Published by: St. Martin's Griffin
Cursed with a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, sixteen-year-old Maya has only earned the scorn and fear of her father's kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her world is upheaved when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. But when her wedding takes a fatal turn, Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Yet neither roles are what she expected. As Akaran's queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar's wife, she finds friendship and warmth.
But Akaran has its own secrets - thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Beneath Akaran's magic, Maya begins to suspect her life is in danger. When she ignores Amar's plea for patience, her discoveries put more than new love at risk - it threatens the balance of all realms, human and Otherworldly.
Now, Maya must confront a secret that spans reincarnated lives and fight her way through the dangerous underbelly of the Otherworld if she wants to protect the people she loves.
First and foremost, I would give The Star-Touched Queen to fans of Cruel Beauty and Daughter of Smoke and Bone. The Star-Touched Queen was "pitched as a Hades and Persephone-style romance infused with Indian mythology, about an unlikely princess who must overcome her sinister horoscope and embarks on a quest to unravel her true identity and find the one she loves." You may already see why I made these comparisons but anyway-- the set-up, I think, feels similar to what happens in Cruel Beauty, where Nyx ends up married to the Gentle Lord and things are not as she expected. Here, in The Star-Touched Queen, Maya doesn't expect to end up married. There is a similar level of exploring the meaning of their new marriages alongside worlds and romances that are inspired by mythology. On a detail level, of course the books are very different; plus, Nyx is bitter about her fate, whereas Maya wholeheartedly embraces the idea of marrying someone who wants her to be his equal. Marriage is her escape--and while Nyx discovers that later, Maya knows that from the start, and she's a different lead to follow. Still should have overlapping fanbases. As for Daughter of Smoke and Bone, you can imagine that with the Hades and Persephone pitch, there is talk of an Other/underworld in The Star-Touched Queen - talk of death and fantastical creatures like demons, which fits with DoSaB. Also likely to appeal to DoSaB fans are the lush writing and epic romance within The Star-Touched Queen.
Okay, now enough about the comparisons and more on the book itself. From the start, it's easy to sympathize with Maya, our heroine. Because of her sinister horoscope, Maya has been mistreated by her father's harem and court. They mistrust her and her fate; and I think that it's always easy to sympathize with someone who's less privileged because of their birth. Plus Maya herself is a delightful heroine who, despite the great cause for bitterness, remains optimistic about finding a way for her sinister horoscope to not define who she is or what her future will be. As for the world, Roshani Chokshi hits the sweet spot: she included plenty of details to set the mood and stage for the romance, and the creatures and magic system are elaborated on enough so that you, too, can imagine yourself there and the kind of choices you would have to make. Meanwhile, there's still room for more in the giant world she's built, which means Roshani Chokshi has been posting some cool extras on The Star-Touched Queen website. But maybe you really want to know about the romance. Oh, readers, it is glorious. The romance in The Star-Touched Queen has glorious feminist leanings such that the equality between Maya and her husband is always emphasized. They are equal partners. Romantic one-liners are frequent, but they're also backed up by action -- fighting for that epic love in name and deed. Like I said, beautifully written gem, lush world-building and epic romance.
(If you've ever seen the Broadway version of Aladdin, remember the magic carpet ride with all the lights and the epic romantic singing and the shifting stage. That's what reading this book felt like to me. Wondrous, magical; a whole new world to explore and evoke your imagination.)
I think my only complaint would have been that I wanted more. I wouldn't have minded if the book were a little longer to answer some questions I had-- but I think that's always a great complaint to have of any book. Assuming you liked the book, the more you want, the more successful the author was in hooking you. And that's exactly what happened for me and The Star-Touched Queen.
I hope that you all give this book a chance. It was on my YA 2016 debut TBR list and I nominated it for Most Anticipated 2016 Book for the Epic Reads Book Shimmy Awards. It did not disappoint.