It is rare that an author manages to exceed expectations in a sophomore novel; and yet, with A Crown of Wishes Chokshi has really honed her writing skills. With a focus more on the action and characters and a bit less on the prose, we have a book that is not only gorgeously written but also engrossing to read. It’s a rare feat to balance readability with intricate plotting and characterization but Chokshi accomplishes both here. This will definitely be in my ‘top of 2017’ list of books at the end of the year.
Story: Two royalty from different countries: Princess Gauri has fared poorly under the iron rule of her brother – all she loves and cares about ruthlessly stripped away to ensure she is under his thumb. Prince Vikram is an heir in name but with no real power now or when he ascends the throne in the future; patronized, he navigates his country’s politics with wit and subtlety. When Gauri is sent to Vikram’s kingdom to be killed, Vikram rescues the princess and makes her an offer: travel together to the underworld in order to take part in a mysterious competition. The prize: a wish granted. Both think they know what they would wish for; but Gauri will have to learn to trust Vikram and Vikram will need to understand his own limitations in order to win the contest.
A Crown of Wishes is an adventure story: a journey through a supernatural world with all kinds of mystical creatures based upon Indian legends. Chokshi does a good job of keeping the story grounded so it doesn’t become too fantastical or hard to follow. The focus is always on Vikram and Gauri and how they begin to not only trust each other but to really work together to win the competition. It isn’t a smooth road, however, and fortunately Chokshi never falls into the romance cliche trap of having the heroine constantly rude to an otherwise nice hero just to show that she has ‘spirit.’
The story flows smoothly and the plot rarely sags as the pair traverse the magical universe created in The Star-Touched Queen. Since these are two new characters, readers will not need to have read the first book in order to enjoy this book. Those who have read Star-Touched Queen and found it a bit too full of purple prose will find this book much less so. The beautiful writing is still there but it never upstages the action or the characters.
In all, I greatly enjoyed Crown of Wishes. It kept me invested from cover to end and I appreciated that Chokshi gave us very conflicted and nuanced characters. Highly recommended. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.