Surviving isn’t just about cutting out your heart and burning every feeling into ash. Sometimes it means taking what ever is thrown at you, beautiful or grotesque, poisonous or blissful, and carving out your life with the pieces you’re given.
Gorgeous quote image above from iceybooks!
A Crown of Wishes was a beautiful, multilayered surprise to me. After reading The Star-Touched Queen and being less than enamored with it, I was a bit wary of giving this, its companion novel, a try. I’m so glad that I did. Coming into this novel with an open mind was the best way to approach it, I think; everything about it was an improvement upon its predecessor. The characters, the plot, the setting, and were all better and more fully-formed. And on a prose level, I felt that Chokshi had honed her craft as a writer, taking an already lyrical, imagery-rich authorial voice and tuning it to just the right pitch.
I’d like to address the prose of the novel first. In my review of her previous novel, I said that while I found Chokshi’s writing vibrant and poetic, I also found it too purple-y and almost ham-fisted in its use of metaphor and simile. I don’t really think the approach to description is any different in A Crown of Wishes – it’s still vivid, still a bit flowery – but it’s done far better and with more confidence. I did come across a few passages that were a bit too much for me, metaphor-wise, but I was by and large far more sold on the prose than I thought I would be. And in thinking (and rethinking) about the why – the possible thematic reasoning for such rich, saturated description – I do find it makes sense with the opulent sensuousness of Chokshi’s Otherworld setting.
Now, the characters: the simplest way for me to put this is that I fell a little in love with Gauri and Vikram (and Aasha!). Not too keep comparing ACOW with TSTQ, but that’s a vast improvement over my indifference to Maya and Amar in the latter novel (I mean, even tolerating them would have been an improvement for me, but these characters blew me out of the water). The two main characters had a great dynamic, growing from antagonism to respect to love in a believable way that had me rooting for them with each step. Their banter with each other and others is fantastic, and the dialogue in general was natural and entertaining.
I’m never too great at analyzing plots, plot-holes, and whatnot – prose and characters are where my heart usually lies – but the structure of A Crown of Wishes felt sound and engaging from page one. Some of the sticky situations Gauri and Vikram found themselves in read as though they were resolved a little too cleanly, and I never really worried about any of the main characters being in mortal danger, but it wasn’t egregious. I did like the conceit of a competition to earn a wish, especially the idea that immortal or supernatural beings would compete as well.
Thematically, each puzzle-piece of a plot point or moment of character growth fit neatly alongside one another. The idea of wishes being slippery, capricious things; the emphasis on the long-lived, winding, multifaceted nature of stories; and the need to understand one’s deeply human flaws in order to grow – all of these ideas were introduced fluidly. No single theme felt shoehorned in – they were all integrated seamlessly.
So, to my happy surprise, I can fully recommend A Crown of Wishes, even to those who didn’t enjoy its sister novel. It’s a lovely story in every sense, and has a weight and timelessness to it that makes me think I’ll enjoy rereading it in a few years’ time.
Originally reviewed April 6, 2017.