A Crown of Wishes
Roshani Chokshi weaves a narrative of legend and magic based on Indian folklore in her latest novel A Crown of Wishes. This rich look at an ancient culture is full of lush, vivid imagery that will pull you into a story that is truly one from a long time ago in a place far, far away.
This is the second book in this series but you do not need to read the first to enjoy this one.
The legends will tell that there was once a fox prince and a beast princess that had to do all kinds of awful things. Like talk to each other. And fight through memories that tried to lure them away, poisonous beauties and . . . fear.
Vikram is known as the fox prince. He’s clever and cunning and can see a solution to every problem but one – how to get his throne. He is not the Emperor’s natural son and the council knows this and schemes and plots to keep him from the power that his father has bequeathed him. He is a prince who will never truly be king unless something changes the equation in his favor.
Gauri is a princess with a problem. Her brother the king is a murderous, scheming psychopath. She wanted to take over the kingdom and save her people but her rebellion was betrayed. She is now a prisoner in the neighboring –and hostile- land of Ujijain. When she is called into Prince Vikram’s presence to hear her sentence (certain death) she makes plans to kill him and escape – but fate has something else in store for her.
The two are offered a once in eternity opportunity. They must travel to Alaka- past the place where memories devour and the held-breath place to put an end to cowards – and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes. This magical competition is where the Lord of Wealth and Treasures bestows a wish upon the victors. But contestants are warned that what they want can also be what destroys them because desire is a poisonous thing.
Forced to be reluctant allies in a world of dangerous adversaries Vikram and Gauri quickly learn that fear can be both friend and enemy, courage can mean missing the mark rather than hitting it and hard questions can often have easy answers. They also learn that the heart wants what the heart wants – and that want can be the very last thing you should ever wish for.
Like any B-grade read, A Crown of Wishes is a story with strong positives but has just enough narrative problems to keep it from DIK status. In the positive column I have to start with the prose. Gorgeous. Delectable. Luxurious. Succulent. Words can barely describe the glory of the author’s composition. She uses her language to paint exquisite word pictures that capture the colorful, magical beauty of her world. You feel immersed in a decadent, glamorous, vibrant experience when you enter the pages of this book.
Another strength is the premise. I loved the idea of A Tournament of Wishes and a game of wits which pitted clever mortals against almost insurmountable odds. The fantastical nature of the contest added a terrific sense of fun and sorcery to the whole affair.
The strong cultural immersion is a positive as well. This story has a substantial flavor of the history, folklore and civilization in which it occurs, which is something I absolutely love in the novels I read.
Unfortunately, however, in this particular instance, that provided a tiny negative as well. Unless you are familiar with the Hindu scriptures, many of the characters – like the god Kubera, Lord of Wealth and Treasure and his consort, the Lady Kauveri, their attendants – the often dangerous yakshas and yakshani, the vanara and the poisonous vishakanya – will be unfamiliar to you. It will be very much like reading a story about faeries but not knowing who Tatiana and Oberon are or even the difference between faeries, brownies and elves. The text helps somewhat with placing the characters in proper context and a glossary is included but in the end, after much internal debate, I have to say this is a bit of a weakness in the book. The reader will have to mentally scrabble to figure out friend from foe and who is what, which pulls one out of the story. It wasn’t at all a major irritant but it was certainly a minor one.
Another small fumble is with the characters, neither of whom feel fully fleshed out. Perhaps a part of that is due to their youth; I closed the book feeling much lay ahead of these two which would impact who they were. And unfortunately, this story is far more about Gauri than Vikram. While Vikram was a character I did find interesting and wanted to get to know better, what little I knew of Gauri left me cold. She seems ill suited for the role of ruler, which is what she most wants, and she has a tendency towards violence and insults that I found off-putting. This fact more than any other really disconnected me from the tale and left me unable to give the book a higher grade. It also kept me from completely buying their HEA. I imagined Vikram, at some point in the future, taking a sweet natured mistress and telling her all his problems while Gauri schemed ineptly to wrest all control from him.
A Crown of Wishes is a lyrical feast for the senses that only partially delivers on the promise of an intriguing premise. The tale is well worth reading but I don’t think it will make many keeper shelves. It’s definitely a well written story but small weaknesses keep the book from achieving the excellence of which I am sure this author is capable.