Roshani Chokshi’s debut novel The Star-Touched Queen is an adventure, taking the reader through far-away otherworldly lands on a journey of self-reflection and self-discovery. Driven to enchanted bazaars and palaces of another time, racing on horseback across barren fields and wild jungles, the story engulfs the reader, allowing readers to become one with the character Mayavati as she bites into fairy fruits of sapphires and pearls and wears a crown of stars in her hair.
Told in horoscopes and embedded in myth, this story captivates and entrances the reader, lulling them with dreamlike images of golden honeycomb archives and gem-laden palace hallways, inviting readers into a world of fantasy, fairytale, lore and beauty. Spoken in riddles, the novel itself encourages deep thinking. Reminding us that “everything is a matter of interpretation” (112) the book promotes thoughtful decision making. Urging readers to practice “a different way of seeing” (143). But reader beware: The Star-Touched Queen bears virtue and valor, but also loses herself to impulsivity and falls victim to rumor. Like any other mortal, Maya must overcome her past in order to triumph in her future. Following her trials the reader learns from her mistakes, understanding as she does the importance of logic, reasoning, and fairness. Her lover Amar helps her in (re)discovering herself, gently encouraging her strengths and challenging her weaknesses, while simultaneously doing his best to protect her from her those who might try and ruin her.
The character Mayavati is relatable and a trustworthy narrator, constantly checking herself and her opinions, wondering where the boundary between truth and lies resides, what is reality and illusion. The reader gets lost and becomes one with Maya, a simple soul trying her hardest to do the right thing and make the right decisions.
“…the play of interpretation that turned something terrifying and iron-clad into something that could be conqured.” (143)
The novel also makes a statement on the impermanence of memory. The memory tree that keeps Maya’s memories in mirrors and flames is mutable, changing and unreliable. Piece-meal. “Memory is a riddled thing” (112).
The story weaves a tapestry of lessons, reminding us of qualities to aspire to – wisdom and patience; warning against the follies in life, selfishness, arrogance and cowardice. Chokshi imparts these lessons through clever storytelling, each character representing what we should aspire to be like or should check ourselves of. Sage characters such as Maya’s father, the good king, remind us to be wise and kind, diplomatic, while in opposition stand the dark characters: “Where the Raja favored wisdom, Skanda favored wealth” (25). Skyanda, the selfish king, and Nirriti, the vain and hungry sister represent negative qualities while Amar and Maya’s father represent positive traits.
The wisdom in the warnings of this novel make it valuable, the romance make it promising; every hopeful romantic dreams of a love like Maya and Amar’s: a patient love that stretches the eons, a borderless love that connects constellations, an endless love that lasts an eternity.
There is some religious element to the novel, with references to Hindu religious myths and saturated with an impressive amount of Hindi vocabulary. Though there is a glossary in the back of the book, it is bare-bones skeletal and could be improved upon: many of the italicized words were not included in the glossary and would need to be looked up by many readers.
A beautifully written book, imbued with evocative imagery and riddled language, The Star-Touched Queen holds readers mysteriously enchanted from beginning to end.
Roshani Chokshi comes from a small town in Georgia where she collected a Southern accent, but does not use it unless under duress. She grew up in a blue house with a perpetually napping bear-dog. At Emory University, she dabbled with journalism, attended some classes in pajamas, forgot to buy winter boots and majored in 14th century British literature. She spent a year after graduation working and traveling and writing. After that, she started law school at the University of Georgia where she’s learning a new kind of storytelling.
Find out more about The Star-Touched Queen and other works by Roshani Chokshi at http://www.roshanichokshi.com/.