I received this book for free from St. Martin's Griffin in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi
Series: The Star-Touched Queen #2
on March 28th 2017
Source: St. Martin's Griffin
Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes—a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.
Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels.
Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.
Ali: Thank you so much Roshani for joining us today on Dazzled by Books. I wanted to start off this Q & A with what is one thing you hope readers will get out of A Crown of Wishes?
Roshani: I hope they close the book grinning. And maybe that night, they’ll dream about stories. And maybe the next day, they’ll see a bird dart from a tree and wonder if it came from Kubera’s court.
A: How was writing A Crown of Wishes different than writing your debut? Was the editing process easier this time around? Did the characters surprise you along the way?
R: Writing under a contractual deadline vs. “letting a story simmer and roll around in your thoughts for 4+ years” is bound to be a VASTLY different experience. I treated my outline religiously with ACOW. The editing process with my first book taught me to reconsider everything I knew about storytelling—when to hold back, when to give a little, when to move on. I think the main difference with ACOW was its forward sense of momentum. I’d never cried over scenes until I wrote ACOW. I mean, I’d cried in the sense of frustration, but not in the sense that a book’s character had put me through the emotional wringer because of their situations. To me, Gauri and Vikram became people that I could spot in a crowd. They became family.
A: Any hints on your next project? Will you continue to use mythology as your inspiration?
R: I can pretty much guarantee that mythology will always be in my stories. My next YA project is THE GILDED WOLVES. It’s a dark, sultry, ish-heist story set in the glamorous La Belle Epoque era of Paris. I love it to pieces, and I can’t wait for readers to meet the characters and world!
A: Did you always want to be a writer? What inspires your writing? Why did you choose to write YA novels?
R: Well, I always wanted to be a sorceress. And writing is its own sorcery. So yes.
My family and friends inspire my stories. I always return to the stories I grew up with or the stories I never had. I’m inspired by the places I’ve visited and the places I haven’t.
YA is a critical emotional landscape. It has emotional immediacy and consequences, vivid feelings and so much wanting. I don’t think we ever divorce ourselves from that sense of scrambling to find who we are. I’m not always sure that I know that answer for myself and so writing YA often feels like discovery.
A: A Crown of Wishes is about Gauri. Did you always know you’d want to tell her story, or did something about her story feel untold to you after you finished writing The Star-Touched Queen? Was her character influenced by any people that you knew?
R: Gauri’s story had always had a special place in my heart. I left her story purposely unfinished so that I could follow that emotional thread in ACOW. As for her character, she’s a lot like my little sister. Courageous, fierce and full of compassion.
A: What are some books that are similar in nature to yours that you’d recommend to other readers?
R: I think because of the magical tournament aspect, ACOW has gotten a lot of comparisons to Stephanie Garber’s CARAVAL, which delights me to no end because Stephanie is a wonderful friend whose book *stole* my heart!
I’d also recommend Lloyd Alexander’s THE IRON RING. It was one of the first books I ever read that was influenced by Hindu mythology, and I thought Alexander’s respect and admiration for the culture was lovingly rendered and creatively executed.
A: If you will be part of the Tournament of Wishes and you can choose your partner either real or fictional character, who will you pick to join you in Alaka? This book is about wishes so obviously I have to ask, what would you wish for if you won the Tournament of Wishes?
R: I would wish for no need of wishes, with the condition that I’m not killed or incapacitated. And as for partner, I would choose Agnieska from UPROOTED because she’s powerful, hilarious and would probably not mind taking frequent snack breaks…
A: What is your favorite book of 2017 so far?
R: So, it’s not a 2017 debut, but it is a book that I only recently discovered and feel really angry that no one ever told me to read it earlier. It’s THE CURSE WORKERS series by Holly Black, and it’s just gritty and fun and gothic, and so naturally, I love it.
A: Do you have any habits while writing? For example: a specific snack food you have to have or maybe music playing in the background.
R: I…eat coffee grinds. NOT USED COFFEE GRINDS. Just, you know, pop open ground up coffee from the store and stick a spoon in it and go to town…yes I know…
A: What is your favorite thing to do when you aren’t writing?
A: Do you know the muffin man?
R: I do. He lived on Drury Lane, but I heard he went bankrupt (so many divorces and scandals, lawd) and now does commercials like M.C. Hammer.
A: Disney Princess or Disney Villain? Why?
R: Villain. I find their backstories more interesting and, oftentimes, more sympathetic.
A: I have to say that sometimes I love the villains too. Thank you so much Roshani for stopping by. It was great to get to know you a little better. I look forward to all the other readers getting the chance to dive into A Crown of Wishes.
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BURNING ROSES GAURI
The guards unbound my wrists and shoved me into a red room. I waited for them to go before pulling out a small silk bag of pearl dust I had swiped from the cosmetics table. I repeated the flimsy plan in my head: Throw the dust in his eyes, gag him, steal his weapons. If the Prince made a sound, I’d hold the dagger to his throat and hold him ransom. If he didn’t make a sound, I’d make him free me for his own life. I knew I couldn’t get far on my own, but most people could be bribed, and if bribery didn’t work, threats always did.
I was glad they hadn’t taken me to a throne room. The last time I was in a throne room, Skanda had ripped away my hopes for the king- dom and destroyed my future.
Arjun did not meet my eyes. And he refused to look up when his new bride and my best friend was hauled into the room. Nalini sank to her knees. Her gaze was frantic: leaping back and forth from me to Arjun and the dead on the ground.
Skanda’s knife was pressed to her throat, sharp and close enough that beads of blood welled onto her skin.
“I know what you want,” said Skanda.
I closed my eyes, shuttering the memory. I looked around the room, wondering which corner was the best position for attacking. At one end, a trellis of roses covered the wall. My chest tightened. I used to grow roses. One trellis for every victory. I had loved watching the blood red petals unfurl around thorns. Looking at them reminded me of my people’s love: red as life. A month before Skanda had me thrown over the Ujijain border, he had set them on fire in a drunken stupor. By the time I got there, it was too late. Every petal had curled and blackened.
“You think these flowers are tokens of Bharata’s love for you,” he had slurred. “I want you to see, little sister. I want you to see just how easy it is for everything you plan and love and tend to go up in flames.”
I’ll never forget what burning roses look like. All those scarlet petals turning incandescent and furious. Like the last flare of the sun before an eclipse swallows it from the sky.
“You think they love you now, but it doesn’t last. You’re the rose. Not them. They are the flames. And you’ll never see how quickly you’ll catch fire until you’re engulfed. One step out of the line I draw, and they will set you on fire.”
I turned my back on the roses.
I chose a corner of the room, and then sank my teeth into the in- sides of my cheek. It was a habit I’d picked up on the eve of my first battle. Nerves had set my teeth chattering, so I brought out a mirror and glowered at myself. The glowering didn’t help, but I liked the way my face looked. The small movements made my cheekbones look as sharp as scimitars. And when I tightened my lips, I felt dangerous, as if I were hiding knives behind my teeth. Biting my cheeks became a battle tradition. Today I went into battle.
A door in the distance creaked. I ran through what I knew about the Prince of Ujijain. They called him the Fox Prince. And given the way some of the soldiers had jealously said his name, it didn’t seem like a name given because his face had animal features. He spent part of every year at an ashram where all the nobility sent their sons. Reputedly brilliant. Not good. Weak with weapons. Excellent. The guards were fond of retelling the story of his trial with the council. Prince Vikram had to submit to three tasks in order to be named heir of Ujijain—give the dead new life, hold a flame that never burns, and deliver the stron- gest weapon in the world. For the first task, he whittled a piece of bark into a knife, proving that even discarded things could be given new life in purpose. For the second task, he released a thousand jars of fireflies and held the small insects in his hand, proving that he could hold a flame that never burned. And for the last task, he said that he had poi- soned the council. Desperate for the antidote, the council named him heir. The Fox Prince then revealed that he had lied and proved how be- lief itself was the strongest weapon in the world.
I rolled my eyes every time I heard the tale. It sounded like some- thing that villagers with a restless imagination would spin beside a fire. I’d heard another rumor about him. Something about his par- entage. That he was an orphan who’d moved the Emperor to pity. But I doubted the vicious Emperor would be moved in such a way. The guards told me that the Emperor kept great beasts at his side that could tear the throat out of anyone who dared to cross him.
Footsteps shuffled down the hall. I clutched the silk bag of pearl dust. The Prince might be clever and eloquent, but you can’t talk your way out of death and I wasn’t going to give him a chance to speak. All my intelligence told me that he was no match for me. I’d have him on his knees and begging for his life in a matter of moments.
A final door opened. The Fox Prince was here.