Author Interview: Roshani Chokshi on The Silvered Serpents

Roshani Chokshi author photo, credit: Aman SharmaThe Silvered Serpents is the stunning and often shocking follow up to The Gilded Wolves–a historical fantasy filled with magic, action, and more than a few mysteries. Set not long after the events of book one, this installment once again follows Séverin and his team this time as they hunt for The Divine Lyrics–a way to stop the rogue lost house and also chase immortality and prestige themselves. Roshani was already one of my favorite authors but who knew you could love a favorite even more as a series continues. I’m very happy to have Roshani here answering some questions about this latest installment.

Miss Print: The Silvered Serpents is the second book in your Gilded Wolves trilogy–a series partially inspired by National Treasure and Tomb Raider. When you started writing the first book, did you already know what would be in store for the characters in book two? Did anything change after you had finished The Gilded Wolves and started working on this story?

Roshani Chokshi: Yes! Before I started writing the first book, I had a pretty clear idea of how things were going to end up for the characters. That said, I think the emotional balance between them changed a lot more as I started working on TSS. At its heart, it really is a story of love, and it was both rewarding and painful to reexamine each of those relationship dynamics and see what would be different.

Miss Print: This series starts in 1889 and in this book, as the beautiful cover hints, we see the action move from Paris to Russia as the team explores the sprawling and magical Sleeping Palace. I was struck by how much forging magic readers see in this installment. How did you decide what kinds of magical creations to include? Did you have a favorite forged object here or anything that didn’t make the final cut?

Roshani Chokshi: Most fictional magic systems come down to whether the magic functions as an art or a science. Can it be learned or does it first require innate ability that can then be shaped? For me, I really wanted to write a magic system that was both artistic in practice and in nature. Because Forging is tied so closely to someone’s will, it can be powerful, but more often than naught, it’s an expression of whimsy. Winter and whimsy is a joyous feast for the imagination, so I had a lot of fun coming up with objects and ways to interact with the setting. At every stage, I wanted each piece of Forging to enhance the mystery of their setting, and I hope that shines.

Miss Print: These books feature one of my favorite ensemble casts and I love getting chapters following each of them as they move through different parts of the story. We’ve discussed before who was the most fun and the hardest to write. But with everything that’s been going on in the world, I have to ask: How would the team manage during quarantine?

Roshani Chokshi: I think as long as they were in L’Eden…they’d be fine. Hypnos would probably stage musical theatre performances that, halfway through, would become a surprise burlesque performance and scandalize everyone. Laila would be conquering sourdough starters. Zofia would be blowing things up in the backyard. Enrique would be holed up in the library, and Séverin would be running back and forth between all of them, making sure they want for nothing.

Miss Print: Can you tell me anything about your next project? Any news on your Santa origin story?

Roshani Chokshi: Lately, I’ve been frantically revising the third and final book in the Gilded Wolves trilogy and also wrapping up edits on the fourth book in the Pandava quintet. It’s bizarre to me that I’m nearing the finishing line for both series when they’ve lived in my head since 2015?? What is time?? After that, there’s a story that’s been rattling about in my brain. Something about Bluebeard. I’m not sure what it wants to be yet. And I am *STILL* noodling the Santa origin story haha. I need to figure out the magic of it all…but I’ve been jotting down bits and pieces of dialogue and I have to say…I am endlessly delighted with how it might turn out.

Thanks again to Rosh for taking the time to chat with me.

You can see more about Roshani and her books on her website.

You can also read my review of The Silvered Serpents here on the blog.

The Silvered Serpents: A Review

“What is magic but a science we cannot fathom?”

The Silvered Serpents by Roshani ChokshiMonths ago Séverin and his crew beat the remnants of the exiled Fallen House back into hiding. But the victory came at a steep cost. A loss that has left Séverin and his friends reeling and weakened the once unbreakable bonds between them.

Determined to never lose anything–or anyone–ever again, Séverin follows clues to the Fallen House’s Sleeping Palace in Russia. Once there he believes he can uncover their greatest treasure: The Divine Lyrics, a book that is said to bestow godlike powers to whoever uses it and may also unite the Babel Fragments spread across the globe that make Forging magic possible.

While Séverin chases invulnerability to protect those he cares about, Laila hopes the book might save her before time runs out. Historian Enrique thinks the high profile recovery will earn him the respect that eludes him. And scientist Zofia wants to prove that she can take care of herself even if she sometimes needs help understanding other people.

After so many years working together, so much time trying to prove themselves, Séverin and the others will all have to choose what matters most and how far they are willing to go in pursuit of it in The Silvered Serpents (2020) by Roshani Chokshi.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Silvered Serpents is the second book in Chokshi’s Gilded Wolves trilogy.

Chokshi expertly builds tension and suspense in this sequel as the team delves deeper into the mysteries surrounding the Fallen House, the secret of the Divine Lyrics, and the Lost Muses who may be able to tap into the artifact’s power. The theme of who is able and allowed to shape history continues to be a major underpinning of this series as all of the characters question how best to make their own voices heard in a world that often refuses to truly see them.

Chapters alternating between Séverin and the rest of the team explore their varied motivations and subplots offering many insights into each character while moving inexorably toward the novel’s shocking conclusion that will leave readers eagerly anticipating the final installment.

The Silvered Serpents is the sleeker, smarter, sharper, and bloodier sequel fans of this series deserve. Highly recommended.

You can also check out my exclusive interview with Roshani Chokshi discussing this book!

Possible Pairings: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett, The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake, The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty, The Reader by Traci Chee, Into the Crooked Place by Alexandra Christo, The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao, Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, There Will Come a Darkness by Katy Rose Pool, A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab, Enchantée by Gita Trelease

*A more condensed version of this review appeared in the February 2020 issue of School Library Journal as a starred review*

The Gilded Wolves: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“When you are who they expect you to be, they never look too closely.”

cover art for The Gilded Wolves by Roshani ChokshiParis, 1889: Séverin Montagnet-Alarie is well-known throughout Paris society as a wealthy hotelier–a persona that helps him acquire secrets and artifacts from the French faction of the Order—powerful houses who manage all Forged artifacts and guard the secrets of the Babel Fragments that make Forging both materials and minds possible.

Over the years Séverin has created a loyal team to help with his acquisitions: Tristan, his brother in everything but blood; Enrique, his Filipino historian eager to champion his own cause; Zofia, a Polish engineer with obligations of her own; and Lailah, an Indian dancer with a secret that could be deadly.

The Order has taken everything from Séverin but if he and his crew find an ancient artifact for a rival, he could get it all back. If they succeed, Séverin will be able to change all of their fates. If the artifact doesn’t reshape the world first in The Gilded Wolves (2019) by Roshani Chokshi.

Find it on Bookshop.

Chokshi’s new series starter is a sumptuous, fascinating historical fantasy that perfectly evokes the luxury and unrest of Belle Époque Paris alongside a carefully detailed world where Babel fragments allow Forgers to create wonders including portable recording devices, animated topiaries, and even control minds.

Séverin and members of his crew alternate chapters in close third person introducing readers to their faceted backstories while the story itself unfolds in multiple directions. Chokshi has created an inclusive and authentic cast of characters (notably including a character on the autism spectrum as well as a character whose bisexuality is sensitively explored throughout the narrative). The entire team has obvious affection for each other along with the witty banter and twists fans of the author’s previous books will appreciate. Then there’s the chemistry between Séverin and Lailah which is so strong that the pages practically sizzle.

The Gilded Wolves is part mystery, part fantasy, and all adventure as Séverin and his team work to pull off a world-changing heist and make their own way in the world. In addition to solving ciphers and riddles while on the hunt for the artifact, Séverin’s crew also interrogates the troubling history of European colonialism and cultural appropriation showing that not everything in Belle Epoque Paris is solid gold.

Chokshi’s expert pacing, intricate alternate history, and a complex and fully realized magic system are perfectly executed in this ambitious novel. The Gilded Wolves is a delectably intriguing adventure and guaranteed to be your next obsession.

You can also check out my exclusive interview with Rosh about this book!

Possible Pairings: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett, The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake, The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty, The Reader by Traci Chee, Into the Crooked Place by Alexandra Christo, The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao, Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, There Will Come a Darkness by Katy Rose Pool, A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab, Enchantée by Gita Trelease

*A more condensed version of this review was published in the December 2018 issue of School Library Journal as a starred review*

Author Interview #3: Roshani Chokshi on The Gilded Wolves

Roshani Chokshi author photo, credit: Aman SharmaThe Gilded Wolves is a sweeping story set in a complex world filled with magic and intrigue. This historical fantasy is part mystery and all adventure as Séverin and his team work to pull off a world-changing heist and make their own way in the world. Lush settings, vibrant characters, action, and a few hints of romance blend together perfectly. I was lucky enough to read The Gilded Wolves in August before reviewing it for School Library Journal. Since then, I have been completely obsessed. I’m so excited to have Rosh here today for an interview about this new series starter.

MP: What was the inspiration for The Gilded Wolves? Where did you start with this project?

Roshani Chokshi (RC): Silly as it might sound, The Gilded Wolves inspiration came from my intense (and slightly embarrassing) love for National Treasure and Tomb Raider. As I started writing the book, it took on a life of its own! I started writing this project in early 2016. It was just a wee seedling of a story, but it quickly expanded in scope.

MP: The Gilded Wolves is set in Paris in 1889. While the presence of Babel Fragments and the Order has altered quite a few things in this world, much of your setting is still filled with historical detail. What kind of research went into creating this world? What setting details were you most excited to develop?

RC: There was a lot of research. I could wax poetic about the fascinating history of ice manufacturing for…days. And yet, all that research went into ONE SENTENCE in the story that I eventually took out!!!! WHY GODS WHY. For me, the most exciting setting details were the parties…I love parties. I love a glamorous, well-thought out party with a fabulous theme. And I like to know what’s happening in the corners of the party. You know, where all the good gossip starts ;)

MP: The Gilded Wolves follows multiple characters as Séverin works with his team to pull off a seemingly impossible heist.  Which character was the most fun to write? Who was the hardest to write? Who are you especially excited for readers to meet?

RC: Hypnos was the most fun to write, and Zofia was the hardest to write. For Hypnos, I knew who he would be, but not how he would arrive at that point. For Zofia, I respected from the beginning that her thought process as someone on the spectrum followed a different set of guidelines. I am so appreciative of the help from my sensitivity readers for helping me not only get into her head, but also represent her thought process in a way that (hopefully) resonates with similar readers. I’m most excited for readers to meet Enrique, who is the kind of character my Filipina mother has been bugging me to write for the last five years. He’s that nerdy friend who would send you articles from The Guardian/The Economist and ask you over drinks what you thought about them because omgggghistorynewswowwhatislife. Lol.

MP: In your novel some people can channel power from Babel Fragments as Forgers with abilities that range from shaping plants into wondrous arrangements to building technological devices or even controlling minds. What kind of Forger would you want to be?

RC: I would loveeee to have a Forging affinity for matter, specifically silk. Enchanted dresses?! Yes please.

MP: The Gilded Wolves is the start of a series. How did you go about plotting a story that would take place over multiple books? How much did you know about the way you wanted the series to play out when you started writing this first part of the story?

RC: To be very honest, this story changed so much in the telling. I thought it would be LIGHT. It…it is not. I thought it would be the kind of fantasy you could consume in your sleep, and it’s not. In fact, it’s treacherous DNF material for the first 30% and, frankly, that’s the way the story needed to be told. It was (is) genuinely the best I could do at the skill-level I possessed at the time I finished…that’s many conditions, but, as a writer who sincerely believes in growing with each book, I know that’s a personal best. I hope that for readers who push through those first 50 pages, that they find something worth loving.

MP: I always love when you share updates on your writing and revision process on your Instagram. In addition to already working on the second book in this series, you are also working on the second book in your middle grade series which started with Aru Shah and the End of Time. How do you balance working on two projects so close together? What does a typical writing day look like for you?

RC: Oh, I’m so glad! Usually, I worry that I’m just a rambling fiend because balancing projects is…tough. To say the least. I think the only way that I can manage it is if both books are in different stages. As in, one is in draft and the other is in revision, but they can’t be one thing at the same time or I’d go bananas. O_O For me, a typical writing day is telling my computer it won’t get the best of me, entering fierce negotiations with my cat that the keyboard is not an avant garde bed, and dithering around aimlessly until I panic from looking at the time and word vomit into Scrivener. Very glamorous, I know. My best writing is in revisions, when I wake up super early, and pretend the world (and twitterverse) is asleep…and then I tinker with sentences. I dream up plot points that will never be in the story; flashbacks I’ll never include…just to understand the fictional person I’m dealing with. And that’s when I fall back in love with an idea.

MP: Can you tell me anything about your next project? (Or your ongoing ones!)

RC: If anyone takes a glance at my Instagram or Twitter, it’s no secret that I’m toying with a Santa Claus origin story. It sounds ridiculous, I know. But beyond the humor of tackling something like that, I’m someone who suffers from really bad seasonal affective disorder. I love how in most cultures, there’s a midwinter figure, someone who inspires joy and generosity and stories…someone mythical who necessitates warmth at a time when all is dark. I think that’s why I’m interested in their origins, beyond, of course, getting to write a totally scandalous title >:)

Thanks again to Rosh for taking the time to talk with me.

You can see more about Roshani and her books on her website.

You can also read my review of The Gilded Wolves here on the blog.

Star-Touched Stories: A Review

cover art for Star-Touched Stories by Roshani ChokshiStar-Touched Stories (2018) by Roshani Chokshi brings readers back to the world of the author’s first two novels  The Star-Touched Queen and A Crown of Wishes. This collection of three 100+ page novellas (one a previous preorder incentive for A Crown of Wishes and the other two previously unpublished) all contain spoilers for the novels in the series. Be sure you have read both if you want to avoid any ruined twists or surprises.

“Death and Night” follows the Dharma Raja throughout his unlikely courtship of Night incarnate. The story alternates between Death and Night’s first person narration as they uneasily begin courting and contemplate how much they are willing to risk for a partnership and whether or not that includes their hearts. This novel stops short of the events of The Star-Touched Queen but many of the key players from that novel are present here along with an abundance of witty banter.

“Poison and Gold” is set shortly after the end of A Crown of Wishes. Aasha, a vishakanya whose very touch is deadly, earned her own wish in the Tournament of Wishes–the chance to choose to live as a human. But making a place for herself in the human world is harder than Aasha expected. As Gauri and Vikram prepare to unite their kingdoms, Aasha will have to embrace both her humanity and her vishakanya side while training under the fierce but fascinating Spy Mistress in an attempt to make a place for herself beside her friends in this new world.

Set after both novels in the series “Rose and Sword” recalls a well-known story in the Empire of Bharat-Jain where, long ago, a bride was poised to become a widow before her wedding henna had even dried. She will have to travel through Death and back to reclaim her husband’s last breath. But can she make it in time and, more importantly, will she want to? This was my favorite novella of the collection and a bittersweet farewell to a favorite series.

Chokshi is in top form with the lush world building and vivid language fans of this series have come to love. Each novella focuses on an ambitious heroine as she confronts not just her fears but also her desires. A must read for fans of the series and a charming introduction to both the author and her works.

*A more condensed version of this review was published in the June 2018 issue of School Library Journal*

Author Interview #2: Roshani Chokshi on A Crown of Wishes

Roshani Chokshi author photoRemember last year when I read The Star-Touched Queen early to review it for School Library Journal? I loved it so much that I requested the privilege to review Chokshi’s follow up and companion to her debut novel, A Crown of Wishes. Rosh once again completely floored me with her vivid imagery, complex characters, and thrilling story. I am thrilled to have Roshani Chokshi here again today to talk about her fantastic new novel A Crown of Wishes.

Miss Print (MP): What was the inspiration for A Crown of Wishes?

Roshani Chokshi (RC): I always wanted to tell Gauri’s story ever since she walked onto the pages in The Star-Touched Queen. Both female characters have such different experiences in their childhood (reviled vs. revered) and this affects their sense of responsibility as they grow older. I wanted Gauri to push back on everything that seemed to come so easily to her. And I really wanted to address how our relationships with our childhood stories change over time :) Plus, any opportunity I can get to wax poetic about the Night Bazaar and talk about food in the Otherworld is always a YES.

MP: Like your debut, A Crown of Wishes is filled with memorable characters. Is there anyone you are especially excited for readers to meet? Did you always plan to write a companion novel about Maya’s sister Gauri?

RC: Thank you!!! Yes. I’m very excited for readers to meet Aasha. I loved writing her character so much because she’s got so much heart. I also really liked how her relationship with Gauri grew from one of convenience to actual friendship.

MP: In this novel you write from multiple viewpoints as Gauri and Vikram compete in the Tournament of Wishes. What was it like writing a linear narrative with multiple points of view? Did shifting from one narrator to multiple narrators change your writing process compared to writing The Star-Touched Queen?

RC: Omg it was so harrowing…there were days when I would just walk away from my laptop in tears because I felt like their voices were *just* out of reach and I couldn’t grasp them. But once I sat down, and really thought about who they were and why they wanted certain things, the narration became a lot more easier and genuinely enjoyable. It changed my writing process too by making me a lot more aware of characters interacting with worldbuilding. I think it made me a better writer too because it required a level of character engagement that wasn’t as present in TSTQ.

MP: Time to gush about two of my favorite characters: While Gauri is often impetuous and fierce, Vikram is more measured and thoughtful. Like Maya these two are unapologetic about their ambitions and self-aware enough to acknowledge their potential. They both negotiate the various facets of their personalities and how they present themselves both in person and through story to make the most of being underestimated throughout the narrative. Did you always know that story would play a big part in this story? How did you go about making perception, particularly with Gauri, a key part of the plot?

RC: I always knew this would be a story about stories :) To me, it felt like the most fitting end for the TSTQ universe. Maya’s story is also about perception, and Gauri’s story is about the consequences of perception. But it was challenging not to make it too on the nose, and for my characters to be reflective without being too…plodding, I guess? One of the things that allowed me to bring perception to the forefront was building that foundation of Gauri’s love of stories in The Star-Touched Queen. I could pull on those examples to explain how what she sees in A CROWN OF WISHES is filtered through two experiences: past and present, whimsy and wariness.

MP: You once again feature elements from Hindu mythology in this novel including a lot of new characters. How did you decide which myths to reference for characters in this story? Did you have a favorite character to write in this novel? Which character would you say you most resemble? 

RC: Growing up, one of my favorite stories was about the vetala and Vikramaditya, which directly inspired the characters of Vikram and, surprise, the vetala! I also drew a lot on tales from the Ramayana, as opposed to tales of the Mahabharata which had more of a presence in TSTQ. For the myths in this duology, I chose based on a gut reaction to the story. They read so personal to me because they were the tales I heard most growing up and that lingered in my head long after I heard them. My favorite character to write in this story was the vetala! I think my readers can tell that I have a soft spot for monsters with strange senses of humor…

As for the character I most resemble. Inwardly, I am Kamala. Outwardly, I hope we share zero characteristics.

MP: In A Crown of Wishes you expand the world that you introduced in The Star-Touched Queen as your characters visit familiar locations like Bharata and the Night Bazaar and new locations like Bharata’s neighboring kingdom Ujijain and the Otherworld kingdom of Alaka. Did any real locations help you envision these places? Did you turn to any specific myths for inspiration?

RC: Real locations that inspired me were the Red Fort in Agra (India), the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul (Turkey), and the nightlife of St. Tropez in France (lol…). The Red Fort is a beautifullll palace that made me wonder who had walked through those halls. I loved the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul for its riotous colors and the beautiful fragrances that unfurled around every corner. And as for the slight chaos and sinister beautiful people, I had to include a touch of St. Tropez. During the witching hour when the club lights are strobing, and someone turns on a smoke machine, it’s not altogether clear who is human. And who isn’t…

Mythologically, Alaka is a real place. And I had a lot of fun researching tales about mischievous yakshas and yakshinis to get the story right!

MP: Did you have a favorite scene to write in A Crown of Wishes or a scene you are excited for readers to discover?

RC: I think one of my favorite scenes is with the Serpent King and the seven brides. To me, that’s a true lesson in perception. Because it’s not so much about the images before you, but how they make someone feel. *dun dun dun*

MP: Can you share anything about your next project?

RC: I’m currently working on THE GILDED WOLVES! I really love anything that has to do with secret societies, occult objects and vague heist-y feels, so this story set during La Belle Epoque in France is basically ALL of my favorite things. Expect tons of romance and intrigue, over-the-top glamour (you know I can’t help myself…) and horrible secrets lurking beneath all that beauty…

Thanks again to Roshani for this great interview.

A Crown of Wishes releases next week but thanks to Alex at Macmillan Audio you can listen to a clip from the audiobook right now at this link: https://soundcloud.com/ macaudio-2/a-crown-of-wishes- by-roshani-chokshi-audiobook- excerpt

You can see more about Roshani and her books on her website.

You can also check out my review of A Crown of Wishes.

A Crown of Wishes: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

A Crown of Wishes by Roshani ChokshiDespite his intelligence and ambition Vikram, known as the Fox Prince, is destined to become a puppet ruler in Ujijain. Betrayed by her brother, Gauri the “Jewel of Bharata” awaits her execution in a Ujijain prison.

With nothing left to lose and everything to gain, this pair of would-be monarchs forge an uneasy partnership to travel to Alaka, the kingdom of desire, and compete in the Tournament of Wishes. The Tournament happens every hundred years and is hosted by Kubera, the Lord of Treasures with his consort, Lady Kauveri.

Kubera promises a wish to anyone who wins the competition but winning a magical tournament is not always a simple victory. After traveling across dangerous worlds and meeting mythical foes and allies, Gauri and Vikram will have to confront the shapes of their own desires and fears if they hope to survive long enough to win in A Crown of Wishes (2017) by Roshani Chokshi.

Find it on Bookshop.

Chokshi revisits the world of her debut novel in this standalone novel following Gauri, Maya’s younger sister, after Maya’s departure from Bharata in The Star-Touched Queen. This novel alternates between Gauri’s first person narration and third person narration from Vikram’s point of view. A third character also plays an important part in the narrative but you’ll have to meet her on your own.

Gauri is a lethal and calculating heroine who negotiates her femininity and perceived weaknesses as easily as swords and battle strategies. Although she is haunted by Maya’s absence and fearful of the magic that took her sister, Gauri is determined to move past her fears and doubts in order to survive and make Bharata everything she knows it can become.

Vikram is a perfect contrast to Gauri with measured cunning tempered by his introspection and optimism. Unlike Gauri, Vikram is desperate to find magic in his life as a validation for his ambitions and potential. It’s only in discovering the realities of magic–and the cost–that he begins to realize it will take more than wishes and wonder for him to prove himself.

Lush language and vivid imagery in a fantasy world populated with figures and settings from Hindu mythology work well with the story’s interplay between magic and legend. All of the characters grasp for freedom and autonomy as they grapple with what power and choice really mean.

A Crown of Wishes is a novel about fierce want, unmet potential, magic, forged alliances, and the power of story. Careful plotting, multiple viewpoints, high-stakes action, and a slow burn relationship between Gauri and Vikram make this heady fantasy completely engrossing. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, Caraval by Stephanie Garber, Reign the Earth by A. C. Gaughen, The Shadow Behind the Stars by Rebecca Hahn, A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston, The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana, Grave Mercy by R. L. LaFevers, Furyborn by Claire Legrand, Warcross by Marie Lu, All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, Star Daughter by Shevta Thakrar, Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld, And I Darken by Kiersten White

A Crown of Wishes releases next week but thanks to Alex at Macmillan Audio you can listen to a clip from the audiobook right now at this link: https://soundcloud.com/ macaudio-2/a-crown-of-wishes- by-roshani-chokshi-audiobook- excerpt

You can also check out my interview with the author!

*A more condensed version of this review appeared as a starred review in the February 1, 2017 issue of School Library Journal*

Author Interview: Roshani Chokshi on The Star-Touched Queen

Roshani Chokshi author photoI was incredibly lucky to get to read The Star-Touched Queen early to review it for School Library Journal. That turned out to be a fortuitous privilege as the book quickly proved to be one of my favorite reads. Filled with lush imagery and myths re-imagined, not to mention a refreshing romance, this novel completely blew me away. I am delighted to have Roshani Chokshi here today to talk about her marvelous debut novel.

Miss Print (MP): Can you tell me a bit about your path as a writer? How did you get to this point?

Roshani Chokshi (RC): I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I’ve been writing “books” (I use this term loosely because looking back on those Word files makes me cringe) since I was in middle school and queried my first project in high school. I got to this point thanks to Neil Gaiman, to be honest. I really took his advice to write things and finish them to heart. I didn’t let myself be too precious with my projects, so I could always move on to the next story.

MP: What was the inspiration for The Star-Touched Queen? What drew you to Indian mythology as source material?

RC: The Star-Touched Queen was really inspired by the stories I heard as a child. Growing up in a mixed-race home (I am Filipina and Indian), my parents didn’t teach us their native languages. So we connected to our heritages through stories. I loved world mythology and the more that I read, the more I saw how similar these tales were. TSTQ grew out of that idea of showing how tales from across the globe were actually quite similar. It was exciting to re-imagine the stories I loved (Hades & Persephone, Beauty & The Beast, Savitri & Satyavan, etc…) through a different lens. I chose Indian mythology as a source material because my father is Indian, and I always loved the stories my Indian grandmother and aunt would tell me. Indian mythology is full of glorious, blood-thirsty myths. I wanted to give them some attention, and hopefully inspire readers to learn more about those tales.

MP: In working with Indian mythology, you are in the unique position of writing about myths that inform a widely practiced modern religion. Did that fact influence your writing or what you chose to explore in this novel?

RC: It definitely affected what I chose to explore. With TSTQ, I was careful to stay away from the main pantheon of deities. I chose stories from the fringes. Stories that didn’t have definite endings, some of which I lifted from the Puranic vedas and the stories mentioned within the Mahabharata. Hinduism has a strong storytelling tradition, and its interaction with mythos is complex and often varies region by region. I tried my best to be sensitive to that while still telling a story that was important to me.

MP: One of my favorite things about The Star-Touched Queen is that Maya is so ambitious and self-aware. She acknowledges the limits set upon her life while also seeing her own potential and wanting to use it. How did you go about balancing these two aspects of Maya’s personality? How did you set about creating her unique voice?

RC: Thank you! With Maya, I wanted to show someone who was power-hungry, but who also wasn’t prepared for the emotional impact of her choices. It’s strange, but one of the things that helped me get a handle on her character was coming up with personality quizzes for her, almost like something you’d see on Buzzfeed! It helped me access that strategic part of her mind and also balance her other wants.

MP: This book is set in two distinct kingdoms: Bharata and Akaran. Did any real locations help you envision these places? Did any specific myths help inform your vision of Maya’s world?

RC: Yes! I am an obsessive pinner, so I drew a lot of inspiration from my personal travels in India, and photos I found. This was my board for TSTQ: https://www.pinterest.com/rchoxi91/the-star-touched-queen/

In particular, I love the Mohabbat Maqabara in Junagadh and the Red Fort of New Delhi. The myth of Savitri & Satyavan had a huge influence on Maya’s world because it dealt with how fate and death shaped two lives and how a very clever female protagonist navigated her way around them. Also, one of my favorite fairytales is Bluebeard, and Amar’s palace is definitely inspired by that. Creepy rooms galore!

MP: The Star-Touched Queen is filled with memorable characters. Is there anyone you are especially excited for readers to meet?

RC: I am SO excited for readers to meet Kamala. I hope they search Craigslist for snarky flesh-eating demon horses.

MP: Did you have a favorite character to write? Which character would you say you most resemble?

RC: Kamala…and Kamala…which is not to say that I resemble a demon horse, but I gave her me and my best friend’s sense of humor and threw in some insanity for good measure.

MP: Did you have a favorite scene to write in The Star-Touched Queen or a scene you are excited for readers to discover?

RC: Maya and Amar in the glass garden is one of my favorite moments in the book. I think it gives readers a good sense of their personalities and vulnerabilities. I hope it makes them fall a little in love :) I’m also excited for readers to encounter the myth of Narasimha! My grandmother told me that myth when I was little. It used to terrify me! But I also loved how everything came down to interpretation.

MP: Can you share anything about your next project?

RC: Right now, I’m working on the companion tale to The Star-Touched Queen. Not going to say who it’s about, but I’m pretty sure most readers would have guessed by the end of TSTQ. The companion book takes place in Alaka, an Otherworld city where poisonous courtesans roam the courtyards, and menageries full of untold stories show off their plumage. The characters have been selected to participate in a Tournament that’s as beautiful as it is savage. I am so excited for it!

MP: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?

RC: My advice is always the same, so I’m lifting this answer from my Goodreads page :)

Empty your heart of bitterness. There’s no expiration date for success. There’s no time-frame for when something sells. There’s no point scrying mirrors, auguring entrails or setting alarms for 11:11 a.m./p.m. just to maximize on wishes because that does nothing. Read all that you can. Write sentences in weird places — under your bed, on a tree stump, in a crowded bar. Write sentences on weird things — on a leaf, under a candle, beside a pebble. Be supportive of other’s careers and don’t just lust after what they have. Set goals. Tiny goals: like 100 words a day, a new book a week. Meet them. Break them. Above all: write something only you can write. Don’t try to be anyone but yourself.

Thanks again to Roshani for this awesome interview.

You can see more about Roshani and her books on her website.

You can also check out my review of The Star-Touched Queen.

The Star-Touched Queen: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani ChokshiBorn with a horoscope that predicts a marriage of death and destruction, Maya is an outcast in the kingdom Bharata even though her father is the Raja.

When her father’s political machinations go horribly wrong, Maya finds herself married to Amar and queen of Akaran–a mysterious place filled with secrets and magic.

Amar offers Maya the chance to rule at his side and become more than Bharata ever would have allowed. All he asks in return is her patience and trust which soon prove more than she can give.

Maya’s search for answers will lead her across worlds and through her own fragmented memories to discover surprising truths about her husband’s kingdom and herself in The Star-Touched Queen (2016) by Roshani Chokshi.

Find it on Bookshop.

Chokshi’s debut fantasy is filled with vivid and unexpected imagery as Maya discovers the wonders and dangers found in her new home in the Otherworld. Well-researched figures from Indian folklore and mythology, astonishing creatures, and expressive characters further complement this story.

A setting drawn from ancient India, romance with feminist sensibilities, and a unique magic system make this a novel sure to appeal to fans fantasy both high and urban as well as retellings of myths from other cultures.

Maya’s narration is refreshingly unapologetic about her ambitions and her desire for independence. Although her distrust and doubts lead to the main conflict of the story, Maya is quick to own those mistakes and works to correct them even when it might be to her detriment.

The Star-Touched Queen is a stunning debut filled with lush writing, smart characters, and a mysterious plot that provides as many twists as it does swoons. Sure to be the next big thing.

Possible Pairings: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, Reign the Earth by A. C. Gaughen, The Shadow Behind the Stars by Rebecca Hahn, A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston, The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana, Grave Mercy by R. L. LaFevers, Furyborn by Claire Legrand, Amber & Dusk by Lyra Selene, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar, Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld, The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White

You can also check out my interview with the author!

*A more condensed version of this review appeared in the March 2016 of School Library Journal as a starred review from which it can be seen on various sites online*