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About Roshani Chokshi
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. The Star-Touched Queen is her first novel.
I grew up hearing, reading, and watching snippets of The Mahabharata. For those who aren’t familiar, The Mahabharata is one of the major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and is full of tales within tales, family feuds, romance, philosophical and religious material.
When I read stories from The Mahabharata, the women always stood out. Beautiful women, Otherworldly women, cunning women, vengeful women, warrior women, heartbroken women. They lived, breathed, loved, wanted. One of the most heartbreaking female characters throughout the epic was Amba.
Amba is a collection of conflicts. She is at once a woman who I celebrate and emulate. But at the same time, she is a cautionary tale.
On the eve of her wedding to her lover, Amba and her two sisters are captured by Bhishma, a prince who has taken a vow of celibacy.* Bhishma wants the three sisters to marry his step-brother.** But Amba is in love with another, so the two sisters marry Bhishma’s brother and Bhishma returns Amba to the court of her lover with honors and riches.
Plot twist: the lover rejects her because she spent time in the company of another man.
Furious and rejected, Amba demands that Bhishma marry her because he has ruined her. He refuses because of his vow of celibacy. Her sisters’ husband refuses to marry her because she loved another. Every king refuses to avenge Amba’s lost honor. No man will fight her war, so she will fight it herself.
She vows to destroy Bhishma. She breaks from all that she has known and all that the world expected and retreats into the forest. She gives up food and sleep, performs the severest of penances. In the end, the gods grant her a boon. She is reborn. She vanquishes Bhishma.
I loved Amba because she won and lost.
Of all the princesses I grew up reading about, she never had a traditionally happy ending. There is no love for her. No joyous Bollywood-esque wedding. And yet she still had victory. Her one consuming goal in life came true because she broke against what was expected and she carved her own path. What she did was frightening and scary, but it was brave too. The male world had failed her, so she saved herself.
As much as I admire Amba, she’s also a reminder of what not to be. You don’t attain happiness by revenge. If you can pinpoint where your whole life went wrong and then give up your life in service of that vendetta, who are you? If you make your story about someone else, are you content to have your legacy be someone else’s ending?
I think about Amba often. I think about her when I feel like something has failed me because the truth is only I can do that. I think about her when I feel fury because I need to draw lines between how I let that anger define me. I remember that no matter how she is remembered, she chose her story.
And there is power in that.
* Capture on the day of your wedding isn’t an old idea in Hindu folklore…
** Also totally normal. There is even a rather opposite case where five brothers are married to one woman. But that is quite another tale.
Title The Star-Touched Queen
Author Roshani Chokshi
Pages 342 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Fantasy, Romance, Mythology
Published April 26th, 2016 by St. Martin’s Griffin
Find It On Goodreads ● Amazon.com ● Chapters ● The Book Depository
Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?
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. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…
But Akaran has its own secrets — thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.
A lush and vivid story that is steeped in Indian folklore and mythology. The Star-Touched Queen is a novel that no reader will soon forget.