Roshani Chokshi has a deft hand at her craft, weaving worlds that embrace the reader and take us away, whether it be in her novels The Star-Touched Queen, Crown of Wishes, or this newest bind-up of short fiction that accompanies those two, Star-Touched Stories.
Returning to the world of Otherworldly beings and the humans that interact with them, readers are treated to new faces and old, familiar stories that go on just a bit longer and reveal depths about Death & Night, spy mistresses, and a whispered tale of doomed love.
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Published: 7 August 2018
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Category: Fantasy/Young Adult/Short Stories
Three lush and adventurous stories in the Star-Touched world.
Death and Night
He was Lord of Death, cursed never to love. She was Night incarnate, destined to stay alone. After a chance meeting, they wonder if, perhaps, they could be meant for more. But danger crouches in their paths, and the choices they make will set them on a journey that will span lifetimes.
Poison and Gold
Now that her wish for a choice has come true, Aasha struggles to control her powers. But when an opportunity to help Queen Gauri and King Vikram’s new reign presents itself, she is thrown into the path of the fearsome yet enchanting Spy Mistress. To help her friends, Aasha will have to battle her insecurities and perhaps, along the way, find love.
Rose and Sword
There is a tale whispered in the dark of the Empire of Bharat-Jain. A tale of a bride who loses her bridegroom on the eve of her wedding. But is it a tale or a truth?
Rating: 5 Stars
Roshani Chokshi’s eloquent writing remains as beautiful as ever. The worlds crafted trend toward the fantastical, weaving intricate images of gardens and beings at the Night Market. Physicality aside, there’s also the depth of feeling the reader gets from the characters. Interacting with one another, it’s possible to really understand the depth of want, need, loneliness, fear. These aren’t passing mentions that in a lesser hand might just be words. Chokshi’s compels the reader to experience heartache right alongside her characters, to laugh with them as mock each other, to long for an answer to their problem just as much.
My favorite tale was “Death and Night”, a novella that was the first offering of Star-Touched Stories. It had all of the emotional buildup that I mentioned above, but it also had levity that I think some stories lack when the focus is so much on romance. Gupta, the adviser to Death, was a kick. He was able to make remarks to Death that few others might have dared and his demeanor was overall pleasant.
This book is considered 2.5 of the Star-Touched series, with each story taking place at intervals around the main works (Queen, Crown). I think that it would be possible to read it without having read those two primary books, but there would be something lost in the reading, especially in regards to Poison & Gold, which would actually be a bit spoiler-y for A Crown of Wishes.
Are you ready to pick up Star-Touched Stories? Read below for an excerpt from the book, a look into Death & Night:
>> 1 <<
I stood outside the home, watching as the light beaded and dripped down the length of the Tapestry thread. I waited. There was never any rush. Not for me at least.
The light dangled from the end of the string, clinging and re- luctant. A passing wind stirred the ends of the thread, teasing out strands of memory. The memories plumed into the air, releasing the scent of a life lived in love. One by one, the memories unraveled— a pillow shared by two heads bent close in secrecy, a frayed blanket kept inside an eternally empty cradle, a table that sagged from the weight of uncertain feasts. Happiness stolen from the edges of sorrow.
I stepped over the threshold.
The lights in the hut extinguished. Shadows slipped off the walls to gather around my feet. Inside the hut, someone had propped up a stingy fire. Cinnamon scented the air. Past the dusty vestibule, rows upon rows of bay leaves hung from the ceiling. Strange runes scratched into small animal bones and ivory hairpins lay in carefully constructed patterns. I laughed. Someone had tried to ward me away. But there was no door that didn’t open to me.
At the far corner of the house huddled two people. A man in the arms of a woman. Old age had blessed him, yet for all his gnarled veins and silver-streaked hair, the woman cradled him as if he were a child. He murmured softly into the crook of her neck. I watched them. She wasn’t crying.
The woman looked up . . . and saw me. How refreshing.
“Greetings, Dharma Raja,” said the woman in a clear voice.
I took in the bay leaves and bone pins. “You were expecting me, I take it.”
“Yes,” she said, hanging her head. “I regret that I cannot serve you any food or drink or treat you as a guest in our home.”
“Don’t let it trouble you,” I said, waving my hand. “I am rarely a guest. Merely an inevitable occurrence.”
Her husband did not stir in her arms. His breath had grown soft. While the woman had kept her eyes trained on me, I had taken away his pain, siphoned it bit by bit. I was in a generous mood.
“You have come for him.”
“As I will for you, one day. I could tell you the hour, if you wish it.”
I shrugged. “Very well.”
She clutched him tighter. Her hands trembled. I knew she could feel his life unspooling. She may have seen me, but she did not see his life pooling beneath him.
“May I ask something of you, Dharma Raja?” “You may.”
But I need not honor it.
“We always wished to leave this life together.”
“I cannot change your appointed time, even if I wished.”
She closed her eyes. “Then may I request, instead, that you not let him pass to the next life until I may join him there?”
Now this was interesting. I sank backward into the air, and an onyx throne swirled up to meet me. I tilted my head, watching her. “Why? I haven’t weighed your life yet. What if you were far more honorable than your husband in this life? I could pour your soul into the mold of a princess blessed with beauty and intellect, riches and wonders. I could add silver to your heart and fortify you from any heartbreak. I could give you a life worthy of legends.” She shook her head. “I would rather have him.”
“You’d rather have him, and whatever life that entails?” I leaned forward, eyeing the dingy room.
Her eyes flashed. “Yes.”
“He may not even come back as a human. Believe me. I’ve remade emperors into cockroaches and cockroaches into kings. You seem like a reasonably intelligent woman. Would you truly like to keep house for a bug?”
She lifted her chin. “I would be his mate in any form.”
A curious emotion prickled my skin, nudging the back of my thoughts. My hands tightened on the shadow throne. Before I could stop myself, the question flew from me:
“Because I love him,” said the woman. “I would prefer any life with him than any life without him. Even the deities know love to the point that they will chase their counterpart through thousands of lifetimes. Surely you, oh Dharma Raja, understand how extraordinary love can be?”
I knew very well what could come of love. I had seen it. Been cursed by it. Even now, I thought of her. The way she ran away and left a shadow in her place. Love was extraordinary.
Extraordinarily spiteful. Extraordinarily blind. Extraordinarily misleading. “Bold words,” I said.
“They do not move you?”
I shrugged. “You may appeal and supplicate and wheedle as you wish, but I have heard every excuse and plea and sputter, and my heart has never been moved.”
The woman bowed her head. She gathered her husband to her chest. Her wedding bangles clanked together, breaking the silence. When I left, custom dictated that she must remove those wedding ornaments. Widows did not wear such bracelets. I had not consid- ered until now that the sound itself was a thing near death. And that chime—gold against gold—struck me far louder than any keening. In the echoes, I heard something hollow. And lonely.
I dropped the noose. It slid through the man’s skin, noiseless as silk. Life had left him. All that was left was his soul.
You never forget what it’s like to withdraw a soul. It is an un- clasping. Sometimes a soul is tough and hard, surrounded by sin- ews of memories gone brittle with age. Sometimes a soul is soft and bursting like wind-fallen fruit, all bruised tenderness and stale hope. And sometimes a soul is an ethereal shard of light. As if the force of its life is a scorching thing.
This soul belonged to light.
When the woman looked down, she knew that her husband was gone. The thing she cradled was nothing more than meat soon to spoil. Tears slid down her wrinkled cheeks.
“Come now,” I said, standing from the throne. “I have taken husbands when their wives still wore the henna from their wedding. I consider you lucky.”
“I beg of you,” she said. “Don’t let him move on without me. He would have asked the same.”
I swung the soul into a satchel and the light faded. I headed for the door, more out of formality than anything else. If I wanted, I could’ve disappeared right then and there.
“Please. What would you do for someone you loved?”
I stopped short. “I can’t say I’ve had the pleasure of that provocation.”
“You love no one?” she asked, her eyebrows rising in disbelief. “I love myself. Does that count?”
And then I left.
About the Author
Photo by Aman Sharma
ROSHANI CHOKSHI is the New York Times bestselling author of The Star-Touched Queen, A Crown of Wishes, and Aru Shah and the End of Time. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Shimmer, and Book Smugglers. Her short story, “The Star Maiden,” was longlisted for the British Fantasy Science Award.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley as part of a blog tour in exchange for an honest review.
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