My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Before this year, I’m not sure I’d ever read a book with a Sri Lankan setting.* This year, by chance, I’ve now read two! The other, ‘River of Ink’ is probably my favorite read so far this year… (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show…), but ‘The Star-Touched Queen’ is excellent as well!
Mayavati has grown up in a harem, scorned and rejected by the other women and girls around her because her horoscope indicates that her marriage will be associated with death. With that ill omen hanging over her, it’s never been likely that she would secure a good match, even though her father is the Raja. By necessity solitary, Maya spends her time spying on her father’s political meetings and learning all she can of statecraft, even though she has no real hope of ever becoming a leader.
But one day, while spying on these conclaves, Maya learns that her father has plans to use her as a political pawn and to marry her off after all. Distraught at the impending loss of even her small degree of independence, Maya tries to escape – only to discover that the plans that have been made for her are even worse than she expected.
Possible salvation arrives on the scene in the form of a shadowy and anonymous suitor, who whisks her off to a strange fairytale kingdom. All might seem idyllic – but of course, the reader cannot forget about that ominous horoscope.
The first part of the book has very much the feel of a YA romance – albeit, a very well-done YA romance. The second half shifts into a far more mythic, elevated feel. The change was slightly jarring, but after a bit of adjustment, I decided I loved how that was done. (And it was wholly appropriate to the plot’s events.) The story weaves elements of Psyche & Eros/Beauty & the Beast together with South Asian myths in a way that feels natural – and lovely.
Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the opportunity to read. As always, by opinions are solely my own.
*EDIT: How could I have forgotten one of my teen faves, Arthur C. Clarke’s ‘The Fountains of Paradise,’ which, of course is in Sri Lanka / Ceylon? However, that’s a future Sri Lanka & is not quite the same.