Official Summary: An ancient mystery. An unlikely union. For one young princess in a state of peril, a dangerous wish could be the only answer…
She is the princess of Bharata—captured by her kingdom’s enemies, a prisoner of war. Now that she faces a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. But should she trust Vikram, the notoriously cunning prince of a neighboring land? He promises her freedom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together they can team up and win the Tournament of Wishes, a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor. It seems like a foolproof plan—until Gauri and Vikram arrive at the tournament and find that danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans, mischievous story birds, a feast of fears, and twisted fairy revels. New trials will test their devotion, strength, and wits. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.
My Thoughts: I don’t even know where to begin with reviewing this book. I just… loved it so much. It gave me so many feelings and had pretty words and I just… I adored this book. It was so good.
I guess I’ll start by talking about the thing I find most important in any story: the characters. These characters were well-developed and each had their own distinct arc. This had been my main problem with The Star-Touched Queen. Many of the characters felt flat and Maya was the only one with any growth. Chokshi rectified that issue in this book. These characters come alive immediately and are very well-rounded. Gauri, Vikram, and Aasha wormed their way into my heart and now I’m not letting them go.
The romance, I felt, was also an improvement from Star-Touched. While Maya and Amar’s romance relied on tropes, this romance takes its time to develop and change. It was also clear to see why these two would fall for each other: they’re two halves of the same whole. Their strengths and weaknesses complement each other. The get to know each other deeply over the course of a month and never shy away from any darkness they find. It even makes sense that it doesn’t end in epic, world-changing love, but rather the suggestion that it could be someday. Also, their banter is just wonderful.
Next I’ll talk about the plot, which is to say, there was one. Another issue with Star-Touched (which I loved, despite my criticisms) was that it lacked a plot. This book had not only a distinct plot, but a great one. I’m a sucker for a magic competition and this book had one of the most exciting. I also really appreciated how everything played out in regards to the ending and post-competition portion of the story.
Thematically, I’d say this is a story of perception and sacrifice. It deals largely with how Gauri, Vikram, and Aasha are viewed by others and how they view themselves. Their world views are challenged. The concept of magic plays really well into this, either by removing innocence or allowing perspective. Fear also heavily influences perception and even determines what makes something worth a sacrifice. The story forces these characters to look inward, blending internal and external conflicts together seemlessly.
The writing was absolutely gorgeous. It was lyrical and flowery, which is my jam, so to speak. The metaphorical writing worked really well to help build the atmosphere. My one complaint in the whole book is that Gauri’s POV’s are told through first person, while Vikram and Aasha’s are told through third. I couldn’t find any reason why this would be done. If it was a stylistic choice, it added nothing to the story. However, it also took nothing away and didn’t distract from the story, so it’s not something I have a big issue with. It’s simply a writing choice I didn’t understand.
I could go on and on all day about how much I loved this book. It’s such a beautiful, well-written story with excellent characters. It’s thematically relevant and very moving. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if this book winds up being one of my favorites of the year.
My Rating: 5/5