This story left me heartbroken, but for all the wrong reasons…
(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through NetGalley. Trigger warning for rape.)
“Find the one who glows, with blood on the lips and fangs in the heart.”
DNF at 60%.
When we first revisit Gauri, the Princess of Bharata – and the scrappy, story-hungry younger sister of Maya, the Star-Touched Queen of the series’ title – it’s from behind the bars of a dark, dank dungeon. Jealous of the devotion Gauri inspires in their people (and no doubt smarting from an assassination plot), her older brother Skanda arranged for her execution at enemy hands. Lucky for her (or is it really? Gauri is no distressed damsel), the Fox Prince needs Gauri alive.
The adopted only son of the the Emperor Pururavas, Vikram’s pending power is in name only: The Council of Ujijain refuses to let an orphan of common blood rule their land. Announcing Gauri’s execution is to be his first official act. But to kill the Jewel of Bharata is to turn his back on his one chance at true power. Vikram’s invitation to compete in the mythical Tournament Of Wishes is for two: himself and a partner who glows. And when he first sets his eyes on Gauri, she is positively luminescent.
With a little persuading – after what happened to Maya, Gauri wants nothing to do with magic – the two set off for the Otherworld, in pursuit of victory … and their most treasured wishes.
So here’s the deal. I adored The Star-Touched Queen and was super-excited for A Crown of Wishes. I even rolled my eyes at the doubters, those who questioned whether this seemingly standalone story really necessitated a sequel, let alone one featuring a rather minor player from the first book. Honestly, Chokshi’s dedication says it best: “For my siblings, Monica and Jayesh. And for all siblings who refuse to be secondary characters in anyone’s tale. You are legends in the making.” When I learned that Gauri would be getting her own story, I grew antsy with anticipation: I wanted to see this adorable, fierce, loving, heartbroken girl, all grown up (and slaying her enemies like nobody’s business).
As it turned out, A Crown of Wishes broke my heart – but in the worst way possible. I just couldn’t get into it. After a few weeks of struggling, I finally DNF’ed at 60%. Cue: the bitter taste of disappointment.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why my feelings for A Crown of Wishes were so lukewarm. I mean, Chokshi’s prose is as elegant as ever. But the story didn’t have the same grand, sweeping, epic feel as The Star-Touched Queen. And while I liked Gauri, I didn’t connect with her or Vikram, and the predictability of the two of them together had me sighing like Fred Savage in The Princess Bride. I just couldn’t bring myself to care about any of it.
That said, I’m going through what will probably go down as the worst period in my life (fingers crossed, but things can always get worse), and it’d be an understatement to say that I’m in a reading slump. Very few things – be they books, graphic novels, movies, tv shows, even good company or old-fashioned manual labor – have managed to take my mind of things for more than a minute or two. So, grain of salt.
On the other hand: I also have a tendency to try to explain a DNF away, especially when it’s of an overwhelmingly popular book. It’s like I just can’t accept that my opinion diverges so dramatically from the norm, and in such a negative way. So maybe I’m doing us all a disservice by blaming it solely on the slump. Perhaps the problem lies in the book, or the story, or the characters who inhabit it. Maybe it’s a romance that just wasn’t meant to be … for this reader, anyway.