Welcome to another session of Turning Pages!
Synopsis: Maya has lived her life as a pariah in her father, the Raja's, court. Her horoscope is dire, promising a marriage of death and destruction, and as the stars are not in her favor, she remains un-betrothed. Nerdy and knowledgeable; always with her head in a book, she's never had the attention, affection, and respect of her father's many wives, nor her servants or tutors, either. Only her baby sister loves her, and for her, Maya imagines ...worlds.
When her marriage is arranged to create the peace among warring neighbors her father desperately needs, Maya is horrified - but resigned. She's always wanted to mean something to her father, hasn't she? Prepared to sacrifice herself for the greater good, Maya is whisked up into a magical place as the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. The worlds she's imagined are wider than she's ever dreamed... but there are things she can't know, doors closed against her, and voices, just on the edge of hearing... trying to tell her something it must be important to know. Choosing who to trust in her new situation is vital -- knowing who to listen to is impossible. Maya must learn to choose herself - and in this choice, she finds all the knowledge - freedom - and power she's ever believed she needed.
Observations: Often books talk about being steeped in various folklores; this one isn't just a few names tossed in, but a rich and romantic and very detailed fairytale set in an ancient parallel South Asia. The writing is, in a word, lush. Succulent. Detailed and descriptive, it is easy to get lost in it. In fact, I did - in the middle of the novel, I found the pacing was a little cluttered with the beauty of the writing. The plot was all but obscured, and I found the novel something I could set aside easily enough, because the urgency was, for me, a bit obscured with meandering, decorative prose. I was just about to give up, when, abruptly, the novel took a left turn and the gear re-engaged. Stuff Happened - urgency was re-introduced, and readers were hit with a lot of crazy, magical doings which fit in with the setting and the characterization of this as a world of layers where anything could happen - at least in a story.
Conclusion: With a whimsical world reflected in a beautiful cover, this standalone novel has a clear beginning, middle, and end, and though there will be a companion novel, once this narrative is finished, it's done. I'm reading the Odyssey just now, and ruminating about some of the earmarks of a mythological story, which this feels like, because of the magical realism and weird occurrences layered in amongst the mundane. This story has a lot of the feel of Persephone and Hades to it, with a rich South Asian type setting, and though it is not for everyone, it will satisfy readers who are fond of a lot of imaginative, deeply romantic writing.
I received my copy of this book courtesy of the publisher. You can find THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN by Roshani Chokshi at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!