Author: Roshani Chokshi

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Jun 13

Aru Shah and the End of Time

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★★

Aru Shah and the End of TimeAru Shah and the End of Time (Pandava Quartet, #1) by Roshani Chokshi
Published by Rick Riordan Presents on March 27, 2018
Genres: Middle Grade
Pages: 355
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreads five-stars

Twelve-year-old Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she'll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur?

One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru's doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don't believe her claim that the museum's Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again.

But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it's up to Aru to save them.

The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that?

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“We must go to the Otherworld, of course. Not quite what it used to be. It dwindles with humanity’s imagination, so I suspect it is currently the size of a closet. Or perhaps a shoe box.”

I absolutely loved this book! I wish I had been able to read it when I was a kid. It would have opened my eyes to a mythology completely different from any others I knew (it still did, it would have just been…nice to have it earlier in life). Aru is completely relatable, even though her situation is far and away from my own in some respects. I got a real Percy Jackson vibe, but it didn’t feel at all like a copycat. Hopefully that makes sense to my fellow readers!

This book isn’t only educational but EXTREMELY entertaining. I found myself snickering quite a few times and laughing out loud at least once. I love the pot shots Roshani takes at current issues/politics.

“This is what we get for thinking that scaly orange skin and fake hair could keep that former demon out of elected office!”

It’s not all fun and games though, as Aru and her friends soon discover…the lives of everyone they care about really are at stake, and not all are as they seem…

“Villains could be heroic, and heroes could do evil…everyone has a bit of good and bad in them.”

Basically this whole book is quotable, and I want to scoop Aru up into a hug (that she probably wouldn’t appreciate). So eager to read the next one!

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five-stars

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Mar 21

The Gilded Wolves

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★½

The Gilded WolvesThe Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves, #1) by Roshani Chokshi
Published by Wednesday Books on January 15, 2019
Pages: 388
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreads four-half-stars

No one believes in them. But soon no one will forget them.

It's 1889. The city is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. Here, no one keeps tabs on dark truths better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. When the elite, ever-powerful Order of Babel coerces him to help them on a mission, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To hunt down the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin calls upon a band of unlikely experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian banished from his home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in arms if not blood.

Together, they will join Séverin as he explores the dark, glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the course of history—but only if they can stay alive.

Wolves were everywhere. In politics, on thrones, in beds. They cut their teeth on history and grew fat on war.

My heart was both incredibly full and totally shattered when I finished this book. I immediately raced off to see when Book 2 is due out, and *gasp* there’s not even a DATE yet! How shall I survive? *melodramatic scream*

Characters

The Gilded Wolves is the story of friends. The most unlikely group of misfits who, despite their myriad differences, fit together and work together and love each other – even if they won’t come out and say it in so many words. I love this squad so much! Jury is out on whether it will be on par with my current favorite squads (a tie between the Lunar Chronicles gang and the Night Court circle). There is a TON of diversity as far as nationality, color, and sexuality. The diversity actually feels natural, too, not just “thrown in” for good measure the way it does in so many books published recently. I think part of this is because the author herself is of a mixed heritage and it gives her a unique viewpoint from which to write.

“You know how moths look at a fire and think, ‘Oooh! shiny!’ and then die in a burst of flames and regret?”

“Vaguely.”

“Right. Just checking to be sure.”

I loved Severin and Tristan, the brothers-not-really. Loved them so, so much. I really wish a little more of their back story had been explained, because while there are little tiny pieces of Severin’s story told through flashbacks (usually only a couple of paragraphs long), it really just wasn’t enough! Must. Have. More.

He wished he didn’t know what he had lost. Maybe then every day wouldn’t feel like this. As if he had once known how to fly, but the skies had shaken him loose and left him with nothing but the memory of wings.

Severin, the leader of this merry (or not) band, is a complex character. I’m a complete sucker for anti-heroes, so I was predisposed to like him, buuuuut at the end he is super super shitty to Laila. I understand WHY – he’s hurting, and either to keep himself from hurting or as an attempt to ease the pain he lashes out at her. Not to mention freezing everyone else out as well, but especially her. That was…completely uncalled for. Laila, being who she is, sees beyond his heartless words and actions to the pain underneath. Their relationship is far from resolved in this book, but I hope – I really hope – that Laila remains true to herself, regardless of her feelings for Severin. It could turn into a toxic relationship very quickly unless Severin actually allows himself to heal.

Laila, the magnificent baking queen with a mask of glitter and sensuality. She is amazing and so, so strong. Despite being very young she kind of gives off the mama bear vibe and I adored it. Her relationship with Severin is unique in YA in that they actually have history, it’s not insta-love or even lust. As I said above…it’s not resolved, at all, and I’m very interested to see how it goes in the following books.

I feel like this would be Zofia’s face on the regular.

<<<Then we have…my darling Zofia. Who is about the most awkward human being on the face of the planet, and I adore her for it. I feel like maybe she is on the spectrum, due to the way she immerses herself in projects and reacts to people? Also the ways she takes things literally. I love it so much.

“What on EARTH are you doing?”

“I am imitating patterns of flirtation.”

“Wait. You’re flirting. With…ME?”

“Maybe I have the methodology wrong.”

Oh, Zofia. She’s also a math whiz, and counts to keep herself calm. Also Zofia + Enrique would be awesome.

Oh yes, Enrique. I really feel that Enrique didn’t get enough screen time in this story and I’m hopeful that he gets more in the future books. He seems to have so many layers to him, and he just wants everyone to be happy and get along. Oh, and he’s a historian! Mad props.

Tristan, sweet, spider-loving Tristan (yes really). He reminded me of a little brother that everyone wants to protect and love on, which is essentially what he is to this entire group but especially to Severin. I loved his constant experiments and just his general vibe. Now I have to shut up because SPOILERS but dear god my heart!

I cannot WAIT to see what happens to this awesome squad in the next book! Also kind of terrified because like I already said…MY HEART.

Setting/Worldbuilding

Paris is dual-faced in this book – on one side, glittering and sparkly (hello, Laila), and on the other dark, dangerous, and hateful (oh, is that you, Severin?). In the shadowy places in between is everyone just trying to survive and find their place in a world that would cut them down and leave them bleeding on the street. The magic system was, to me, the weakest part of the story. I still don’t quite understand how forging works? Or how the ability is passed on or down or whatever? It was fascinating but I really need it spelled out in more detail.

Plot

“Nothing but a symbol? People die for symbols. People have hope because of symbols. They’re not just lines. They’re histories, cultures, traditions, given shape.”

The heist! I actually usually don’t like books involving heists, they give me a very Oceans 11 vibe and I get so nervous I literally can’t sit still. However, this one had so many puzzles and clues and different places to go I just HAD to keep reading. It was awesome. Even if I still don’t quite understand the magic behind the forged artifacts, it was enough for me that they were THE most valuable and coveted items on the planet and people would kill for them. How the squad got to them and the allies they had to make along the way was just…aaah! I WAS THERE FOR IT.

Overall, 4.5/5 stars. Half a star off for my confusion over the magic system. All the stars for the squad. This is truly a YA book, with young characters who act young (but not too young), and with sex being more innuendo than action. I loved it. Book 2 please hurry!

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four-half-stars

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Jan 17

Review of The Star-Touched Queen

Book Reviews 4

Review of The Star-Touched QueenThe Star-Touched Queen (The Star-Touched Queen, #1) by Roshani Chokshi
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on April 26th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 342
Goodreads

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.

This has been on my TBR since before it was released last year! I’m so excited to have finally read it. So without further ado, I present my review of The Star-Touched Queen!

“I am  a frightened girl, a roaring river and night incarnate….And I will not be tethered. My life belongs to me.”

Feels:

Reading The Star-Touched Queen was like falling headfirst into a swirling vortex of color, light, and strange beasts. It was beautiful, fascinating, terrifying, and slightly confusing at times.

Characters:

Maya is one of the many sons and daughters of the Raja of Bharata. Ostracized for her “cursed” horoscope her entire life, Maya has developed more independent thinking than most of her sisters. I immediately admired her resiliency in adapting to her less-than-ideal circumstances. I loved her protectiveness towards her younger sister Gauri. Very endearing. I didn’t quite understand some aspects of Maya’s character though…some of which I think may be due to cultural differences. For instance, near the beginning of the book, she makes a certain choice (no spoilers), that for the life of me I cannot understand and to me seems very out of character for what we know of her, up to that point, and even to her as we see later in the book. I just don’t understand it at all.

Maya does a lot of growing in this story. She changes. She comes to realize who and what she is, is not determined by her horoscope.

Once, I would have hurled curses at the stars. But the longer I looked, the less I hated them. The stars, filled with cold light and secrets…I, not the starlight, shaped my decisions.

Amar is the hero of the story…or is he? What is he? He’s so mysterious, so confusing…and holy shit, the man has some of the most amazing one-liners I’ve ever read. Like melt-my-heart kind of one-liners. Stop and think and WOW kind of one-liners. At the same time…he seemed to be a lot of smooth talk and not a whole lot of action. At least that was my impression. As more of his character and his life is revealed…well, you’ll have to judge him for yourself. His quotes are amazing though.

“I make this bond to you in blood, not flowers.”

“There is no romance in real grief, only longing and fury.”

To be honest, while I liked both Maya and Amar, I wasn’t OMG invested in either one of them. I think this was at partially because I was so overwhelmed by the world and everything that was happening (more on that later). I’m really eager to see how the next book plays out, thought I’m afraid that since it’s focusing on Gauri, we won’t really get to know Maya and Amar much better.

Plot:

Bharata is at war. The Raja will stop at nothing, nothing, to win and secure peace. However, all that quickly takes a backseat to the journey that Maya takes with Amar, to the kingdom of Akaran. Everything slows way down once they arrive there, and several chapters are spent wandering around the palace and discovering ALL SORTS OF THINGS. It was beautiful, but it was slow. While I was intrigued, I kept wondering when something was going to happen.

Once things started moving again (oh look…there’s ONE THING Maya is not supposed to do…and what do we all do when told about ONE THING?), they really start moving. I was NOT prepared for all the world-time-space jumping and more than once literally felt like I was falling into that vortex. It was amazing, but it seemed a bit disjointed at times.

About halfway through the book, I realized that there were really TWO major plot lines. My little light-bulb came on, and that was very helpful…but I really feel like it could have somehow been done better to avoid all the “WTF is going on” moments I had. I really doubt I’m the only one having these thoughts, but if I am…you know. I might just be weird.

I really like that there is no prince-saving-the-princess going on here. Yes, there is a love story. It’s beautiful, and powerful. However. Maya and Amar both remain fully their own people and in the end, Maya is the one who really does the saving.

Worldbuilding/Setting:

This, my friends, is where The Star-Touched Queen shines. The world building here is nothing short of phenomenal. The fuzziness of the plot was forgivable so long as I could live in this bright, beautiful, and unfathomably deep world. It glows. It glitters. Rosin Chokshi employs all five of the reader’s senses when building her world. I could smell the spices, see the split skies, hear the jingle of bells. It’s by turns beautiful and frightening.

The world and characters are largely drawn from traditional Indian (Hindu?) mythology and culture. Now, I am almost entirely unfamiliar with both, so maybe I was a little more in awe and sometimes a little more confused than a reader with more background. I had next to none, but the awesome thing is: it didn’t matter. Chokshi has missed nothing…I could see every step Maya took in the palace halls, I could feel her falling through space, I could see both the beauty and the horror of her journey. As someone with no frame of reference for this world, I can’t say enough good things about this aspect of the book. I was fascinated. When I was confused, it wasn’t for lack of being able to picture what was going on but being at a loss as to WHY or HOW something was happening.

I had never read a fantasy book where reincarnation was treated as…well, as anything! It added an amazing new element and all kinds of new possibilities. I found it a little hard to wrap my head around, but I hope to see it again in the second book.

Rating/Thoughts:

4/5 stars. Half a star off for the meandering and delay of the plot after the story moves to Akaran, half a star for the confusion and lack of explaining on how the space/time thing worked. Maybe I’m just a confused muppet but I really could have used a little more explanation…shocking, coming from someone who usually complains about too much telling versus showing.

I’d love to hear what other readers thought of this book! Was I the only one confused?


Challenges:

This book counts towards my 75 Books in 2017 Challenge, the Beat the Backlist Challenge, and the Diverse Reads 2017 Challenge!

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