Series: The Star-Touched Queen #1
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on April 26th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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.
I anticipated this book SO highly. Not only did the cover and blurb speak to me in about a hundred different ways, but the early reviews were glowing. Unfortunately, this turned out to be my perhaps biggest disappointment of the year so far.
The first maybe 5-10% of the book were promising. The set-up shows some potential. It has that mythological fairy-tale vibe I was expecting and I couldn’t help but feel excited about the prospect of getting to see the Night Bazaar, the crystal gardens and jewel-like fruit. Ultimately however, I didn’t get anything from this book I was hoping for.
The story starts with princess Maya being forced to marry for political reasons in order to save her father’s country. But in reality, there cannot be a right choice for a husband and so Maya is told to take a poison and commit suicide to solve the problem. Naturally, the moment she bravely wants to take the poison, a handsome Amar rushes in and takes her away to a magical land of…things.
As you can tell, the premise is not original or innovative in any way, but hey, it has Indian mythology so what do I care. The problem is that a lack of originality is one of the book’s smallest problems. I’m not a reader who always needs to understand everything. But at some point, to a certain extent, it should click in my mind. This book just…didn’t. I was confused throughout and when reasons and motivations were revealed I still didn’t get it. This could be a case of me simply being too stupid, but looking at other reviews it doesn’t seem that way. I don’t think anyone truly understood what was going on, though some minded more than others. The confusion was due to a couple of factors:
1. The writing style. While I enjoyed the colourful writing for the first 20 pages or so, it became old SO quickly. The further along I got, the more purple the writing seemed to become and although there were some beautiful passages, most of them were completely non-sensical. You know those paragraphs that start off being about one thing and then go off and leave the original intent so far behind that you can’t remember what that same paragraph was supposed to be about in the first place? That was The Star-Touched Queen to me ALL THE TIME. The metaphors were so far-fetched and unrelated to the plot that I couldn’t see any reason for them being there except to confuse the reader. Yes, the writing is poetic and luscious, but I would have appreciated it much more had it been its separate entity in a book of poetry for example, instead of the way it was done here. Also, there was simply too much of it. Such descriptive writing can lose its magic very quickly when over-used.
2. The dialogue. Look, you can have dialogue with characters speaking to each other in riddles and cryptic messages, but then please make the rest of the book readable. Or, conversely, make the writing style purple and give us some breather through simpler dialogue. But don’t combine the two! The result is a book that will feel like a tome even if it’s not particularly long and will leave the readers grasping at straws in order to understand anything that is going on.
3. The plot. I’m not sure how, but this book managed to be simultaneously confusing and utterly boring and repetitive. The whole story is pretty much just Maya meandering around. She would stand in one room and then suddenly be in a completely different part of the palace without me ever registering the space between. I had absolutely no idea how anything looked or where stuff was because it was just so all over the place. Additionally, the book was also very predictable and I was left wondering why I hadn’t DNFed it half-way through.
Now that I have complained about both writing and plot, let’s take a look at the characters.
Maya is a blank canvas. I can’t describe her to you because I literally cannot think of a single defining thing about her.What type of person is she? She’s not as much a person as she is a placeholder to whom the plot (or lack thereof) happens. Her utter lack of proactivity was at times startling and at others incredibly frustrating. She doesn’t make decisions, she just does what everyone around her tells her to do. No character development either.
Unfortunately, Amar isn’t any better. The only thing I remember of him is that he’s beautiful and talks in weird metaphors. Those metaphors and the way he constantly compared Maya to the stars was supposed to be romantic but I found it stale and clichéd, devoid of any sort of liveliness or humour. Their relationship was very much insta-love, but with the plot being what it was, I can’t really criticise that. What I can criticise however, is the complete lack of any sort of chemistry or sexual tension. I mean really, I felt NOTHING. I didn’t care if they kissed or died.
The worldbuilding was a disappointment as well. Though the language served to evoke some beautiful imagery, we didn’t get any explanation of the world. I would have loved to know more about the relationship between the human realm and the Otherworld. I would have liked to have some accurate politics. Magic that has some actual reasons/limits/rules etc. Something more on horoscopes please? But nope, we didn’t get any of that. It all seemed randomly placed and like an afterthought.
To top it all off, there was also some woman-to-woman hate and I couldn’t help but notice that all the antagonists (if I remember correctly) were female.
The only bright spot in this whole story was Kamala. You know something is wrong when the best thing I have to say about a book is that I loved the talking horse. But honestly, Kamala was the most interesting and fleshed-out character of all. A very random character, but enjoyable nonethless.
Would I recommend The Star-Touched Queen? Though I would like to say a clear “no”, I have to acknowledge that I believe some readers will really like this book. It’s definitely one of those hit-or-miss books. If you’re someone who doesn’t mind being confused and a lack of world-building and character development doesn’t bother you, maybe give this a try. Or, if you like purple prose and enjoy beautiful but random metaphors, this may be for you as well. But to me, this read like a book that didn’t know what it wanted to be and reading it felt like a chore because of that.