Monday, May 20, 2019


Rating: A tiara decorated with constellations

Highlight of note: This is a fantasy inspired by Hindu myth. I've always thought there should be more of those.

Second Highlight: There's a demon horse that goes around asking to nom on people the way regular horses look for apples and sugar cubes. I simply adored her.

Will you read more by this author? Yes! In fact, the companion novel to this one is on my To Be Read List already.

(Note: I had thought I wrote about another novel by Ms Chokshi, The Gilded Wolves, when I read and loved it, but apparently that was just before I started this blog rather than just after. It was a magical realism set in 1800's Europe and I highly recommend it.)

Maya was born with a horoscope that said her marriage was linked with death. You might think that would mean she'd never be married. And it did for many years, but then her father, the local raja, decides it's politically important to hold a wedding. He's going to hold a big ceremony with a long list of potential husbands appearing. Maya will get to pick one. Which is better than any of her sisters were afforded as their marriages were completely arranged.

At the wedding, an unexpected suitor appears. As violence breaks out, Maya chooses the mysterious stranger, Amar, and is whisked away to another realm. He tells her that due to some magic regarding the phase of the moon, he can't tell her who he is or give her any of the details about his country. She's not happy about this, but his throat visibly seizes up when he says too much, so there doesn't seem to be much to do about it.

Over the next month, the couple grows to know one another, but a mysterious voice seeds doubts about her husband's goodness in Maya's mind. Is it possible that she is but one in a series of doomed brides? Could this be a Vedic version of the story of Bluebeard?

The setting is the ancient India of myth, and I cannot express how happy I was to see that. Hindu mythology is fascinating to me and is rife with amazing stories, characters, and mythic beings. It is, honestly, a setting I would love to write in if it didn't feel like cultural appropriation, so I'm obviously happy to read things set here.

Maya is highly likable, as is Amar. In fact, I almost found Amar too likable because when Maya started to doubt him, I didn't share her concerns. In fact, I spent quite a bit of time silently lecturing her for acting like a silly twit. Also, I felt she acted a bit too much like a twenty-first century girl dropped into an ancient epic rather than someone who grew up being treated like property and led to expect constant disrespect from men.

The villain of the piece is, to me, the weakest point. Quite frankly, I found their motivation to be flimsy and boil down to "Something bad happened and drove me insane for revenge on the person I image wronged me." But it worked alright within the context of myth, as the bad guys in mythology are frequently ruled by such motives.

And the story moves along well. It's adventurous and fun and frequently funny. The conclusion is both emotionally satisfying and solid. Maya's story is over now and the sequel is about her sister rather than her.

Overall, it was a highly enjoyable book and I look forward to reading more from the author.


Below you'll find the notes I took as I read. Clearly, they contain major spoilers.



3% Maya's shadow is missing. That's interesting. Although she seems to find it merely odd rather than incredibly freaky.

7% I'm a little confused that Maya's to be married for political reasons but gets to pick who to. Presumedly who of a preselection, but who did the preselecting?

8% I have no idea where she's thinking to run away to... This doesn't seem like a great time/place to be a young single woman.

13% Locked up and now told to poison herself. And seeing demons. This is fun.

15% I am incredibly intrigued as to who/what Amar is. A shinagami maybe? (I'm sure there's a Hindu version of those.)

20% I'm now sure why she hasn't pegged Amar's kingdom as death. He's a guardian who most people think take things and you get to his kingdom through the Night Bizarre just like she told her sister is how you get to the land of the dead. (Yes, she made that up, but other things she made up have been proven true so it's more like she just knows things.) AND she was prophesied to marry death. Or that her marriage would lead to death or something like that. Seems logical to assume her husband is the lord of death.

20% Although I do wonder why he took her JUST AFTER the new moon if he can only talk about his role on that one night. Does he hope she'll react better if she's used to him before he can explain? Could he not take her to his kingdom until she was on the brink of death? (Did she actually take the poison and is actually dead without knowing it?)

22% Servant guy reminds me of Alfred from Discworld. I wonder if he's secretly human...

23% If I looked at something that was shaped like a mirror which did not show reflections, then I would call it a window and not at mirror.

24% "You look like edges and thunderstorms. And I wouldn't have you any other way." DAMN! The assertion that this guy sucks at flattery is WAY off.

34% VERY nice kissing scene.

39% I'm really not sure why Maya is so angry with Amar here.

40% I mean, really. She's apparently angry because he's kept stuff from here BUT SHE ALREADY KNEW THAT. She even knew that he CAN'T tell her everything. He has, in fact, choked trying to tell her more than he's allowed to. Not to mention the fact that he's treated her roughly a thousand times better than she had any reason to believe a husband would. So why is she trusting some stupid malicious door over him? It's even a locked door, which we have very no reason to believe aren't really dangerous like she was told they are. She's really seeming like an immature brat here. And also like a modern girl dropped into what I'm guessing is the Late Vedic Age.

41% Ok... I am officially curious who the hell Nritti is. Is she from a different thread line? Or is our narrator unreliable did to amnesia?

41% Well, she's finally seen dead people. Will this clue her in that she's in the world of death? ... Yes, she has figured it out. Akaran is Naraka. Not a very clever means of hiding a name. I expect Amar honestly thinks of it backwards. Or maybe the humans write is backwards to avoid bad luck or somesuch.

42% Ok, she's figured out Amar is Death. I still don't think he's betrayed anything since HE IS PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO EXPLAIN YET. Unless he could have taken her on the new moon and deliberately waited to manipulate her, I'm still not sure what she thinks he's done wrong. (Unless maybe he forced her to forget her friend/sister/lover/whoever.) And why does she assume Death is evil?

45% I don't trust Nritti at all. I think the other woman was in Maya's memories because that was her previous incarnation. I think Maya is buying all of this insistence that's she's one of hundreds and not important because she's afraid it's true.

46% Surely if Amar was tricking Maya into thinking she had power he would have told her she had power early on rather than waiting for her to discover it herself. I repeat that I really don't trust Nritti. I think she was the scary voice from early on and that she's a threat. She admits she's an aspara, which doesn't seem like something particularly trustworthy.

47% Hmmm.  Okay, so Gumpta saying "Now that she's here, you can get rid of her like you've always wanted," does sound ominous unless he means two different she's. As in, "Now that Maya is here, you can get rid of Nritti like you always wanted."

48% Amar refuses to have sex with Maya until she knows everything. This is not the mark of someone running a con or trying to hurt her.

50% Yeah... I was right. Amar adored her and was keeping secrets because of a divine limitation. (Not waiting for the new moon, waiting for sixty moons to pass in the human world. Still, something he had no choice about because he would have told her immediately if it wouldn't have killed her.) Maya is the reincarnation of his wife. And Nritti is Bad News. Maya's seriously messed things up.

6?% Kamala saying she wants to eat anyone who upsets Maya is just really sweet.

78% So distrusting Amar is something she did in her last life too. I thought you were supposed to learn as you went through lives, but I guess that only works when you remember them 

It's a good ending. Very sweet. Especially Kamala saying she won't eat anyone if she's allowed to stay. But why are we still at 82%?

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