Each year, Sirens chair Amy Tenbrink posts monthly reviews of new-to-her books from the annual Sirens reading list. This month, one of Sirens programming coordinators, Hallie Tibbetts takes over for July. You can find all of the Sirens Book Club reviews at the Sirens Goodreads Group. We invite you to read along and discuss!
This month, Amy of Amy’s Book Club is on vacation, so I am PLEASED to be filling in for her. This month’s selection is The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Choksi, a lyrical story that incorporates Hindu myth into a romantic, lush read.
Mayavati—Maya—has a terrible horoscope, such that she is blamed by the other women of the harem for her mother’s death. Death stalks her too; her father chooses her as the sacrificial bride in a political maneuver meant to force a fight on his terms. That’s only the beginning, because Maya’s husband knows something about death, and Maya finds herself a resident of places beyond life.
I don’t want to spoil you for this book, but I will give you one enticement. I hate, hate, hate talking animals 99% of the time. I LOVED the flesh-hungry horse in this book, and I want to thank that hungry hungry horse for saying what we’re all thinking: can we just bite somebody already?
Maya’s story comes in two distinct parts, and to me—insert here a big disclaimer about my familiarity with the underlying stories, as well as (an admittedly uneducated) appreciation—it seems like she begins in death, and finds her way to life, as opposed to the journey that the rest of us follow; that is, we head toward our dying days. I’ll give you another riddle to ponder: death, here, is life. Consider, then, reincarnation as a complicating factor…
Amar, Maya’s love, seems at first to be far more mature than Maya, and it’s not immediately clear what he finds so attractive in her, especially as he’s a riddle himself, and unable to tell his whole story. As the tale progresses, we find that Maya not only has strengths she has never known she possessed—both mystical and practical—but that her story with Amar is threaded through time. Again, there is the nudge of awakening, and Maya has to fumble through the darkness (literally and figuratively) to rescue her one true love.
I particularly liked that Maya screwed up sometimes, and screwed up a lot, but with legitimate, logical reasons for doing so. No breaking character here, no failure to understand for story purposes; Maya simply has her reasons to make choices, and then she has to work through her failures and mistakes. It’s a refreshing change from some recent reading with characters who fail to question the world around themselves, even in the direst circumstances. (Am I right, or am I right?)
I found that the story sinks into beautiful prose after a few chapters, but doesn’t necessarily linger, if that’s not right for the moment. This is a book to drink in sips, but it’s nice to gulp as well.
Have you read The Star-Touched Queen? What did you think? What other books with aching, star-crossed love or poetic prose would you recommend?
Hallie Tibbetts co-founded Narrate Conferences in 2006, and has chaired many of its events, though of late, she’s happy to devote her spare moments to helping with programming. She graduated from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s of music in music education, taught, and then headed to New York University for a master’s in digital and print media. She works as an editorial assistant and has a strong preference for subversive picture books, whimsical middle grade, adventurous young adult, and serial commas.