Star Touched Stories
Star-Touched Stories takes us back to the world of the Night Bazaar and the heavenly courts, introducing us to new characters and revisiting old friends as we once more enter the enchanted realms of the Star-Touched series.
Death and Night
Grade: A Sensuality: N/A
In Death and Night, the veil is pulled back from the realm of gods and we witness a rare, mythical mating. When the Dharma Raja (Lord of Death) goes to take the soul of an elderly man, the man’s wife asks for only one thing: that the man’s soul might wait for her, that they be reborn together. The Dharma Raja contemplates this on his return to Naraka and realizes something: he’s lonely and wishes for the sort of relationship that couple had. But who will marry Death?
Night is a woman of the Otherworld. At the end of each day, she brings darkness and rest to a weary world. Her beauty reflects that; she glitters like stars across the dark skies and the dreams and bedtime stories of the mortal and immortal realms scroll across her skin. When the Dharma Raja steps into her ashram and proposes, she is taken aback. His is a completely practical offer and he takes pains to tell her that there will be no love. She refuses, of course, for who would accept a proposal that doesn’t even hint of affection? But she doesn’t send him away without some hope. And ‘some hope’ is all a god needs to pursue his dreams.
I loved both characters from the moment they were introduced and when they met and interacted, a smile planted itself on my face and didn’t leave till the end of the story. The tale is witty, and charming, and magical and romantic. I absolutely loved it.
Poison and Gold
Grade: B- Sensuality: Kisses
Set in the world of A Crown of Wishes
Poison and Gold is a companion novella to A Crown of Wishes, starring one of the secondary characters from that tale. Aasha is a vishakanya who just wants to experience a mortal life. To that end, she has joined the court of her friends Queen Gauri and King Vikram, working as an advisor. What most don’t realize is that this ‘advisor’ can read the desires of a human heart and can kill with a touch. Since her powers aren’t advertised, however, many on the royal council consider her presence at meetings unnecessary and Gauri and Vikram are being urged to let her go. Their solution to the problem is to train Aasha as a Spy Mistress thus giving her a formal title so that the court can feel comfortable about her presence. So off she goes to learn the art of intelligence gathering.
Aasha had initially been unsure as to whether or not she wanted the official designation of spy, but she quickly warms up to the idea, realizing that it’s a job that suits her personality perfectly. She also warms up to Zahril, the enigmatic woman training her. When asked for a truth she would not want another to know, she confesses her desire to kiss Zahril. She is surprised that when next she sees the powerful, mysterious lady, she grants Aasha’s wish.
In this tale, love comes slowly and softly. The characters are cautious, careful and cunning and so their romance is one that is sedate, subtle, and sweet. It’s about being vulnerable before a lover and about overcoming deeply held prejudices. I was intrigued by the concept of the tale, but the short length of the story kept the author from fully exploring her characters or their romance.
Rose and Sword
Grade: A- Sensuality: Kisses
Sequel to A Crown of Wishes
In Rose and Sword, the heroine of A Crown of Wishes has one more adventure before entering marital bliss. It is the evening before her wedding and Gauri is working off her pre-ceremony jitters by running through her sword drills. When Vikram joins her for a few stolen kisses and a bit of verbal sparring, she makes a startling discovery – he’s sick and feverish. By the end of the night the doctors aren’t sure he will live to see the morning.
Calling upon her Otherworld councilor Aasha, Gauri learns that she can make a bargain with the yamaduta (messengers of death). When the yamaduta comes for Vikram’s soul, Gauri demands a deal and is given one: If she can steal back Vikram’s last breath from the final gate before Death and bring it back to him, he will live. The trick? She will see the sorrow awaiting her in the future if she makes that choice and will have to bring back the breath knowing the pain Vikram will cause her in coming years.
Vikram makes this story shine. Every moment with him is pure, joyous pleasure and his wit and charm make him a delight to spend time with. While Gauri is a far less likable character, she has the grit and determination to make this supernatural adventure believable. The supporting cast is well drawn, and the plot is riveting. Rose and Sword is a perfect sequel to A Crown of Wishes.
I would strongly recommend Star-Touched Stories to fans of the Star-Touched series. This charming compilation of tales from that universe allows us to spend more time with beloved characters and introduces us to some very delightful new folks as well. I would, however, advise those who haven’t had the pleasure of reading the previous books to begin with The Star-Touched Queen and A Crown of Wishes since those books introduce us to this universe and the characters in it.