by Roshani Chokshi
To be published by St. Martins Griffin
on April 26, 2016
Source: ARC sent by publisher for review
Synopsis from Goodreads: 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.
My take: The Star-Touched Queen features hypnotically beautiful writing, fairy tale romance and world building that's an interesting blend of Western and non-Western mythologies. Going in, I thought I'd read somewhere that this was partly inspired by the myth of Hades and Persephone. I could see the parallels but as I read I was also reminded of classic fairy tales like Beauty and the Beast or Bluebeard in which a young girl must live with a man who might or might not be dangerous.
The story's action and intrigue starts from the very first pages as Maya, a princess who was born with an inauspicious horoscope, sneaks around her father's harem. Feared and disliked by most of the women there, she spends her time chasing off her tutors or hiding in an alcove, listening to her father plot military strategy. When her father tells her she's about to be betrothed, she's distraught, until a mysterious, cloaked man arrives at her wedding to whisk her off to his even more mysterious kingdom. Maya's new home is unfamiliar and her new husband is at turns indulgent and stern. He seems to care for her, yet keeps her at a distance. Bit by bit, she unravels the mystery ... but when she finally does, will she wish she hadn't!?
I was immediately drawn in by the hypnotic, poetic prose of the story and by Maya's plight. I loved the nods to Greek and Roman mythology -- one scene near the end reminded me a lot of a scene from the Aeneid -- but I was even more taken with the Indian influences that are woven into the story. I must admit to being a little weary of YA books that are inspired by familiar French and German fairy tales. I mean, hey, there's a whole world out there of interesting stories, so I hope that books like this with non-Western inspirations become more of a trend.
I wasn't quite sure what I thought of Amar, the mystery man, but I think that was deliberate. His relationship with Maya was an interesting one that kept me guessing. Was he a prince in disguise, as in Beauty and the Beast? A killer in disguise, as in Bluebeard? Or something in-between?
Definitely check this out if you've enjoyed creative YA fairy tale retellings like Cruel Beauty or Of Beast and Beauty.