Title: The Star-Touched Queen
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Narrator: Priya Ayyar
Running Time: 9 hours, 22 minutes
Goodreads Summary: 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.
This book was hyped up big time. And to be fair, part of me can see why. But ultimately I was let down. Chokshi has a beautiful way of weaving words together, but that couldn’t cover up the fact that her plot and characters were really lacking. To be honest, I found the story vague and bland as a bedtime story, filled with beautiful words and blank faces, but ultimately forgettable.
One big problem was that I didn’t feel connected with the characters. They felt oddly empty and devoid. I felt like the characters were thrown at the reader so fast that there wasn’t enough time to form a deep emotional connection.
The relationships were built weakly or not at all. The relationship between Maya and Amar had no foundation–it was a classic case of instalove! That could be seen as okay, given that there was a reincarnation element, but only if the pair’s relationship in prior lives had been solidly built–and it wasn’t. The relationship between Maya and the villain was also particularly weak and that is a major problem as the conflict is built upon their relationship. How Maya and the villain actually know each other is never explained, making the villain’s motives feel hollow.
The plot moved too fast and yet, at the same time, the languid, luscious language made the book also feel really slow. This gave the book this really weird pacing where it felt like the story was moving fast, yet nothing was actually happening. This ties in to the fact that I felt like there were a lot of things thrown into the plot to cover up the fact that nothing was actually going on.
Another reviewer on booktube pointed out that Chokshi’s prose sometimes overtook the story and I must say that I 100% agree. There were many points where descriptions would go on and on and I’d lose what plot was actually taking place. It felt like the prose was an oversized rosebush in need of a good pruning. This is something, though, that I feel like isn’t 100% Chokshi’s fault, and more her editor’s.
Though I had a lot of problems with The Star-Touched Queen technically speaking, I do see a lot of potential in Chokshi. Her writing is absolutely astonishing. It’s luscious and ripe with gorgeous turns of phrase and beautiful descriptions. The scenes she described came to life before me. I just think she has room to improve in her pacing, characterization, and relationship building. But it wasn’t a bad start for a debut author.
All in all, this book let me down big time, but I’m willing to give Chokshi a chance to redeem herself. Firsts are never perfect, but with time and practice, I think Chokshi has the potential to be a force to be reckoned with.
I thought the Priya Ayyar did an outstanding job with the narration! She did many different voices for the characters, each subtle, yet distinct. Ayyar’s narration was slow and viscous, but never too slow, rather like that of someone telling you a bedtime story and I really liked that aspect of how she chose to narrate the book. Can I just say that I loved that Ayyar’s pronunciation of Indian names and words and her accent was spot on! Again, I applaud the publishing house, Macmillan Audio, for hiring someone who actually can speak Indian languages correctly–this shows a level of cultural sensitivity that I imagine is greatly appreciated! All in all, I thought the audiobook format was delightful and would definitely recommend it!