& Review: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

The Star-Touched Queen by Rpshani Chokshi. Publisher: St Martin's Griffin April 2016

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi. Publisher: St Martin’s Griffin April 2016

The Book Itself: I love the jewel-toned colors and mysterious landscape. The scroll work around the edges is great too. It seems appropriately moody and dramatic for the story itself. Almost mythological as well.

The Review: 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.

I heard of The Star-Touched Queen through one of my book subscription services, where a pretty quote poster got me hooked. I looked it up, the synopsis made me salivate (mythology of all kinds! Mystery! Intrigue! Romance!), and I entered the Goodreads Giveaway for a copy.

And I won it. As luck would have it, my lovely, shiny copy came in the mail just as I was finishing up a book. I dove in straight away.

I loved the beginning, my attention wavered for a bit as the central mystery (just who is her husband, really?) dragged on, and I loved the reveal of who he was/where he had taken her….and then it all fell apart for me.

Here’s what I think the central problem is: it focuses on the beauty of certain words together, of overly descriptive, flowery, over-the-top language, and of sweeping declarations of love/obsession, that the plot itself falls apart. There are certainly some pretty sentences here, but I would rather have the occasional beautiful phrase that makes me pause AND a well fleshed-out story and characters, rather than just the effusive, incredible language.

The central mystery of who Maya married and where he has taken her builds up for what feels like quite a while. It has the annoying Beauty and the Beast quality to it: here is a beautiful castle. You can explore it, but DON’T GO IN THIS ONE SPECIFIC PLACE. I MEAN IT! And then of course the dumb protagonist goes and explores the one place she can’t because her dumb captor/love interest was stupid enough to make something forbidden and thus more desirable. A lot of eye-rolling ensued as Amar insisted again and again that she not go into these locked doors, that he of course will tell her who he is and where she is eventually. That she just has to wait, and trust him, even though, hello, she hasn’t exactly met anyone trustworthy in her entire life, and you essentially kidnapped her and brought her to a barren castle as your quasi-prisoner.

*Deep breath* okay. There’s a whole stupid, Stockholm Syndrome, flowery-characters-making-stupid-decisions thing here that I can’t get over. But I’ll digress for now.

Because the reveal of where she is and who Amar is is actually written spectacularly. I was able to keep myself spoiler-free of this reveal – if you read Goodreads reviews, or I’m sure other reviews elsewhere, you know what tale this story is re-telling, and can read between the lines to figure out what’s going on. But I really didn’t have a clue. So the reveal was surprising to me. The moment of Maya’s realization was heart-pounding, sorrowful, horrifying, and suspenseful, all at once. I got so pumped for the story to fall into place, for things to pick up and for me to absolutely love the ending of this book.

And then things fell apart. All of the plot twists were predictable from here on out. Both Maya and Amar made dumb, blind decisions that even I knew were stupid (even the quote from Disney’s Hercules (woah, a lot of Disney references in this review…): “People do crazy things when they’re in love” isn’t enough to justify the tropes here).

And then Maya meets a crazy talking horse, who sometimes sounds creepy and ominous, and at other times ridiculous and insane. I’m uncertain if everyone can hear this animal talk, or if just Maya can. And overall I just think it’s a weird character to include. Is it a mythical story I am not familiar with? Are cannibalistic talking horses all the rage now? And sadly enough, our friend Mr. Ed (or Ms. Ed, as I believe it was a female horse) is the most interesting character in the book’s last half. Which is saying something, because I don’t understand why she’s there.

Monsters are mentioned, but not described. I suppose I could Google Image search a couple of them, and I am sure they have place in real world myth, but all of it felt tacked on too late. They crop up in a final scene that is supposed to be tense and suspenseful, and instead plays out and ends exactly as I would expect it to, with magic, bad guys meeting their downfall, and a happily ever after.

Overall, it just ain’t my thing. It is certainly pretty to look at on the surface, but the plot and characters left so much to be desired.

The Grade: D


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