The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi is a young adult fantasy novel inspired by Indian mythology. The first in a duology, this book follows Maya, a princess who is spurned for the damning horoscope she was given at birth, as she is forced into an arranged marriage intended to end the war. But in the middle of the wedding, fighting breaks out, and one of Maya’s suitors, Amar, whisks her away to his kingdom, which she has never heard of, via the Otherworld, which Maya had always believed to be fictional. Bound by magic, Amar is unable to give her any answers to her questions about himself or his kingdom. And so Maya finds herself Queen of a kingdom she knows nothing about, married to a charming but mysterious husband, and cooped up in a strange, magical castle. As she counts down the days until Amar can finally reveal all his secrets to her, Maya hears a voice singing and calling to her from a foreboding door which isn’t always there. Despite the warnings, Maya feels drawn to investigate.
I found the first chapter or two of this book a little hard to get into; I felt some parts of them were unnecessary, and made the beginning feel rambling, and made me uncertain what this story would be about. And while some parts may have been unnecessary, I feel there were things which should have been included in the first couple of chapters but weren’t. The most notable example is Maya’s little sister Gauri, whom we are told Maya loves very dearly. However, the first mention of Gauri doesn’t appear until maybe chapter three or four, which made me doubt Gauri’s importance to Maya, since she wasn’t among the very first things the reader learns about Maya.
Once I got a bit further into the book, however, things picked up and became more enjoyable. The world and the mythology was particularly fun to read about: Chokshi fills this with magic and colour. The Otherworld is full of strange and wonderful creatures. My only complaint here is that Chokshi didn’t always explain what some of the creatures were, leaving the reader feeling a little lost, left with just a name of a creature, but little to no description as to how to imagine it.
I found the rest of the first half of the book very enjoyable, full of mystery and suspense, and the reveal was just as compelling. The premise behind it was really interesting, too, and brought up some thought-provoking topics. However, the second half of the book took a sudden, unpredictable right turn. While it was still enjoyable, I found it a little confusing as I could no longer tell where the book was going or even make predictions about what would happen.
The main character Maya was also really interesting to read about: she’s assertive and confident and inquisitive. It was great to read about such a great, strong female character and see the world through her eyes as she works hard and logically to solve her problems. Gauri was another example of a strong female character. I felt Amar’s character, and some of the secondary characters, were perhaps not as well defined, and I might struggle to describe their personalities.
These things did not, however, prevent the book from reaching a climactic and satisfying conclusion. It was exciting and tied everything up nicely. This surprised me a little because, while it was very satisfying, it left no loose ends for the sequel. This is because the sequel does not actually follow Maya and Amar; it follows Gauri, making this duology a series of standalone novels. I really like this as I do not feel obliged to read on; instead, I feel happy that I have been left to choose for myself whether I want to read on or not.
Personally, I do intend to read on as I did enjoy this book and feel that the sequel, A Crown Of Wishes, will add more depth and value to the world and the story. It was also a really fun read with plenty of unique aspects, and I found these differences rather refreshing.