The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi (Epub)

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Ebook Info

  • Published: 2016
  • Number of pages: 353 pages
  • Format: Epub
  • File Size: 4.40 MB
  • Authors: Roshani Chokshi

Description

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.

User’s Reviews

From School Library Journal Gr 9 Up-Born with a horoscope that predicts a marriage of death and destruction, Maya is an outcast in her father’s kingdom, Bharata. When Amar’s political machinations go horribly wrong, Maya finds herself married to him and queen of Akaran-a mysterious place filled with secrets and magic. Amar offers Maya the chance to rule at his side and become more than Bharata ever would have allowed. All he asks in return is her patience and trust, which soon prove more than she can give. Her search for answers will lead her across worlds and through her own fragmented memories to discover surprising truths about her husband’s kingdom and herself. Maya is refreshingly unapologetic about her ambitions and her desire for independence. Although her distrust and doubts lead to the main conflict of the story, she is quick to own those mistakes and works to correct them even when it might be to her detriment. Chokshi’s debut fantasy is filled with vivid and unexpected imagery as Maya discovers the wonders and dangers found in her new home in the Otherworld. Well-researched figures from Hindu folklore and mythology, astonishing creatures, and expressive characters further complement the story. A setting drawn from ancient India, romance with feminist sensibilities, and a unique magic system reminiscent of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Little, Brown, 2011) make this a novel sure to appeal to fans of Renée Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn (Putnam, 2015). VERDICT A stunning debut filled with lush writing, smart characters, and a mysterious plot that provides as many twists as it does swoons.-Emma Carbone, Brooklyn Public Libraryα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. The Star-Touched QueenBy Roshani ChokshiSt. Martin’s PressCopyright © 2016 Roshani ChokshiAll rights reserved.ISBN: 978-1-250-08547-4CHAPTER 1NOT A GHOSTStaring at the sky in Bharata was like exchanging a secret. It felt private, like I had peered through the veil of a hundred worlds. When I looked up, I could imagine — for a moment — what the sky hid from everyone else. I could see where the winds yawned with silver lips and curled themselves to sleep. I could glimpse the moon folding herself into crescents and half-smiles. When I looked up, I could imagine an existence as vast as the sky. Just as infinite. Just as unknown.But today, there was no time to let my head wander. Duty kept my gaze fixed on the funeral pyre slowly winding its way toward the harem. I choked back a cough. Charred incense filled my lungs, thick and over-sweet with the smell of burning marigolds. Beside the pyre, mourners screeched and wept, tearing their hair and smearing ash across their faces. It was an impressive show, but their bored eyes betrayed them. Hired help, no doubt. Real grief had no place in my father’s court.An ivory screen separated the harem from the funerary procession, but I caught snatches of him through the lattice. He wore a white sherwani jacket, and around his throat coiled a necklace strung together with the birthstones of his children. There, by the crook of his neck, my birthstones — a handful of muted sapphires — caught the watery morning light. My father’s head was bent to the ear of a pale-faced courtier, his voice low. He wasn’t talking about the dead wife on the pyre. He probably didn’t even know her name. It was Padmavathi. She had a round face and used to sing in the morning, crooning to her swelling stomach with a secret smile. I never once heard her say a cruel thing about anyone. Not even me.No, my father was discussing war. The shadow of it looms over us constantly, sometimes hidden. Always present. I only know of the war in glimpses, but I see its pall everywhere. I see war in my father’s face, pinching his cheeks sallow. I see war in the courtier’s brows, always bent in grief. I see war in the empty coffers, in the tents where once-spirited soldiers await the crematory grounds.I leaned closer to catch his words, only to be yanked back.”Get away from there,” Mother Dhina hissed. “It’s not right for you to stand at the front.”My jaw tightened, but I stepped back without a word. I couldn’t risk giving the wives more venom. They may have covered their lips with silk, but their words were unsheathed daggers. According to the royal physician, childbirth had killed Padmavathi, but no one believed him. In the eyes of the court, there was only one killer —Me.* * *In Bharata, no one believed in ghosts because the dead never lingered. Lives were remade instantly, souls unzipped and tipped into the streaked brilliance of a tiger, a gopi with lacquered eyes or a Raja with a lap full of jewels. I couldn’t decide whether I thought reincarnation was a scare tactic or a hopeful message. Do this, so you won’t come back as a cockroach. Give alms to the poor, and in your next life you’ll be rich. It made all good deeds seem suspect.Even then, it was a comfort to know that there were no ghosts in my country. It meant that I was alive. To everyone else, I was a dead girl walking. But I was no ghost. I was no spectral imprint of something that had lived and died and couldn’t leave this place behind. It meant I still had a chance at life.By the time the funerary procession ended, the sun had barely begun to edge its way across the sky. The mourners had dispersed as soon as the royal announcement ended and only the flames presided over Padmavathi’s burial. When the noonday bell rang throughout the palace, even the smells — smoke and petals, salt and jasmine — had disappeared, scraped up by the wind and carried far into the shadowless realm of the dead.Before me, the halls of the harem glittered, sharp as a predator’s eyes. Light clung to the curved torsos of statuettes and skimmed the reflections from still pools of water. In the distance, the great double doors of the harem yawned open and the mellow midday heat crept in from the outside. I could never trust the stillness of the harem.Behind me, the living quarters and personal rooms of the harem wives and my half-sisters had melted into shadow. The caretakers had set the children of the royal nursery to sleep. The tutors had begun droning to the betrothed princesses about the lands and ancestries of their soon-to-be husbands.I had my own appointment. My “tutor of the week.” Poor things. They never lasted long; whether that was their decision or mine just depended on the person. It wasn’t that I disliked learning. It was simply that they couldn’t teach me what I wanted to know. My real place of study hovered above their heads. Literally.Outside, the thunder of clashing gongs drifted through the harem walls. Parrots scattered from their naps, launching into the air with a huff and a screech. The familiar shuffle of pointed shoes, golden tassels and nervous voices melted into a low murmur. All of my father’s councilors were making their way to the throne room for his announcement.Within moments, my father would reveal his solution for dealing with the rebel kingdoms. My heart jostled. Father, while never on time, was nonetheless efficient. He wouldn’t waste time on the frivolities of the court, which meant that I had a limited amount of time to get to the throne room and I still had to deal with the most recent tutor. I prayed he was a simpleton. Better yet — superstitious.Father once said the real language of diplomacy was in the space between words. He said silence was key to politics.Silence, I had learned, was also key to spying.I slipped off anything noisy — gold bracelets, dangling earrings — and stashed them behind a stone carving of a mynah bird. Navigating through the harem was like stepping into a riddle. Niches filled with statues of gods and goddesses with plangent eyes and backs arced in a forgotten reel of a half-dance leaned out into the halls. Light refracted off crystal platters piled with blooms the bright color of new blood, and flickering diyas cast smoke against the mirrors, leaving the halls a snarl of mist and petals. I touched the sharp corners. I liked the feeling of stone beneath my fingers, of something that pushed back to remind me of my own solidity.As I rounded the last corner, the harem wives’ sharp laughter leapt into the halls, sending prickles across my arm. The harem wives’ habits never changed. It was the one thing I liked about them. My whole life was crafted around their boredom. I could probably set my heartbeat to the hours they whittled away exchanging gossip.Before I could run past them, a name rooted me to the spot … my own. At least, I thought I heard it. I couldn’t be sure. No matter how much I wanted to plant one foot in front of the other and leave them behind, I couldn’t.I held my breath and stepped backward, pressing my ear as close to the curtains as I could.”It’s a pity,” said a voice sultry from years spent smoking the rose-scented water pipes.Mother Dhina. She ruled the harem with an iron fist. She may not have given the Raja any sons, but she had one enduring quality: life. She had survived seven pregnancies, two stillbirths and a sweating sickness that claimed eight wives in the past three years. Her word was law.”What is?”A simpering voice. Mother Shastri. Second in command. She was one of the younger wives, but had recently given birth to twin sons. She was far more conniving than Mother Dhina, but lacked all the ambition of real malice.”It’s just a pity Advithi didn’t go the same way as Padmavati.”My hands curled into fists, nails sinking into the flesh of my palms. Advithi. I didn’t know her long enough to call her mother. I knew nothing of her except her name and a vague rumor that she had not gotten along with the other wives. In particular, Mother Dhina. Once, they had been rivals. Even after she died, Mother Dhina never forgave her. Other than that, she was a non-descript dream in my head. Sometimes when I couldn’t sleep at night, I’d try to conjure her, but nothing ever revealed itself to me — not the length of her hair or the scent of her skin. She was a mystery and the only thing she left me was a necklace and a name. Instinctively, my fingers found her last gift: a round-cut sapphire strung with seed pearls.Mother Dhina wheezed, and when she spoke, I could almost smell the smoke puffing out between her teeth. “Usually when a woman dies in childbirth, the child goes too.”Mother Shastri chided her with a hollow tsk. “It’s not good to say such things, sister.””And why is that?” came a silvery voice. I couldn’t place that one. She must have been new. “It should be a good thing for a child to survive the mother. It is a shame Padmavathi’s son died with her. Who is Advithi —?””Was,” corrected Mother Dhina with a tone like thunder. The other wife stuttered into silence. “She was nothing more than a courtesan who caught the Raja’s eye. Mayavati is her daughter.””Her? The one with the horoscope?”Another wife’s voice leapt to join the other’s: “Is it true that she killed Padmavathi?”Bharata may not believe in ghosts, but horoscopes were entirely different. The kingdom choreographed whole lives on whatever astral axis was assigned to you. Father didn’t seem to believe in horoscopes. He spoke of destiny as a malleable thing, something that could be bent, interpreted or loosened to any perspective. But that didn’t change the mind of the court. Whatever magic had unearthed meaning in stars, my celestial forecast was shadowed and torn, and the wives never let me forget. It made me hate the stars and curse the night sky.”She might as well have,” said Mother Dhina dismissively. “That kind of bad fortune only attracts ill luck.””Is it true, then?”How many times had I asked myself that question? I tried to convince myself that it was just the idle talk of the harem wives and a series of bad coincidences, but sometimes … I wasn’t so sure.”The Raja needs to get rid of her,” said Mother Shastri. “Before her plague spreads to someone else.””How can he?” scoffed another. “Who would marry her with that horoscope? She brings death wherever she goes.”The new wife, with the silvery voice, piped up eagerly, “I heard her shadow doesn’t stay in one place.”Another voice chimed in, “A servant told me that snakes bow to her.”I pushed myself off the wall. I knew all the rumors, and I didn’t care to hear them again. Their words crawled over my skin. I wanted to shake off the insults, the laughter, the shadows. But all of it clung to me, thick as smoke, pushing out the blood from my veins until I pulsed with hate.The second gong rang in the distance. I walked faster, feet pounding on the marble. As I ran through the gardens, sunlight slanted off my skin and a feeling of wrongness struck me. It didn’t dawn on me until afterward, until light knifed through the fig trees and striped me like a tiger, until I caught the shadow-seamed imprint of a leaf against the paved walkway to the archival buildings.My shadow.I couldn’t see it.CHAPTER 2LESSONS IN SILENCEThe archives were cut like honeycombs and golden light clung to them, dousing every tome, painting, treatise and poem the soft gold of ghee freshly skimmed from boiling butter. I was only allowed to visit once a week — to meet with my weekly tutor before I inevitably scared him away. Every time I left the archival room, my arms brimmed with parchment paper. I loved the feeling of discovery, of not knowing how much I wanted something until I had discovered its absence.The week before, I had lost myself in the folktales of Bharata. Stories of elephants who spun clouds, shaking tremors loose from ancient trunks gnarled with the rime of lost cyclones, whirlwinds and thunderstorms. Myths of frank-eyed naga women twisting serpentine, flashing smiles full of uncut gemstones. Legends of a world beneath, above, beside the one I knew — where trees bore edible gems and no one would think twice about a girl with dark skin and a darker horoscope. I wanted it to be real so badly that sometimes I thought I could see the Otherworld. Sometimes, if I closed my eyes and pressed my toes into the ground, I could almost sense them sinking into the loam of some other land, a dream demesne where the sky cleaved in two and the earth was sutured with a magic that could heal hearts, mend bones, change lives.It was a dream I didn’t want to part with, but I had to settle for what magic I could create on my own. I could read more. Learn more. Make new dreams. But the best part wasn’t hoarding those wishes to myself. It was sharing everything I learned with Gauri, my half-sister. She was the only one I couldn’t scare away … the only one I didn’t want to.Thinking of Gauri always made me smile. But as soon as I caught sight of my tutor of the week, the smile disappeared. He stood between two pillars of the archive section marking the kingdom’s history. Beyond the sheer number of things to read in the archive room, what I loved most was its ceiling. It was empty, wide enough to crawl through and conveniently linked to my father’s inner sanctum.The tutor, as luck would have it, stood directly below my hiding spot.At least Father’s announcement hadn’t started. The courtiers still murmured and the footfall of tardiness fell on my ears like music. But if I was ever going to get to hear that meeting, I had to get rid of the tutor first.”Punctuality is a prize among women,” said the tutor.I bit back a cringe. His voice was sticky. The words drawn out like they would morph into a noose and slip around you in the dark. I stepped back, only to see his eyes sharpen into a glare.He was heavyset and tall. Soft-rounded jowls faded into a non-chin and thick neck. Greasy black eyes dragged across my body. In the past, my tutors had all been the same — a little doughy, a little nervous. Always superstitious. This new tutor held my gaze evenly. That was unexpected. None of my other tutors had ever met my eye. Sometimes the tutors sidled against the dark of the archival chambers, hands trembling as they pushed a set of notes toward me. History lessons, they said. Why did they always start with history? Show me a dream unrealized. Don’t show me unchangeable paths.The tutor cleared his throat. “I have no intention to teach you history or letters or speech. I intend to teach you silence. Stillness.”This time I didn’t even try to hide my scowl. I did not like this replacement. Tutors generally left me alone. I never had to raise my voice. I never had to scowl. I didn’t even need words. What scared them most was much simpler and sweeter than that — a smile. The moment I smiled — not a real one, of course, but a slow, crocodile reveal of teeth and a practiced manic gleam — the tutor would make an excuse, edge along the wall and flee out of the archive rooms.Who wanted to be smiled at by the girl that trailed shadows like pets, conjured snakes and waited for Death, her bridegroom, to steal her from these walls? Never mind that none of it was true. Never mind that the closest I had come to real magic was making off with an entire tray of desserts without anyone noticing. The shadow of me always loomed larger than the person who cast it. And sometimes that had its benefits.This tutor, however, was not as easily cowed. I strained my ears, listening for the footfall of more courtiers, but it was silent. The meeting would start any minute now and here I was, stuck with some fool who wanted to teach me the virtue of silence.I grinned at him …… and he grinned back.”It is unseemly to smile at strangers, Princess.”He took a step closer to me. Shadows glommed around him, choking off the honey light of the room. He smelled wrong. Like he had borrowed the scent of another person. Sweat slicked his skin and when he walked closer, red shimmered in his eyes — like coal smoldering in each socket.”Let me teach you, lovely thing,” he said, taking another step closer. “Humans always get it wrong, don’t they? They think a bowl of rice at the front door is strong enough to keep a demon away. Wrong. What you know is a false promise of strength. Let me show you weakness.”The room had never felt this empty, like I was trapped between the space of an echo and a scream. I couldn’t hear anything. Not the parrots scuttling on their branches or the court notary droning his list of the afternoon’s agenda. Silence was a silhouette, something I could trace. (Continues…)Excerpted from The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi. Copyright © 2016 Roshani Chokshi. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin’s Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site. 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Reviews from Amazon users, collected at the time the book is getting published on UniedVRG. It can be related to shiping or paper quality instead of the book content:

⭐ Title: The Star-Touched QueenAuthor: Roshani ChokshiAge Group: Teen/Young AdultGenre: FantasySeries: The Star-Touched Queen, book oneStar Rating: 4 out of 5 StarsI borrowed this book through my local library and reviewed it.Okay, so I’ll be honest: I’ve been looking forward to this book since I knew of its existence, way back in April of last year. Because of all the books I’ve had to read, I haven’t gotten to it until now, and frankly, I’m really kicking myself over it. I mean, it’s literally almost everything I wanted in a novel, especially a debut, and I’m so happy with it! I can’t wait for the sequel! There were a few little things that made it not completely perfect, but I really enjoyed it nonetheless. What a great book!Maya is cursed, born under a set of stars that foretell death and destruction, literally. Because of that, everyone in the kingdom that her father rules fears her. Whispers about her. Avoids her entirely. Consumed by loneliness because of something she cannot even control, she longs for something more to her life: friends, a family that truly loves her. But all of that changes when the political tides churn with war, and Maya soon finds her life changed forever. Forced to go on an epic quest to save everything she’s come to know, she discovers that the answers she craves lies in the place she least expects: inside herself…Like I said, this book was just wonderful. I mean, what first sold me was the main character, and how diverse she is. (The world needs diverse books, and I’m so happy that we’re making more headway now! Fingers crossed for more next year!) But more than that, the story was just so good! Excellent worldbuilding, breakneck pacing, magic, mayhem, gods and goddesses! I loved The Star-Touched Queen so much, and I can’t wait for the sequel later this year! But there were a few little things that bothered me; I wish more about Amar had been explained, and Gupta as well. It also bugged me a little, how Maya and Amar’s relationship was basically instant. But regardless, this book is definitely a favorite! The bottom line: A brand-new, magical adventure through dangerous, seductive worlds of Indian mythology, The Star-Touched Queen was a fun debut–I can’t wait for the sequel! Next on deck: Avenged by E.E. Cooper!

⭐ This book started off with lush whimsical writing that I found lovely. I really loved the first 35% of this book. When all you know is this girl is marrying a stranger and wondering who that person is and why this is happening. Loved it. I though this may be a 5 star read. Unfortunately after that the story twisted into an almost retelling? And it just wasn’t as enjoyable as if it was a completely new concept. It started off with lots of whimsy and ended very odd and dark. I didn’t have an issue with the writing style so much as the plot. It just wasn’t very enjoyable And I had to push my self to finish a bit. Overall not a bad book but not something I would read again.

⭐ “My star-touched queen… I would break the world to give you what you want.”Magic and myth, life and death, fate and love—Roshani Chokshi enchants with a beautifully written narrative of one girl’s quest for freedom and true love. Inspired by Indian mythology, the story unravels in a vividly imagined world where stars dictate fate. Sixteen-year-old Mayavati (Maya) has been cursed by a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction. Scorned and shunned, Maya has grown up without love, even without the comfort and support of the women in her father’s harem.When her father, the Raja, forces her to marry to appease rising rebellions, her world is upended, especially after unforeseen events propel her into the arms of a mysterious man.“When I looked at him, something stirred inside of me. It felt like recognition sifted through dreams; like the moment before waking—when sleep blurred the true world, when beasts with sharp teeth and beautiful, winged things flew along the edges of your mind.”Maya becomes the wife of Amar and queen of Akaran—a land of which she’s never heard. Soon, she’s traveling through mythical places with a man whose unexpected tenderness disarms.Once in Akaran, her home is both majestic and chillingly barren. Magic doors conceal more secrets, death and life tangle in threads, and she learns just how easily she can disrupt the fragile balance between realms.“You and I are the ground and ceiling of our empire.”As days and weeks pass, with rousing words and unfeigned affection, Maya falls for the enigmatic Amar. Despite the many secrets he harbors, the sentiments feel real and emotions intensify.“Neither the secret whirring song of the stars nor the sonorous canticles of the earth knew the language that sprang up in the space between us. It was a dialect of heartbeats, strung together with the lilt of long suffering and the incandescent hope of an infinite future.”But then she discovers he knows more about her past than he let on. Worse yet, the more she digs, the more she realizes just how tangled his secrets are, how far they go.The love she’d felt splinters when truths about Amar are finally revealed… but even then, truths and lies blur together and she must figure out what really happened—secrets that hide in her previous lives. Before too long, Maya finds herself desperately fighting to save those she loves the most.Chokshi’s lyrical style warmly envelops the reader, drawing them into a deeply mythical world where anything can happen. I loved her writing, loved the secrets and characters… in fact, I would have loved to see even deeper character explorations. The world just teemed with possibility. The Star-Touched Queen is an impressive, spellbinding debut which is sure to set the fantasy readership abuzz.“I love you… You are my night and stars, the fate I would fix myself to in any life.”

⭐ Before reading The Star-Touched Queen, I never really understood what people meant when they said that a certain book is written beautifully. Nothing about the writing of those books had ever really stood out to me as anything super spectacular. BUT then I read this book and I completely understand what people are saying now! The way Chokshi strings words together is fantastic!I know that this book is a retelling of Indian mythology, but, to me, it reads like I would expect a fairytale to! While I was reading it, I found it to have an almost dream-like quality that gave me a similar feeling to watching something like Alice in Wonderland. Everything just seems to have a magical quality to it.The only complaint I have about this book is that, while the writing is wonderful, the flowery-ness of it was a little bit hard for me to follow in the beginning. When the story was still just getting rolling and not a lot was happening yet, I found myself rereading passages several times just to grasp what was being said.Maya is a Princess of Bharata. She has always had a kind of freedom due to her horoscope. When she was born, the stars foretold a marriage to death and destruction and everyone either hates her for it or is afraid of her. When bad things happen, fingers usually point to Maya for the blame.Maya seems to spend her free time avoiding the Harem wives, telling stories to her little half sister Gauri, scaring away tutors, and eavesdropping on her father’s meetings.She peeks in on one meeting to find people talking war strategies. And she doesn’t like what she hears. Bharata is at war with the surrounding kingdoms. Her father’s suggestion for peace is to marry her off to a prince or Raja of one of the warring countries. But that’s not all her father will ask of her.On the day of her wedding, chaos breaks loose and she chooses Amar, the Raja of Akaran, to be her husband and he takes her away from Bharata to his kingdom. On the journey to her new home, Maya sees things and places that she thought only existed in the fairytales she told to Gauri. The trip to Akaran takes her through the Night Bazaar and she can’t believe that the place is really real and not just the stuff of stories.Akaran is not what Maya expected. It’s really bare and empty. The palace she now inhabits is full of secrets, tests, and lies. She will see and learn things that she never expected would be possible.Maya is awesome. Gahhh… I just don’t really know what to say beyond that. She’s learned to be content by herself because who wants to marry a girl who’s horoscope foretells a marriage to death and destruction? She has kind of embraced the horoscope and uses it to her advantage, usually to scare away new tutors so she can continue to do as she pleases. I just thought she was so smart and brave!Amar is hard to figure out in the beginning. He pops up out of nowhere as a potential husband at Maya’s wedding and saves her from a horrible fate. Then he introduces her to a world straight from her imagination and treats her as his equal to rule beside him. He isn’t really straightforward about anything and seems to disappear a lot with no explanation.I didn’t know what to think about him for a long time and therefore didn’t know what to think of the romance for awhile! I did end up really liking it and this didn’t affect my feelings about the book at all, it was just something that kept me on my toes while I was reading.I found all the information about reincarnation to be really interesting. About what happens after death and what a person has to go through before being reincarnated based on their life choices! I thought the way that was written was so cool and I have never read anything quite like it!Overall, I don’t think I did this book justice with my review. My brain was just a muddled mess the entire time I was writing this, but just know that I loved it! I would highly recommend you pick this one up on the 26th and see for yourself! If you like writing that is beyond lovely, reincarnation, and mythology, you will like this book too.

⭐ Roshani Chokshi’s debut novel, The Star-Touched Queen, is full of gorgeous and breath-taking imagery, but fell short when it came to having a clear, structured plot. Maya has always been an outcast, defined by a doomed horoscope since birth. Most regard her with superstition and distrust, viewing her as a walking omen. For Maya, this works in her favor, beside her younger half-sister, Gauri, there is no one in the whole of Bharata that she’d like to spend time with. But inside Maya wants more. Tired of being defined by so-called fate, she plunges head first into the strange world of Akaran, where she is promised the power to define her own future. But her own ambition and need to prove herself threaten to become her downfall.While I really liked Maya’s character arc, it became a guessing game for a large portion of the novel, as I tried to figure out what its main conflict was. Bharata was on the brink of war when Maya left for Akaran and her disappearance becomes a catalyst, but as time plays tricks in this mysterious kingdom, we as readers are left in the dark, waiting for something significant to happen with the overall plot of the story. It isn’t until we are nearing the end of the novel that we learn of Bharata’s fate. While not a long novel, it did feel like I had to wait an awfully long time for the story to actually take off. I also had a hard time feeling invested in Amar’s character. Though Maya is spellbound by him and their relationship is meant to feel like destiny, there are certain elements at play that kept me from truly understanding his character and looking back, I still don’t feel like I got to know him as much as I did Maya. If more time had been devoted to his own character development, I think I would have liked reading about the evolution of their relationship more.The kingdom of Akaran itself is a rich and enchanting setting. There are mysteries behind every door, entities lurking about that aren’t quite what they seem, and magic that is at once awe-inspiring as well as frightening. The Star-Touched Queen plays with the idea of fate versus free-will: are our choices ours or have they already been determined? Chokshi’s writing is otherworldly and at times I had to pause just so I could admire the way she uses language to paint such a lovely and vivid picture of this world. There’s such potential in her writing, I’m fairly confident the next book will be an improvement upon this one. There’s a specific minor character in this novel that I felt more drawn to than the protagonist. Her story seemed really interesting and compelling, despite knowing very little of her journey. If you’ve read the synopsis to the follow-up novel, A Crown of Wishes, you’ll know who I’m referring to. I wasn’t sure about this novel getting a sequel, but knowing who it will be focused on makes me pretty excited about it.

⭐ NOTES ON DIVERSITY:This is a book about a woman of color by a woman of color. The cast is all people of color–specifically Indian people. The fantastic creatures that appear come from Indian folklore and mythology.In many ways, the diversity stops there. No queer characters appear in the book. There is no discussion of disability. Class does not come to the fore.1 Readers longing for an exploration of these themes may want to look elsewhere.REVIEW:Mayavati was born with bad luck. Her horoscope states that her marriage will join her to death, devastation and destruction. In the land of her birth, Bharata, a bad horoscope taints a person.Maya is shunned by the wives and daughters of the harem, left to her own devices, until fate moves her to a place where her death can be used as a political tool. But she does not die. She finds herself married to a mysterious king of a mysterious land–Akaran, where creatures of myth and legend roam. Amar, her new husband, tells her she has powers she never dreamed of, and that he can teach her, but only if she doesn’t ask too many questions, and only if she doesn’t explore the new palace. But, of course Maya’s curiosity gets the better of her.First, I have to say that Chokshi’s writing is gorgeous. I’ve read her short stories, so I knew that going in. She has a wonderful way with unexpected visual metaphors that surprise and delight me:”This was the court of Bharata, a city like a bone spur — tacked on like an afterthought.”Or:”A sound spidered through the floor.”The book is beautifully written, a real pleasure to read. Chokshi is the kind of stylist I am jealous of as a fellow writer as I know my own writing is much more prosaic than hers. Hers sings; it’s lyrical. You can get lost in the words.The structure of the book, too, is so clever once you know the story. *Of course* Maya told all of those stories to Gauri!2 *Of course* the details she made up proved to be true when she makes it to the Night Market! I REALLY WANT TO TELL YOU THINGS RIGHT NOW THAT ARE SPOILERS but I will not, so please read the book so we can discuss, ok?The narrative is lovely, too. I really rooted for Maya. As a character she is ambitious and she is suspicious. She sneaks into the rafters of her father’s diplomatic councils and learns about warcraft and politics. She yearns for power. She knows she is smart, and she wants to use her sharp and cutting mind for *something* for *anything*. It was not surprising to me that when presented with the opportunity her new husband, Amar, represents that she would take it. She may be attracted to him at the outset, and grateful for his rescue, but she does not immediately fall in love with him. I loved this tension within her, the suspicion of him (she openly says she does not trust him to him) and this desire for power.Maya is such a strong character. She has such agency throughout. Chokshi draws her as a complete human being, and allows her to both rise to full glorious potential and to give in to her weaknesses. She falters. She learns from her mistakes. One of her mistakes is very dire, indeed, and she does what she needs to, sacrifices what she has to, to make things right. Maya is a better, more mature version of herself by the end of the book. Not a different person–still herself, still recognizably herself, but grown up. The character work in THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN when it comes to Maya is truly excellent. The characterization of some of the minor characters–Kamala and Gauri, especially–was also very strong.I wish the characterization of the other two main leads, Amar and Nritti, were as strong. Amar remains throughout a besotted cypher. We know he loves her, and that he has secrets, and that’s about it in terms of his character development. Honestly, in terms of plot, he doesn’t have much else to do, but there could have been a great deal more shading here to differentiate him from the other Brooding But Secretly Very Loving Love Interests I’ve read.Nritti is a much more interesting case. She is the book’s main antagonist, and her role in the plot and in Maya’s life3 is a complicated one. They were friends, until they weren’t, and Maya only half-remembers a shadow of a feeling of trust in Nritti. Until Nritti’s backstory is revealed, it’s key that her characterization is very strong–that the reader feel that she is trustworthy, that we have a strong connection to her, too, stronger to her, perhaps, than to Amar because her role in the story is not so well telegraphed by narrative convention as Amar’s is. But she winds up ambiguous. And then she winds up duplicitous. And as a character, for me, she wound up a hollow, strange mess of wasted potential.Nritti, also, was highlights worrisome issue in that there was an underlying element of femme…suspicion? in the book. It seemed as if the more feminine a female character was, the less Maya could trust that character (from childhood, an example would be the harem wives who exclude her). Gauri, her sister, grows into a soldier. Kamala, a female-identified flesh-eating horse demon that appears in the last third or so of the book ends up being a much more interpretable, sympathetic, and interesting character than Nritti. Kamala has more shading and depth. So it isn’t that Chokshi didn’t know how to write her non-human characters, or characters that are at first glance repugnant. It’s that Nritti never quite formed. I think this is an Unfortunate Unintended Consequence, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen in the text.Still, I would recommend this book. The weaknesses with Amar and Nritti are, to me, quite well balanced by the strength of Maya herself, and by the beauty of the writing. I very much enjoyed this book, and I am excited to see what Chokshi does with the next book.__________1: Arguably there is a glancing blow at class made in the book when Maya returns to Bharata as a sahdvi. I don’t count this, personally, as a discussion of class since she experiences her role as a sahdvi as a costume/disguise. She never claims the status fully. This is a book about a princess. Maya is a princess who was abused emotionally and psychologically, yes, but she was first a princess and then a queen, and her social position and worldview is different throughout the book than a peasant or a pauper.2: GAURI!!!! I am very excited that the companion novel, A CROWN OF WISHES, is all about her.3: Technically, in Maya’s *lives* since Nritti knew Maya in a previous incarnation, too.

⭐ I was HIGHLY anticipating The Star-Touched Queen. I’ve been excited for it since before it had a cover and an official synopsis. The title drew me in, as did the description that came with the Publishers Weekly deal announcement. While there were MANY things I loved about this book, it didn’t wow me the way I had hoped. But I don’t think that was the book so much as this slump I’m in…You see, I seem to be in a Life Slump. All the books I was most excited for in 2016? Not enjoying as much as I’d expected to. And I KNOW it’s not the books, it’s me. Sadly, The Star-Touched Queen was another victim of this Life Slump and it was hit the worst because I was in the middle of reading it when my beloved chocolate lab had to be put to sleep. If you’ve been following my blog for a long time and if you follow me on social media, you know my chocolate lab was my baby. So this was a particularly devastating blow for me – but also one more thing in a string of bad blows in the last year. And my reading has definitely suffered for that – but more about that later (I’m working on a blog post about all this). Back to the review!Anyway, I still did love many things about this book, including the gorgeous writing and the world. I didn’t dislike the characters but I felt a little detached from them, which was disappointing because I wanted to LOVE them. I’m a huge fan of mythology, though and the Hades/Persephone myth is one of my favorites, so I really loved that aspect of the story and the characters. I also loved seeing the Indian mythology twist on the tale, since I’ve only really read retellings of the Greek mythology version.Though I didn’t love the characters as much as I’d hoped to, Maya was definitely intriguing. She grew so much from the beginning of the story to the end. This book had a small cast of characters, so saying she had the most character development of all the characters is a bit of a stretch, but it’s the truth. I definitely liked the chemistry between Maya and Amar – the snarkiness and the love-to-hate relationship.I LOVED this world, especially the Night Bazaar. The Night Bazaar reminded me of the marketplace in Aladdin’s Agrabah, mixed with the darkness and quirkiness of Hercules’s Underworld (Disney’s version of both these places, to clarify) – It was so gorgeous and fantastical! And that’s mostly thanks to Chokshi’s beautiful writing and epic descriptions. I felt like I was in the world, experiencing the story as Maya. Chokshi definitely nailed the idea of “show don’t tell.”The last ten page of the book were the absolute BEST. I know that seems weird to say, but they were truly my favorite part of the entire book. So much happened, so many things were answered and so many things finally made sense. I might have been a bit disconnected from the characters in the beginning, but I loved the way Maya’s story ended. It was perfection and couldn’t have ended any better or any other way. I know there’s a sequel in the works, but I don’t know if it’s with the same characters or if it’s a companion, but I’m REALLY hoping it’s with Maya and Amar again. I NEED to know what happens next!!!So, despite my Life Slump effecting some of my enthusiasm for this book, I still did really enjoy it and I would definitely recommend it for anyone who loves mythology. It’s the kind of book that I could see myself reading again, after this Life Slump is over and things have calmed down, and I think I’d enjoy it twice as much! I’m eager to see what Roshani Chokshi comes up with next, whether it be a sequel or companion to this book or something else entirely.

⭐ 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.First, I have to say I adored this book, 5 stars! I was warned by some book friends that it was a bit abstract, which it is, but I thought it was brilliant. It also reminded me a bit of Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge; the very complex world building required of both books in incredible. I really enjoyed the main character and narrator in this book Maya; she is strong and intelligent which is something I love to see in MCs. The writing in this book is amazing, seriously, Roshani Chokski is an amazing writer and I am surprised that this book has no gotten more attention. Also, the hardcover edition of this book is absolutely stunning.My star-touched queen,’’ he said softly, as if he was remembering something long ago. ‘‘I would break the world to give you what you want.’’I also really enjoy mythology and re-tellings and enjoyed what I think are hints at the Hades/Persephone myth. And of course, it did remind me of Alice in Wonderland because of all the doors and magical rooms in Akaran. I also really enjoyed this book because it was so different from anything else I have read recently which is always refreshing. The plot does get a bit complicated at times but I never found it hard to follow and it moves along at steady pace. And I enjoyed many of the other characters such as Amar and the smart mouthed demon horse Kamala. And of course, I do enjoy romance, so this book had a great mix of fantasy, mythology and romance. Happy reading!

⭐ I IMMEDIATELY fell in love with this author from the first paragraph of this book. Dude. It is so interestingggg. All the pretty words that make you want to savor every sentence.It took a huge storyline turn into crazy acid-trip land — which I wasn’t expecting AT ALL, but wasn’t complaining about exactly because I’ve never in my life read anything like this, and because the details were beautiful and captivating. This IS fantasy after all.I loved:-all the juicy descriptions, although sometimes I wondered if Roshani Chokshi even knew what she was writing about bahaha-Amar’s love and the reveal of their love story-the dialogue and actions of Kamala were hilariousI didn’t like:-not knowing where the heck we were going (part one ended in a way that kept me up all night heartsick, and then part two started, and I was lost and a little confused about what was happening, but was along for the ride nonetheless).You have to read this book. Roshani Chokshi is so talented with words, the descriptions come to life.

⭐ This story is rife with beauteous, ornate language. It oozed metaphors in adundance, and I found myself deeply contemplating each and every metaphor, puzzled over how one person could create such masterful lines.A story entrenched in Indian folklore and mythology, we find ourselves poured into a world that is very far from our own. Our main character Mayavati, Maya for short, seems to be doomed from the start. In the world of Bharata, its citizens rely heavily on the stars to help dictate their whole lives, and the lives of others. Maya’s horoscope is deemed the most tragic of all; a life that will be paired with death and destruction. Her father, the Raja of Bharata (in our terms, a King of his land), does not take stock in prophecies that are said to be written in the costellations.While Maya loves her father for this, he does not stop his many wives, or their daughters, from tormenting her and ostracizing her from everyone. Maya’s own mother died during child birth, an event that added to Maya’s cursed horoscope beliefs; Maya feels all alone.Mother Dhina, the top wife of Maya’s father, who’s status was raised based solely on her own hardships of countless still-born births and her own victories against encountering death, she is pretty much the Queen. She’s ruthless against Maya, and never lets her forget that she’s a blight on the world. We as readers, pity Maya from the start. And easily grow to hate Mother Dhina too.The story progresses quickly with the events that unfold. Maya’s land is on the verge of losing the war against the other Raja’s. A quick plan is hatched by Maya’s father, thrusting Maya into a betrothal with another Raja. But devious in his plans, he gives Maya poison in a vial, and says to kill herself. Basically, the plan was to lure the enemies to their land and then attack. But Maya’s father believes he’s doing his daughter a favor by letting her make her end her way, rather than becoming the wife of an enemy Raja.Of course, Maya sees this as deep betrayal. However, she comes close to killing herself. Until, she’s saved by the Raja of Akaran, a mysterious man named Amar. Maya later finds out he’s the ruler of the Otherworld, a place that’s between the living and the dead.Things become more complex, and I won’t divulge anymore information on plot. I will say that this book is chock full of amazing quotes that I would love to now share.”I wanted a love thick with time, as inscrutable as if a lathe had carved it from night and as familiar as the marrow in my bones.”Who doesn’t want a timeless love that feels as familiar as your own mind and body? Duh!”No matter where we are, we’ll always share the same sky. We can always find eachother in the same constellation.”(Swoons)”I know your soul. Everything else is an ornament.”I guess Amar doesn’t find her pretty? Hehe, just joking. Seriously though, Chokshi continuously writes some amazing lines.The reason this book did not get 5 stars is mainly out of my own personal aesthetics. I find it hard to fall in love with books that dive into “suspension of belief” material. I’m not familiar with Indian mythology or its culture, but I often found myself deeply confused by the imagery. I felt disconnected, as if I wasn’t invited to a very important party I’m supposed to attend. An author that’s writing about a culture that’s very specific, yet writes for an audience that is diverse, needs to make their work relatable. I should be able to pick up the book and understand everything your telling me, even if I’m not from that culture.A lot of the world within the book, seemed so far from my own, or any other world I’ve read about, it was hard to fully appreciate it. I couldn’t completely fall in love with the world or it’s characters. It was so frustration because I love the ornate writing so much. But if you can’t completely draw me in, where I’m 100% invested, then I feel like the author has failed in telling their story properly. And it pains me to say this, but there were times the ornate writing and imagery made the situation even worse. It was in these moments, I honestly felt like I was on an acid trip, completely high and seeing things that did not make any lick of sense.A Star-Touched Queen is coated with flowery words and spell-binding language and imagery. A story about a girl who’s fate seems tragically sealed. And a man who’s shrouded in darkness, but finds the light in our favored young protagonist. If you like the element of suspension of belief, this is the book for you. However, if you like your characters and world more grounded in reality, this is not the story for you. In the end, readers will soar high in the sky, become mesmerized by the stars that are our characters, and dance with fate as we see our characters’ own fates unfold.

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The Things We Keep: A Novel by Sally Hepworth (Epub)

With huge heart, humor, and a compassionate understanding of human nature, Sally Hepworth delivers a page-turning novel about the power of love to grow and endure even when faced with the most devastating of obstacles. You won’t forget The Things We Keep.

The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir by Ruth Wariner (Epub)

The thirty-ninth of her father’s forty-two children, Ruth Wariner grew up in polygamist family on a farm in rural Mexico. In The Sound of Gravel, she offers an unforgettable portrait of the violence that threatened her community, her family’s fierce sense of loyalty, and her own unshakeable belief in the possibility of a better life. An intimate, gripping tale of triumph and courage, The Sound of Gravel is a heart-stopping true story.

The Reader by Traci Chee (Epub)

Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible.