Series: The Star-Touched Queen #2
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on March 28th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes—a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.
Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels.
Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.
I hadn’t read The Star-Touched Queen prior to picking up this companion novel, as the reviews had put me off and the writing in the chapter sampler had completely distracted me from the plot. I was, however, curious about Chokshi’s following work since debut authors tend to improve their skills with each book. Hence, I read this book as a standalone, and though it helps to have read the previous book or the chapter sampler, it is not a requirement. In my case, waiting for the companion novel was the right choice, because I think I enjoyed it a lot more than I would have its predecessor The Star-Touched Queen.
A Crown of Wishes dazzles with its feisty heroine, sizzling romance, intricate world-building, and lyrical writing. From what I’ve heard, the main plot was one of the weak points of her previous work. While this has not changed, the storyline was gripping enough to hook me a few chapters into the book. The romance, though it is borderline overpowering, added to the overall suspension and employed one of my favourite tropes (I am basically a sucker for enemies-to-lovers, I can’t help it).
“Some tales that never end start with something as simple as an act of impulse and end with something as evil as an act of love.”
One of the pillars to my enjoyment of A Crown of Wishes is Gauri. She makes for a strong female character, not because she is physically strong but because she has a backbone. She is loyal, fierce, and trained in warfare, which gives her that extra edge, but she embraces her charms as a woman and stands up for her rights as one, too. She has a wild temper but a soft heart. Albeit flawed and vulnerable, Gauri is an army of one. I enjoyed her chapters a lot, especially because of her solid introspection – her perspective provides glimpses of past mistakes and weakness hidden behind walls of steel. Vikram’s stoically calm characterisation provided a perfect balance to the ferocious Gauri. A man who fights his battles with his cunning mind, not his muscles, is a pleasant surprise. Though he’s described as lean and muscular, Chokshi shifted the prowess of combat to Gauri and gave Vikram his speed for running. Vikram, also known as the Fox Prince, is the brain behind the operation, which leaves him to do the scheming. He finds his strength in logic, beliefs, and philosophy. He’s a very down-to-earth character, and though his chapters are written in 3rd person POV (as opposed to Gauri’s), I was equally as fond of and close to the male lead as the female lead. The third POV belongs to Aasha, a vishakanya (a mythical creature from Indian mythology). Her chapters interested me far less than Gauri’s and Vikram’s, but she added to the overall storyline which is based on dreams, wishes, and desires.
Weakness was a privilege. It divided you, snipped our your secrets and gave every sliver of power over you. I didn’t have parts to spare. Bharata called me their Jewel, and maybe I was like one. Not sparkling or precious. But a cold thing wearing a hundred faces.
Both Gauri and Vikram find themselves in dead-end situations, which nurtures the foundation of the story: A Tournament of Wishes. Gauri has fallen victim to a wicked power play with her ruling brother wich ended in a betrayal and exile. Vikram, not being the biological son of th emperor, struggles finding acceptace as the heir to the throne within the powerful imperial council. When the opportunity arises to compete in a game called the Tournament of Wishes, the two desperate royals form a reluctant alliance, as the Lord of Wealth promises the victor a wish. Now, this was a perfect premise for a hate-to-love romance. The witty banter between these two characters is incredibly enjoyable. Chokshi has proven that insta-love is not the only form of romance she can write. The romantic subplot is a great slow burn, accompanied by verbal clashes which create romantic tension. It would’ve been problematic if the romance hadn’t been well-written, as it takes up a significant part of the plot. The pacing was slow, at times, but adequate for the whimsical world-building and well-balanced with the increase of suspension. There is a short voerlap with The Star-Touched Queen, which will please readers for Chokshi’s prevous work but does not require a reading of said book (though it certainly helps to familiarise yourselves with the character of the first novel). I found the climax to be a bit lacking, though the ending provides a lovely conclusion to the romance. As I said, an adrenaline-inducing plot is not Choshi’s strong suit, but she certainly wrapped things up nicely, and she did provide action scenes throughout the book, so credit is to be given where credit is due.
He turned to me, mischief glinting in his eyes. “How do they celebrate good fortune in Bharata? In Ujijain, we kiss.”
I let go of his hand. “Look elsewhere.”
“Are you sure? You spend an awful amount of time looking at my lips.”
“That’s only because I’m horrified at the sheer idiocy of the words leaping out of them.”
I had read the chapter sampler and was vaguely familiar with the world-building and the writing. I had a perfectly sufficient orientation in the realm in spite of not having read the first book. Chokshi’s world-building is heavily inspired by Indian culture and mythology, for example the food and clothing or the Gods and mythical creatures. A massive amount of imaginative fantasy elements, such as a gate made of speaking tongues, are introduced, which added a great deal to an exciting world-building (whether she conjure these ideas from her own imagination or whether they are based on Indian myths, I do not know but neither do I care). While I do feel like Chokshi wanted to pack all these ideas for fantasy elements into one book, I never felt overwhelmed by them. Her writing style, on the other hand, I remembered as quite overwhelming and dense from the The Star-Touched Queen chapter sampler. It was one of the reasons I hadn’t continued with the story. Though she writes beautifully, many readers complained that her metaphors fill the gaps in her plot. Chokshi’s writing can still be referred to as descriptive and flowery, but in comparison to her previous work, it seems like she turned it down a notch. There are a lot of descriptions but they are balanced by less flowery introspection and less dense dialogues. Overall, I thought her prose was suitable for the atmosphere of the story. But if you don’t enjoy metaphorical, almost lyrical writing, then Chokshi’s prose is not for you.
I haven’t read The Star-Touched Queen, so it is difficult for me to compare the two. But judging from the reviews, it seems like Chokshi upped her game with this book – great characterisation, absence of insta-love, and a slightly stronger plot. At heart, A Crown of Wishes is a romance, though, albeit set in a fantastical world. I am usually not a supporter of romance-heavy fantasy novels but it worked really well for this book, for the strong characterisation balanced out the romance. If you’re not in it for the characters and their slow burn, though, you should look elsewhere.