Book Review: The Star-Touched Queen

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4-star

Title: The Star-Touched Queen

Author: Roshani Chokshi

Series? Yes. Companion Novel out next year.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Goodreads

Book Depository 


Confession Time: I’ve been obsessed with this book ever since I heard of its premise – it promised to weave Persephone/Hades with the Indian epic Mahabharat. I did all the illogical fangirling thing: stalking the author’s twitter, making an excess amount of graphics, pouring over the internet for reviews and quotes, anxiously waiting by my mailbox for my preorder.

When I learned that Roshani Chokshi considers Catherynne Valente (my favourite author, ever, as you might have heard me mentioned repeatedly) my expectations only skyrocketed. For someone who’s left largely skeptical by hype, I was uncharacteristically 100% committed this particular bandwagon.

“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. I wanted the impossible.”

TSTQ

In short, I cannot be trusted to be completely fair in this review. The book largely met my absurdly high expectations, which is a marvel in itself. The world is richly imagined, each description absolutely arresting and evocative.

I dreamed of locked doors and baying hounds, rooms that were night-dark and a beast-king that smiled and laughed around a mouthful of broken stars to sing one phrase over and over: I know the monster in your bed.

I could go on about the power of the imageries in Star-Touched Queen. I’m by nature not an incredibly visual reader, I think this is why I latch onto writers of ornamental prose with particular fervour. We start the story in the harem where Maya grew up, the descriptions rich of sumptuous fabric and ivory screens. Then we move onto the more fantastical Night Bazaar, with its menagerie of legendary creatures and ensnaring market stalls. Next, we have Amar’s halls, filled with whispered secrets and endless doorways. Each of these settings were drawn lavishly, and I especially love that the metaphors employed often made allusions to the book’s Indian setting – with this ‘turmeric skies’ and ‘dreams sweet as rasmalai’.

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.

The book delivered on its promise of fusing multiple narratives from around the world. I love that the Indian elements were especially strongly represented in this book. The mythologies mentioned weren’t mentioned just by name, we also delved into the core of each founding tale, drawing new worlds and ideas from it. The subversion of the classic Hades/Persephone dynamic was especially delightful, as I will further discuss below. There are also traces of other folklore, such as Maya’s quest through Amar’s halls reminding me of both Bluebeard and Beauty and the Beast. Writers developing their own mythology from the existing foundation is one of my favourite things to read.

Although I am a huge fans of such retellings, in general, I find stories such as Hades/Persephone or Beauty and the Beast largely problematic. Innocent maidens in need of rescue never make for a good story, in any case. Maya was a refreshing breath of fresh air, Amar moved her with promises of independence and power – not with his chiseled cheekbones or irreconcilable circumstances. Maya was given agency and choice every step of the way, and they were true equals. This is less a love story, but a story of self-discovery and awakening for Maya.

Come with me and you shall become an empress with the moon for your throne and constellations to wear in your hair. Come with me and I promise you that we will always be equals.

Speaking of Amar, man can that guy talk., because a pick-up artist could learn a thing or two from this hero. Although he remained largely mysterious throughout the book, the text illustrated the force of his passionate love succinctly. Without spoiling too much, I will say that there are threads of memories and identity weaved into the tale of their romance – making it at once compelling and magnetic. However, I do have to admit that the book felt weakest when it was focused on romance – I was much more interested in Maya’s discovery of her worth and her power.

I know emptiness, I know the taste of blood against my teeth. I know what it is to fill your belly with iron. I know hunger. I know pain. I know memories that won’t stay.

In books with a heavy mythic or folklore influence, I often find it difficult to form a connection with the cast of characters, especially with the side characters. This book proves me wrong on that count, with a couple of intriguing appearances. My favourite has to be the bloodthirsty, eternally hungry, and irreverent Kamala – now there’s a steed suitable for a queen. I also adored Gauri and the connection she had with Maya, and hope that we will be seeing a lot more of her tenacity in the future. On the other hand, I found the villain of this piece a little lacking in comparison to our protagonists. Their motivation and plans seem too simplistic for this otherwise excellent novel.

Verdict? I love it, and I still cannot believe that this is Roshani Chokshi’s debut novel, the lady is a veritable wordsmith! I am so glad the genre has such a vivacious new voice, and will be looking forward to whatever she writes next!


Have you read The Star-Touched Queen? What were your thoughts?

I have a big graphics post coming later this week based on the book! Keep your eyes out and subscribe to my blog if you haven’t already, it will make my day!

27 thoughts on “Book Review: The Star-Touched Queen

  1. Eeep. I’M SO GLAD you liked this!! I was going to order it and then chickened out because I’ve been burnt by a ton of not-so-great debuts lately. BUT OMG THIS SOUNDS WONDERFUL AND PERFECT. I cannot wait!! *puts it back on the to-buy list* And that graphic = 😍 😍

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  2. This book has been on my most anticipated list since I saw it on Netgalley (and failed to get it, haha). Glad you enjoyed it! I’m also excited to see that the author (and a few others) will be going to NYC in May, so I get to book splurge!

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  3. I’m so relieved this lived up to the hype. It’s always scary when you have not only hype from other people, but also hype in your own head. I’m looking forward to your graphics!

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  4. I picked this book up from the library yesterday, but I’ve been dreading starting it, since I’ve been reading so many terrible books recently. Don’t think I can handle it if my expectations are shattered yet again. It’s such a relief to see you loved it! Great review, of course. 😀

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  5. YES! I am so excited for this! The premise is absolutely incredible (I mean, how could you go wrong with a Hades and Persephone retelling with Indian mythology?), so I am so glad to hear that it lives up to the incredible concept. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ❤

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  6. I just finished this book myself, and I loved it. We need more YA like this, books that don’t follow conventions and tell a story in a very original way. It read like a Hades/Persephone retelling told in the style reminiscent of an Indian epic, all with a modern myth twist. Brilliant.

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  7. That graphic is absolutely gorgeous Aentee, gosh your talent! I actually haven’t heard much about this one, but I love mythology and it sounds so incredibly lyrical but with real substance as well. I need this book. I’m opening a new tab to purchase as we speak. Beautiful review Aentee , so lovely and articulate. I think it’s been one of your best ❤ ❤ ❤

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  8. Yesss I literally just jumped on TBD to order this book Aentee! I absolutely love the setting and the Hades/Persephone retelling in amongst the eastern setting. Aside from the villain who is a little lacking, the characters here sound amazing and Amar *fans self*. Lovely review Aentee – I’m looking forward to your graphics post!

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  9. This looks SO GOOD. At this point it’s not even spending all my money that makes me worrying about new books – it’s finding time to read them all. BUT AHHHH I love mythology and fairytales. And I really have to read Catherynne M. Valente because clearly you’re not going to stop talking about her so I might as well see for myself 😉

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  10. I’m so glad that this lived up to your expectations. I actually really like Hades/Persephone and Beauty and the Beast stories. Haha, they just appeal to me for some reason. But I’m even more intrigued by this because of the Indian mythology twist. It sounds awesome! I shall try to pick this one up the next time I make an order. The cover is beautiful too!

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  11. I’m so relieved that this lives up to the hype, I’ve been dying to get my hands on a copy! When I was doing my English degree the Mahabharat was actually assigned reading, so I’m very intrigued to see how this compares/what specifically it borrows from it.

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    1. Oooo I would love to hear your thoughts on it since you’re more familiar with the mythology 💕

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  12. Fantastic review, Aentee! Very thoughtful. I can tell from your quotes that this book is beautifully written. Such flourish writing style not always works for me, sometimes I feel like it’s too much I do love retelling, and I’m intrigued by Indian folklore in this book. And you so vividly described this world. I’m still on the fence about this book. And what a gorgeous graphic you’ve created! Looking forward to your big graphics post.

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    1. Thank you!! The book is gorgeous I think you should give it a go. I think there’s an audiobook if that’s more your style?

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  13. Right??? Roshani is such a wordsmith, I was absolutely BLOWN AWAY by this book. It’s so magical and whimsical and unexpectedly gorgeous. Are you planning on checking out the sequel, Crown of Wishes? Not sure if I am because I liked how it ended, to be honest. Knockout graphic as always! ❤

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    1. I am going to check out whatever Roshani writes in the future so yes I will be getting Crown of Wishes!

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