by Roshani Chokshi
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An ancient mystery. An unlikely union. For one young princess in a state of peril, a dangerous wish could be the only answer…
She is the princess of Bharata—captured by her kingdom’s enemies, a prisoner of war. Now that she faces a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. But should she trust Vikram, the notoriously cunning prince of a neighboring land? He promises her freedom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together they can team up and win the Tournament of Wishes, a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor. It seems like a foolproof plan—until Gauri and Vikram arrive at the tournament and find that danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans, mischievous story birds, a feast of fears, and twisted fairy revels. New trials will test their devotion, strength, and wits. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.
*ARC provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review*
“Vicious and sweet,” said Vikram, shaking his head. “Beastly girl.”
“You like me, don’t lie,” I teased.
“I couldn’t lie if I tried,” he said quietly.
It just so happens that I was given this ARC by the publisher back in December….I just was way too tired and ‘out of it’ to truly enjoy the lush story-telling of this novel. So every time I would pick up this beauty to read it, I’d get distracted or start to fall asleep…on the prologue. It was clear to me I wasn’t going to be able to read this book while in the height of my pregnancy. I did, however, get to finish it two days before I went into labor! So here I am, finally writing a review for this crazy, intricate book.
The problem with guilt was not how it attacks the present, but how it stained the past.
I can’t say there weren’t moments where I was scratching my head-because I did that a lot. But it was never in a bad way. This author, from what I’ve always heard, writes in a deeply poetic way that you just need to be in the mindset for-I definitely gathered this from the moment I started. This isn’t your average YA fantasy-I feel it’s a bit deeper than that. Keep that in mind when choosing to start this novel-it completely changes the tone of both the book and how you feel whilst enjoying this story.
“You’re a monster,” she said.
I secured the necklace. “We all have to be something.”
When I think back on why I enjoyed this book so much (I read it almost a month ago) it always goes back to the characters. I had heard so many good things from my close friends that loved this book about the witty Vikram and I took that with a grain of salt-I mean, no book boy is ever really as good as people say (Okay, whatever…I lie, but still-everyone’s perception is different) and I almost always feel a tad different. Now, whether that means I loved them more or less is dependent upon the book-obviously.
Vikram had tried bribing them. At one point, he offered Gauri’s hand in marriage, which earned him two sharp jabs in the ribs. For equality’s sake, he offered his own hand in marriage, but that ended all bargaining negotiations on the spot.
So, when thinking of this story, did I love Vikram as much as others? Absolutely. Did I obsess over him as much as my friends? Perhaps not-but he became an instant BBF all the same. Ha, just goes to show I’ll never change. I had thought he was supposed to be tortured and somewhat sullen, almost an enemies to lovers type deal, but turns out that wasn’t the case. She hated him, but he was just cautious of her-you know, because she is from a different kingdom and all. No, he was a sarcastic prince that made me smile from ear to ear, laugh at the most random moments….did I mention I have a prince fetish? Oops.
“I prefer the poisoned food.”
“You may be rewarded yet,” he said. He popped a handful of pomegranate seeds in his mouth. He froze, some of the juice spilling from his lips. “Oh no,” he breathed, clutching his chest.
“Vikram!” I screamed.
He held up his hand. “I meant to start with mangos.”
So it’s extremely obvious that this book wasn’t so much about the plot, for me, but the characters. It was a bit obscure, in my opinion, so I took solace in the characters’ hilarious banter and romantic interactions. Vikram and Gauri had the best banter I’ve read in a while, holding up to some of my favorite bantering couples-it made this long book seem like it was over in a minute.
“My apologies. Is it your bellicose-let-me-drain-your-blood face? Could you not master an expression that looked less like an outraged cat? ”
“Better than steepling my hands and looking like an overgrown spider.”
“An overgrown spider who is rarely wrong.”
“My bellicose-let-me-drain-your-blood face has saved your life.”
“And this overgrown-spider pose is about to save yours.”
But Gauri is probably the base of why this book was so alluring-Vikram opposed her and was sly as can be…but I think he was much more tolerable in the beginning of their uneasy alliance (and nicer sooner) whereas Gauri made it harder. She was constantly on alert, always threatening him and, in her mind, thinking of ways to be rid of him (ohhh but he was too cunning). This added an extra layer of animosity between the two, adding tension and a romantic build up that pays off greatly in the end.
“I thought you were going to stay away from me,” she said.
He looked at her, this princess who seemed so dangerously sharp that he might cut himself just brushing against her shadow. “I don’t know how.”
And while the characters were the main draw to the story, for me, the story wasn’t without its addictive elements, as well-obviously. My biggest problem stems from the games. I do agree with my friend, Brittney, that this almost has a Caraval type feel. And while that’s fine, I don’t know that I was in the mood for games that aren’t in fact…games.
She laughed. And Vikram, who had never wanted for his life to slow down but only to move faster and faster to the next thing, found himself craving to live in this second.
Whatever. Call me a square, but I love structured, clear cut games and tournaments in books. I don’t like when the games aren’t clear and when they don’t have clear cut rules, winners, prizes etc. etc. Or, I don’t know, I love the life and death games (Sorry. I’ll just always be a HG type girl…). In this story, I felt the games, and the plot, for that matter, were a bit obscure. And, frankly, I don’t always love obscure.
As was the case with Caraval, though, I did enjoy it here-I just don’t know that I expected it-Which, hey, isn’t this book’s fault, now is it??
One final thing-I’m not a fan of one person being a certain pov and the other being in a totally different pov. I don’t know why it bothers me, but every time it switched I thought about it, and I just don’t like this minuscule distraction-I’m not sure what the point is, but for some reason it happens a lot in stories. I’m one of the few who can’t see past it. I still loved the story, it just served as a distraction I didn’t love.
“Surviving isn’t just about cutting out your heart and burning every feeling into ash,” he said. “Sometimes it means taking whatever is thrown at you, beautiful or grotesque, poisonous or blissful, and carving out your life with the pieces you’re given.”
A wonderful story full of twists and turns, games that leave your mind reeling, banter and a slow burn romance that is totally worth the wait, and writing that immediately enthralls you, this story is a winner. It’s hard to say whether this book will be for everyone, but its promising enough I would suggest everyone give it a try. The characters are worth every page you choose to read, and, frankly, Vikram is worth more than that. I hate that it took me so long to read this ARC, but I’m just glad I’m fulfilling my duty. This book was worth the wait, and I’m glad I can voice just how fun it was-this is not one I’ll soon forget.