YA Weekend: A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: Stand Alone; Book 2 of The Star-Touched Queen
Publisher: Macmillan Audio (March 28, 2017)
Length: 14 hrs and 24 mins
I picked up A Crown of Wishes after the fantastic read that was The Star-Touched Queen, and I’m glad I did. This is despite the book being a companion novel rather than a true sequel, because while the two may feature different stories and characters, they are the same in all the ways that count – in their creative vision and excellence.
Once upon a time in a kingdom called Ujijain there lived a prince named Vikram. Known as the Fox Prince, he was offered a chance to compete in the mysterious Tournament of Wishes held in the otherworldly realm of Alaka, city of Treasures and Wealth. It is said that winner will be granted any wish they desire—and being the adopted son of the emperor and merely regarded as a puppet prince, Vikram thinks he knows what it is he will ask for should he prevail. But first, he’s going to have to find a partner.
Enter Gauri, a warrior princess who attempted a coup against her tyrannical brother and failed. Now she is in exile and a prisoner of war, captured by her kingdom’s enemies and facing death. In Vikram’s eyes, however, she is the ideal teammate—fierce, strong, and powerful, she’s the perfect complement to his wit and cunning. Gauri, on the other hand, is less than impressed with Vikram’s naiveté and lack of fighting ability, and yet, if it’s a choice between execution and going off on a wild goose chase with some strange fool prince, she knows which option she’s going to pick. So together they team up and head off to Alaka, with every confidence that they will emerge victorious. But upon their arrival in the otherworld, Gauri realizes that the two of them may have gotten in way over their heads. Things work differently here than in the real world, with dangers taking new forms. Curses and other magical or supernatural threats abound, twisting their aspirations into desperation and destruction.
While I was reading, I just couldn’t help but think this is the book I wish Caraval had been. Thematically they are very similar, each novel featuring an otherworldly, magical competition at its center. The difference is, The Crown of Wishes does it so much better. In contrast to the frenetic, almost random structure of Caraval, this one instead features an organized, well thought out plotline which gradually expands beyond the two protagonists’ personal stories. In some ways, it reminded me of a series of integrated folk tales, focusing on Gauri and Vikram as they discover more about themselves and each other with the completion of each challenge. Not surprisingly, the end result is a book that feels significantly more impactful and emotionally complex.
Ultimately I gave The Crown of Wishes the same rating as I did The Star-Touched Queen, because I enjoyed both books equally. But just as the original does some things better, there are likewise areas where the follow-up tops its predecessor. Those who thought the pacing was too slow in the first book will probably find this to be less of a problem in The Crown of Wishes, for example. It is a much more action-oriented and plot-driven book, with sustained high levels of excitement as the tournament progresses through its various stages.
I also preferred the relationship dynamics between the main characters here, over the one between Maya and Amar in The Star-Touched Queen. In a word, Vikram and Gauri were adorable. While a love story like theirs is in no way unique in YA, I feel Roshani Chokshi deserves a tremendous amount of credit for her gift in dialogue writing. On not once but several occasions, I found myself smiling at the cleverness and sharp humor in the characters’ back-and-forth banter, and that is a rare thing for me indeed. There’s a sense of real chemistry between them, making this a more satisfying YA romance than most.
The world-building was also wonderful. If you enjoyed this aspect from The Star-Touched Queen, then you’ll be even more thrilled with the level of detail here, as it is another step up from the author’s debut efforts. I loved Alaka, and the aura of myth and mystery that surrounded it. In fact, at times it felt like an information overload, simply because the strange and magical descriptions would keep coming and coming. The deluge got to be a little too much at times, but overall I appreciated the introduction to this rich and beautiful setting.
When all is said and done, A Crown of Wishes delivered everything I hoped for in a follow-up to one of the top YA novels I read last year, and I highly recommend both books in The Star-Touched Queen sequence. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for the author’s future projects.
Audiobook Comments: Narrator Priya Ayyar did a fantastic job on the audiobook production of The Star-Touched Queen, which was I was so happy to see her reprise the role for the sequel. Her strong performance was one of the reasons why I decided to continue with this format for A Crown of Wishes, and I was not disappointed. Her reading was even better this time around, and once again she did great with the inflections and accents. I would not hesitate to recommend this series in audio.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of The Star-Touched Queen (Book 1)