Hello everyone, and welcome back!
I actually managed to read something new this week during the summer craze of travel/work/visiting, so I’m pretty proud of myself, even if I totally picked one of the shorter books on my TBR on purpose.
(Sometimes you only have a few hours to read but you still want to finish something. It happens to the best of us.)
Anyway, let’s get to it!
The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
This is a very fairy-tale-inspired fantasy about Maya, whose devastating horoscope was enough to put off any man from marrying her (and convince most of the court to hate her), despite her princess status—until her father needs to offer her hand to end a war. Enter the ruler of Akaran, queendom in a strange and magical place, and a much different future than the one Maya bargained for.
This book screams to be compared to Cruel Beauty, given that it has a lot of explicitly similar elements (and both share a bit in common with A Court of Thorns and Roses), so I’m just going to review in comparison, okay?
- The descriptions here were more lush than in Cruel Beauty and I really enjoyed some of the imagery, but sometimes I felt like it plodded on when I could’ve used some dialogue or action;
- This book is similarly close to its fairy tale roots and I appreciate the threads it weaves together, even if as a novel I’m kind of meh about it (I might be more about Beauty and Queen as short stories);
- The book does the same thing as the other two I mentioned in that the main male love interest keeps stuff from the female protagonist for mysterious reasons but also kind of demands her trust and wants her love and it’s annoying in all three cases;
- The plot of Queen is somewhat more confusing than Beauty but it’s also less predictable on some counts, which is I guess okay? But also makes me uninterested in the villain’s motives so also eh;
- I prefer Court to both Queen and Beauty because it feels, at the very least, that the book takes its time to allow the love interest to really earn some affection from the female protagonist, rather than managing to compel it by being really hot and vaguely soulmate-y.
Not comparative thoughts:
- The best character in this book was definitely the horse and it is a shame that this book isn’t just about her adventures with her snarky horse-pal (reminiscent of the cat from Sabriel, who is rad) and her little sister (all of these books contain at least one interesting sister);
- The worldbuilding also suffers somewhat from how confusing the plot is, as I have no sense of how present magic is in the not-Akaran world, who knows about it, and what it’s capable of;
- I really, really wish Maya and her love interest had been less bland and that more women in this book could’ve been positive figures even if they didn’t choose ascetic scholarly lives or to be military fighters (this book feels pretty down on the harem women).
I wanted to like this one more than I did, but ultimately, once I started laying out all the comparisons to Cruel Beauty in my mind, it had some pros and some cons and more or less came out even. Other than maybe the horse, who was pretty great. But I don’t think I can give half a star to a side character who comes in past halfway through the book? Or at least, I don’t think I want to today.
Your mileage may honestly vary, since reading a lot of books in the same vein can cause a same-y vibe that doesn’t make me feel particularly charitable. Books that come off as a bit more unique are likely to inspire people to see upsides even if the execution isn’t awesome, I think. I feel like A Court of Thorns and Roses did a lot of similar things to this book but a bit better (especially if you count the sequel), albeit with a much more all-white cast/feel that can be grating; the allusions to Indian folklore in Queen were lovely, but they don’t totally make up for the lacklustre romance unless the inclusion of those concepts/creatures is very much more important to you.
…and now I totally don’t have to write up that ranking of fairy tale retellings I was working on, clearly. But I’ll probably still do it anyway. (And I totally don’t have to read the sequel to this, but I might anyway, since it’s about different characters so maybe it’ll work better for me?)
Which fairy tale retelling/inspired novel is your favourite? Let me know and I can add it to my infinite list! See you next time!