Set in the same Indian-inflected fantasy world as The Star-Touched Queen (2016), Chokshi's sophomore effort examines fear, desire, and ambition as three protagonists compete in the Tournament of Wishes.
The most compelling of the characters is Aasha, a vishakanya curious about the human life she left behind when she received the Blessing and became a poisonous courtesan. Her subplot is a beautiful exploration of vengeance and healing. It is here that the worldbuilding is most nuanced and deftly woven. At other times, the prose is exceedingly allegorical and overwrought. The two human contestants—Vikram, the puppet prince of Ujijain, and Gauri, the exiled princess of Bharata—make an unlikely pair. Their relationship relies heavily on witty banter punctuated by imminent peril that is designed to draw them closer together. In many respects the book reads like nested fables. Alaka, the otherworldly Kingdom of Desire where the tournament takes place, is full of wondrous creatures and deities from Indian mythologies, all representative of lessons the protagonists need to learn as they complete their Herculean tasks.
With a happily-ever-after reminiscent of beloved fairy tales, this is a great pick for voracious readers who like their bejeweled princesses to have hard edges. (glossary) (Fantasy. 12 & up)