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 is a retelling of the Hades and Persephone myth, which is something I really love and love to see retellings of, I had seen it recced (partly for its beautiful cover, because, I mean, look at it) but the reviews on Goodreads were a bit hit and miss. I will say this, this is not an easy book to read as in you can put it down and pick it up a week later and still remember the details. I’m pretty sure I missed some things in the rush to finish this book and find out how it ended but I’m definitely going to reread it before reading the sequel (which I was rejected for on NetGalley unfortunately).
The writing is flowery and over the top at times but I really loved it. I think with myth and fairytale retellings, you can get away with certain language like that, that you wouldn’t be able to with other genres like contemporary. I thought the descriptions were lovely and you needed flowery writing in order to convey the beauty and the life of some of the places mentioned.
About halfway through the book, there came the big crisis that I had been expecting since Maya found the room, but I was surprised when I saw there was still half the book left. I wondered how Chokshi was going to fill it when normally you have the big crisis three quarters of the way through the book, it’s resolved and happy ever after ending. But then the plot went somewhere I was not expecting and I was clued to the page because I couldn’t predict how it was going to turn out. I definitely want to reread it just so I can put earlier bits of the book in perspective, knowing what I know now. It is definitely a book that improves of every reading. The world building was wonderful and I am really excited to the sequel/companion novel which would expand the world as well.
The romance was a little dramatic but I could handle a lot worse and I felt like it came along semi-naturally. I could see why Maya didn’t trust Akaran (although why she trusted a random woman instead was beyond me) and why Akaran didn’t tell Maya what was going on. It made sense (apart from the trusting a random woman bit, that just annoyed me, but the text did an adequate job of explaining how it wasn’t logical as such). I really loved the surprises we got from their romance, even if it got insta-love a little at times.
I liked the different characters, the bad and the good, because they felt very human. Maya going back to the palace afterwards and seeing what became of the people she knew was one of my favourite scenes in the second half of the book and I’m really glad it was in there. To see the evil dragon of her childhood smaller and more human was exactly what Maya needed, but at the same time I’m glad she felt pity but still didn’t like her. Again, it felt very realistic.
I think I would definitely recommend this book but it wouldn’t be for everyone. I would say four and a half stars but I’ll round it up because I’m feeling generous and I know I will be reading the sequel for this book. Five stars!