Format: Hardcover, 342 pages
Release Date: April 26, 2016
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?
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
17-year old Princess Mayavati (Maya) of Bharata lives in a kingdom where horoscopes are taken literally, and in Maya's case, deadly seriously. Maya's horoscope claims that she is cursed with a promised marriage that will bring about death and destruction. Maya is blamed for every single instance of death that hits the Harem. It's also a fact that nearly every single member of the Harem wants to see her dead or married off quickly so they don't have to waste any more time dealing with her cursed presence.
"This was the court of Bharata, a city like bone spur-tacked on like an afterthought. Its demons were different; harm wives with jewels in their hair and hate in their heart, courtiers with mouths full of lies, a father who knew me only as a colored stone around his neck. Those were the monsters I knew. My world didn't have room for more."
With the understanding that she is despised, Maya doesn't turn herself into a martyr by falling on her own sword. She is happy that she has the run of the court, she has private tutors, she has a solid relationship with the youngest daughter of the harem, Gauri, and she has been spying on her father's meetings with his counselors without being caught for years. She's more than capable of understanding what is happening to her kingdom, but is surprised when her father, the Raja, decides to make a compromise with the rebellious factions by marrying her off.
The Star-Touched Queen is a very interesting and surprising read. It mixes Indian culture with a bit of mythology (Hades and Persephone anyone?) and characters who you will instantly connect to. You can't help but connect with Maya. She's an intelligent, and thoughtful young lady who has been treated with disrespect by nearly everyone, and ignored by her own father who only sees her maybe once a year. But, after agreeing to run away and marry Amar, the Raj of Akaran, Maya finds not only a new reality and freedoms, but a fondness for the man she barely knows but is enamored with her.
"My star-touched queen," he said softly, as if he was remembering something from long ago. "I would break the world to give you what you want."
Upon arriving in Akaran, Maya is greeted by a very strange place that I guessed would be similar to Hades underground. There are strange voices, doors that are locked at all times, and a tree with mirrors. There is also a danger just waiting for Maya to wake it up. But, once Maya opens the door to danger, there is no going back. She will either have to deal with the evil face to face, or give into the evil that will do anything to win.
One could say that The Star-Touched Queen is similar in nature to stories like Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty, or even books like A Court of Thorns and Roses which even though I read, I didn't fall head over heels with the story. I am also curious as to why this was labeled as the first book in the series. I was absolutely happy with the way this book ended, even though we had to get through another instance of Maya falling into a dangerous trap that nearly had devastating consequences.
I am OK with heroines who are anything but perfect. I just want them to grow by the time the story is over, or the series reaches its final chapter. Even though this book could be yet another example of instantaneous love, in the end it worked for me. Here are two characters in Maya and Amar who were truly made for each other. They are not special. They have been through hell and somehow managed to return with their character in tact.
As I said above, Maya had a pretty awesome relationship with Gauri. I also loved her relationship with the demon horse named Kamala. I love a horse that has a sense of humor, but is also faithful when promising to stand by Maya's side.
According to Goodreads, Roshani states that this book IS a standalone. She is working on a companion novel that will feature minor characters from this book. Dare I hope that character is Gauri who I absolutely loved, especially the parts when she was older?