Tuesday, July 18, 2017

REVIEW | The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Publication Year: 2016
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Series: The Star-Touched Queen # 1
Awards: A bunch of local YA awards
Format: Audio (from Library)
Narrator: Priya Ayyar

WHY?:  The book internets went berserk over this one and I was intrigued by it's Indian mythology inspiration. 

SYNOPSIS:  Maya is a princess with a horrible horoscope hanging over her head.  To escape her fate, or perhaps at its whim, she marries the mysterious Amar and becomes the queen of Akaran.  Unfortunately the strangely deserted court of Akaran is steeped in secrets and mystery which leads Maya to make an ill-informed decision that might have dire consequences.  


Well, it's unpopular opinion time because this book just wasn't for me and I knew it pretty early on.  Since it's not a book that angered me, beyond the disappointment, so this shouldn't be too much of a rant and I'll make it short.

The book is inspired by a number of Hindu myths and it has a very fable-like feel to it which I think may be at the heart of why it did not work for me.  Straight up fables and fairy tales work for me if they are short, but most don't have enough character depth or detail to work as a long-form narrative. They are the sketch of a story with a simple theme and characters that are mostly important for what they symbolise.  That's why it is awesome when authors take a fairy tale and really flesh it out  - breathe life and recognizable motivations into the characters and surround the framework with a fully realized society and world.

One thing I thought The Star-touched Queen did pretty well was the setting and world development.  It's a unique setting and I liked that it was a little unsettling and on the edge of creepy.

AND...I struggled with pretty much everything else.  The protagonists, Maya and Amar, felt very flat to me.  I had little interest in either of them and their romance felt forced and insta-lovey even though it's not really?  The character's motivations were too opaque or seemed inconsistent or just didn't make sense to me.  When Maya shows up at Akaran, nothing makes sense and Amar keeps saying that he is prevented from telling her anything, because reasons.  This is frustrating for her and she is extremely wary and untrusting. Okay fine.  But then another character comes along, unknown to her, who blatantly manipulates her and she trusts this person immediately, no problem.  She is also extremely protective of her homeland and family even though, because of her horoscope, she had been treated mostly abusively and shunned.  It would make sense for her to have some loyalty but I'm not sure the solidarity and betrayal she feels when her people are in danger, really makes sense with what we know? Basically, neither character felt real or understandable nor were they compelling and with that the case the rest of the book was going to have an uphill climb.

And it just didn't get up the hill.  I thought the storytelling was choppy and erratic and much of the conflict in the story felt forced.   I also really didn't love the prose which was a little flowery for my taste.  In short, it felt like a fable that was awkwardly stretched to novel length and not enough was done to give it more depth.  The setting and circumstances were often interesting and strange but the characters lacked understandable motivation and the whole book had a rather dream-like quality which tends to not appeal to me. Also the demon flesh-eating horse that everyone loves?  I just thought she was weird.  

I listened to the book on audio and the narrator Priya Ayyar was good.  Nothing special but nice voice and good fit with the character of Maya who has the perspective.  

FINAL VERDICT: This fable-like book just did not work for me on many levels (character, storytelling, prose) but it should be noted I am in the minority, big time!   2 out of 5 stars

OTHER OPINIONS ARE AVAILABLE: The Bibliosanctum | Fantasy Cafe

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