I’m really late to this party but I recently read The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi, an excellent YA fantasy which also happens to be chock-full of mythological influences. The protagonist is a girl called Maya, one of many daughters of a Raja who is trying to get a bunch of rebellions under control in his kingdom. The Raja decides his last unmarried daughter is the only way to get the rebels under control, in spite of the terrible horoscope surrounding her birth. Maya finds herself married to the mysterious Amar, the Raja of a land called Akaran that she’s never heard of before, and the mysteries only grow from there!
“Ruling Akaran is a strange task. In many ways, it is like balancing an illusion. You must separate the illusion of what you see and the reality of its consequences,” he said. “Tell me, my queen, are you ready to play with fate?”
-Amar is a weird dude.
Some chunks of the plot and characters reminded me a lot of the myth of Cupid and Psyche, particularly the bit where the girl is married off, somewhat against her will, to a mysterious dude who won’t tell her anything about himself but is really nice and has a palace but also nothing really adds up and the girl becomes more and more uneasy about her life and her choices. All of that, but set in an Indian setting, and with a bunch more magical stories and mythic creatures, either gliding along on the fringes or bursting into the middle of the story.
Since I’m super white and am much more familiar with Greco-Roman myths than anything else, I had to look up the other myths invoked here, for the sake of my own curiosity. Fortunately, the author listed some on a Goodreads Q&A. She apparently used many Hindu myths in the story, but especially these: Savitri and Satyavan, Shiva and Parvati, The Ramayana, Shakuntula, and Narasimha. So I have my myth-reading list for the week! Themes from these stories include lots of trickery and cleverness, the value of memory, the importance of Death as a stabilizing figure rather than a chaotic one, and the power of love. All of these are featured heavily in The Star-Crossed Queen. This book reminded me of another myth-inspired YA book, Deathless by Catherynne Valente. Deathless draws on Russian folklore, similar to the way The Star-Touched Queen draws on Hindu myths, and is another book I strongly recommend.
I definitely enjoyed the story without being familiar with the Hindu myths, as they enriched the story regardless, but I’d like to reread the book once I have a better grasp on them. This book definitely seems like one that would reward rereads; there’s a lot packed in here.
The book as a whole was beautifully written, well-paced, and included a fascinating and awful cast of characters. My personal favorite was Kamala the murder-horse, who says things like:
“It is nice to be nice. And it is also nice to eat people.”