Wishes, but I felt it best to get back up on the talking, meat-eating horse, as it were. A Crown of Wishes does improve on The Star-Touched Queen massively in pacing and characterization, though the plot still leaves a lot to be desired.
Were it not for the fact that I was already so frustrated with Chokshi’s plotting, I suspect the ship would have made this a 3.5 for me, but I was in too much of a critical frame of mind to ever fully revel in the shippiness the way I ordinarily do.
Plotwise, there’s a better frame to the story, since it doesn’t hinge on Gauri (or Vikram) doing a stupid thing and then fixing the stupid thing. It’s actually precisely the same plot as Caraval, which I didn’t like the plotting of earlier this year. As with the last chapters of The Star-Touched Queen, characters constantly show up to guide and assist the main characters in what they’re doing without any genuine motivation of their own. It’s an Alice in Wonderland-type plot where things happen but there’s no real sense of the point of anything; I know some people enjoy the surprise of this, but I’m a reader who really needs a clear structure and arc. Death fake outs abound. in hilarious fashion. Things wind up in neat little, convenient bows. However, there are a few instances where Vikram and Gauri do figure things out on their own, like the riddles and how to handle the challenges within them. That’s a step up from TSTQ.
The big difference between the two books is that Vikram and Gauri have strong, consistent, delightful personalities. I absolutely adore the set up of this ship. Gauri’s a fierce warrior, hard of heart and stern. Vikram is useless in a fight, preferring the might of his intellect, and speaks in constant witticisms. The banter between the two is on point, and adorable. Their relationship arc is excellent, though I could have done without the three scenarios where they thought the other one was dead. Especially cute is how they get together at the end of the book.
The writing I loved a smidge less than in The Star-Touched Queen. TSTQ was entirely in third person limited. There are three perspectives in A Crown of Wishes: Gauri in first person, Vikram and Aasha in third person limited. First issue is that Vikram probably would have made a better character to write in first, since he has the strongest voice, though I didn’t mind Gauri’s perspective. Aasha, however, really didn’t need to be a POV character; this is clearly a convenient plot vehicle, and she almost entirely lacks in personality.
Though I absolutely cannot read series out of order without a fair amount of mental anguish, if you can, I’d recommend skipping The Star-Touched Queen and coming straight to A Crown of Wishes, as long as you are the sort to appreciate shippy crack fantasy. If you enjoyed Caraval, this is a superior (though still deeply flawed) readalike to that book.
Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy: