Cursed with a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, sixteen-year-old Maya has only earned the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her world is upheaved when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. But when her wedding takes a fatal turn, Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Yet neither roles are what she expected. As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds friendship and warmth.
But Akaran has its own secrets – thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Beneath Akaran’s magic, Maya begins to suspect her life is in danger. When she ignores Amar’s plea for patience, her discoveries put more than new love at risk – it threatens the balance of all realms, human and Otherworldly.
Now, Maya must confront a secret that spans reincarnated lives and fight her way through the dangerous underbelly of the Otherworld if she wants to protect the people she loves.
Inspired by Indian mythology.
Never have I ever been more happy to have such a stunning book in my hands. I think from the instant I read the five chapter excerpt on Amazon, this book and I just clicked. Chokshi’s lush imagery just draws you in completely and transports you into an utterly unforgettable world where we have trees that don’t bear fruit, but memories. Maya and Amar are seriously a match made in heaven – or should I say a match made in the Otherworld? Either way, if not the captivating setting, than the endearing characters will make for a delightful read that you can’t get enough of.
Despite growing up a princess in a harem, Maya doesn’t let others do things for her. She’s the type to follow her gut – even when it causes more harm than anything. But at the same time, she’ll own up to her responsibilities and do whatever she can to make it right. The beginning of the book starts out a little slow, which I didn’t have a problem with. Maya finds herself living the mundane life in the court of her father, who is the ruler, or Raja, of the kingdom. No one really likes her, and she gets blamed for all the deaths of the court because of her devastating horoscope, which at the same time produces a sort of independence in her character. She even spies on her father when he’s talking with the ambassadors of other kingdoms! (You go girl) She’s imperfectly perfect. Maya makes mistakes, like any other girl her age. She doesn’t trust easily. She even has bumps on her forehead. But these things just made me fall in love with her even more.
Speaking of love, the love interest Amar was just swoony. I mean, what girl could say no to this?
“‘Come with me and you shall be an empress with the moon for your throne and constellations to wear in your hair. Come with me and I promise you that we will always be equals.”
But despite his charm, lots of mysteries remain with Amar’s character. He suddenly whisks Maya off her feet when she’s at the doors of death and ready to poison herself for the kingdom. Amar presents another opportunity to Maya, one that she can’t say no to. It isn’t until they travel through the Night Bazaar when she finally understands what she’s getting into.
The atmosphere that Chokshi paints is surreal – almost like a dream. It kind of reminded me of the scenes in the movie Spirited Away. While the Night Bazaar is festive and full of intriguing creatures and items that we would not see in real life, Akaran, Amar’s kingdom, lends a mysterious yet magical element that is both haunting and thrilling at once. In Akaran, Maya encounters all sorts of doors that lead to places and whispers in the hallways that makes her question her groom even more.
The romance in this book just gives me all the feels. Amar is the kind of love interest that you pretty much like at first sight (at least I did). He doesn’t give Maya or the readers any substantial answers as to why her fate is the way it is, asking her to instead wait for the new moon for everything to be revealed. And in between that month of waiting, he shows Maya a whole new world waiting to be explored. I love how he wants a partnership based on equality, which fits right in hand with Maya’s own feministic values. Although he may remain close-lipped about some things, his love for Maya is like a flame that never dies throughout the book.
“‘My kingdom needs a queen,’ he said. ‘It needs someone with fury in her heart and shadows in her smile. It needs someone restless and clever. It needs you.’”
The second half of the book is when the plot really picks up, as Maya makes some decisions that may have cost her and Amar dearly. But as she starts an adventure to fix the things she did, she also discovers many things about herself – including her past life. It’s absolutely astonishing to see how Maya grows and develops, even as she relearns the events from her past. She even comes to terms with that horoscope that left her life so dismal. Reading about Maya’s past life was like reading a story within a story – one that I devoured just like Kamala devours people. (If the last part of that phrase gives you pause, then it’s another reason why you need to read this book. 😛 )
“The stars had already told me everything they knew. And even though it left me untethered from any cosmic map I had once known… I felt freed.”
Readers, I urge you to pick this book up. It has a stellar world full of Indian mythology with the infusion of the Hades and Persephone myth, lovable and determined characters, a romance that just warms up your heart at times and utterly scorches it at other times, and a majestic horse that becomes more alive as she draws closer to death. I honestly can’t wait for the companion to this one, because I am in love with Chokshi’s writing and the stunning world that she created.