Don’t ask me how it’s possible, but Chokshi look elements from some of the best YA literature in recent years, set her damn novel in a gorgeous Indian-esque setting, and still managed to fuck it all up.
Princess 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.
I liked Maya at the beginning. With her presumed intelligence and story-telling ability, mixed with the India-like setting, she reminded me of a young Scheherazade. I loved the stories she told to her younger sister, rich mythology different from anything I’ve read before. And I loved that she wasn’t yearning for love. In fact when she chooses to marry Amar, ruler of Akaran, he wins her over with the promise of equality, independence and a chance to rule. She quickly becomes queen of the Otherworld, a mythical and magical place full of exotic folklore.
“In all the tomes and folklores I had read from the archives, there was no limit to the worlds around us. Somewhere unseen were demonic realms filled with laughing asuras and blackened suns. There were austere kingdoms on the peaks of mountains where phoenixes serenaded the moon and the halls of the gods glinted with lightening. And there was our own, human world, mortal, with only the comfort of stories to keep away the chill of death.”
But secrets are kept from Maya, which annoyed me. The magic “system” in this novel simply isn’t explained; visions just…occur, things are just summoned because imagination. I don’t like that. I need there to be a logic, a reason behind magic in novels. But I wouldn’t have cared so much if I still liked the story.
Maya, unfortunately, didn’t show a lot of character growth. She wasn’t bad exactly, but I found myself doubting her intelligence after what felt like an age of making exceptions for her. She marries and gets into bed with a man she knows nothing about: okay, but that’s very much the culture of the setting. When things disturb her in Akaran she takes an eternity to finally start searching for answers: fair enough, she’s been brought up to believe women aren’t as important as men and she probably thinks it’s not her place. She never makes a proper decision for herself but is persuaded/coerced/bullied into making questionable choices…
I found myself liking Maya less and less. I found myself enjoying the story less and less. And though I’m glad the soppy, cheesy love story was minimal, it was still almost too annoying to bear.
“I want to lie beside you and know the weight of your dreams,” he said, brushing his lips against my knuckles. “I want to share whole worlds with you and write your name in the stars.”
When the second half kicked in, I no longer cared one iota for this book. And sadly, were I into it, the second half was probably where the best stuff happened. But I needed to care, and I didn’t. The only reason I continued reading until the end was because of a horse named Kamala who mildly amused me.
It’s such a rotten shame because this could have been excellent if more attention was paid to the likability of the MC, the logic behind the magic system, and if I’m honest, maybe doing away with the love story. The setting and mythology were really something, but looking back it’s probably the only thing I ended up liking in this book. And since that element was only background, it doesn’t amount to a whole lot of like.
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