By Ekta R. Garg
March 15, 2017
Genre: YA fantasy
Rated: Bookmark it! / 4 stars
A princess and an emperor’s son become a reluctant team in a tournament of magic, each of them hoping to pursue their options to fulfill their destinies. Along the way they will have to battle unusual beasts and beings as well as their greatest fears and desires if they want to come out alive. Author Roshani Chokshi takes readers through a sumptuous story in the description-rich novel A Crown of Wishes.
Gauri has spent several months in less-than-ideal conditions for a princess: the dank prison of the neighboring kingdom, Ujijain. It doesn’t help that Ujijain and her own kingdom, Bharata, don’t get along. What’s even worse is that her brother, the king of Bharata, arranged for her kidnapping and imprisonment, and it’s supposed to lead to her execution. All under the guise of animosity between the two kingdoms, of course.
All her life, Gauri has been a fighter. She trained as a soldier and knows her weapons better than most men on the battlefield. She never let her gender get in the way, but occasionally her ego has tripped her. There’s no other way to face the truth of how she ended up in Ujijain’s darkest, deepest jail.
Her intentions were good: she wanted to upend her brother’s cruel, relentless rule and take his place to restore resources and order to Bharata. But she let her paranoia trump her ability to trust those closest to her, and her brother took advantage of that blind spot. Instead of fighting her brother for the right to the crown, she ended up fighting for scraps of food and information from Ujijain’s prison guards.
Vikram, the son of Ujijain’s emperor, has no illusions about his own future. Despite the simpering council members under his father, Vikram knows they’re setting him up to be their puppet, and they have the tactical advantage to do so. They’re the only ones in the kingdom, other than the emperor, who know that his mother was a courtesan.
His father treats him with love and affection, but as an aging monarch his opinion has begun mattering less. The council keeps encouraging Vikram to visit ashrams to “improve” himself, which essentially means Vikram stays out of the way while the council members make the real decisions. During one of his visits, Vikram meets a sage who presents him with a unique opportunity: enter the Tournament of Wishes and change his fate.
The prospect sounds tailor-made for Vikram, but he can only participate with a partner. As he ponders his options, he hears about Gauri’s impending execution. Suddenly he gets an idea that seems ridiculous at best: why not invite Gauri along? Her reputation as a warrior precedes her, and that could be an advantage in a tournament that starts, ends, and runs by magic.
With a little convincing, Gauri agrees to Vikram’s proposal. They don’t get along at all and Gauri hates anything to do with magic, but she doesn’t see any other way out of her own predicament. If she wants to save Bharata from her evil brother, she will have to make use of any weapon in her arsenal—even if it’s not made of metal or comes with a blade.
Author Roshani Chokshi gives readers a novel so lavish that every paragraph feels gilded. As a result, readers will definitely want to resist the urge to skim. Despite its official billing as a novel for young adult readers, adults will also enjoy Chokshi’s rich prose. Also, one of the book’s greatest assets comes in the fact that although it is technically the second book in a series, Chokshi creates an independent story that doesn’t require prior knowledge of any of the characters or their history.
Her descriptions push the boundaries of whimsy at times, and readers might have a tough time in a few spots knowing whether Chokshi uses her words in a metaphorical way or a literal one. Also, she slips out of her story world once or twice by using modern-day Western phrases like “having skin the game.” Because Chokshi’s spent so many pages building this fantastical world of magic, the slip-ups feel particularly jarring. Nonetheless, for the most part Chokshi’s story will charm readers in only the way magic can.
I recommend readers Bookmark A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi.