When Maya’s father the Raja promises her in marriage to end a war over his kingdom, her dreams of living a quiet scholarly life are destroyed. Despite the fact that her horoscope promises only death and destruction to her husband, she finds herself wed to Amar, the ruler of a distant kingdom that stands apart from her world. Amar’s home holds many mysteries, but all are forbidden to explain things to her until the new moon. As Maya’s curiosity builds, she begins to unravel her husband’s secrets. What she learns places worlds in danger. To save them all, she’ll have to journey across kingdoms and beg the help of mythical creatures.
This is one of those books with narrative so good you just want to eat each line. The characters were also rich and intriguing. Every time I thought I had things figured out, there was another layer to the relationships and motives than I’d realized. I particularly liked that Maya’s father doesn’t fit the sort of cliché father-king stereotype. I liked that he respected Maya’s intelligence and wanted her to understand what was happening at a larger political level. He could have been kind of a non-character, and instead I found him to be really fascinating, someone I wanted to study a bit more, especially when he reappeared later in the story. Even Maya’s younger sister turns out to have some hidden depths.
My absolute favorite character in the book was this creepy horse-like character (demon horse?) named Kamala. Seriously, she was creepy (but funny.) Her relationship with Maya totally surprised me. I loved how that developed.
There are definitely some links to fairy tale and myth that make this story feel like it’s in part a retelling. I felt like the landscape and characters were so fresh and new that I kept forgetting to even look for familiar elements. I definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good fairytale or who loves stories like Seven Daughters and Seven Sons (one of my favorite books growing up.)
Maya offers herself to her husband by undressing in front of him. He asks her to wait one more night. They kiss passionately, but nothing more is described.
Maya visits the underworld and speaks to the dead. She also befriends a horse-like creature that eats flesh. Other nymph-like creatures appear in the story. A girl poses as a sort of wandering prophetess.
Maya travels through an empty battleground and sees war from afar. A powerful woman wants to sacrifice a boy as a part of a ritual. She uses her power to stir her followers’ bloodlust.