- The cover. While I love the background with the moon and stars and a distant city, the illustrators managed to make the beautiful Leela look downright ugly. It’s a shame, since I love to see a little diversity on my covers!
- The setting. I don’t read historical fiction very often (unless it’s with my kids for homeschooling), but this book almost sounded like it could pass for fantasy with the focus on Leela being Starcursed. I’m so glad that I gave it a try. Really plenty of fantasy authors could almost have based their societies on 12th century India. The culture and setting are rich in magnificent details – the monsoon season, and what it means to the people; gender roles and arranged marriages; a war with the Turkis; a smallpox outbreak; the belief in astrology – add in a little bit of magic and it could easily pass for fantasy. Which is why I enjoyed it so much. I LOVED that I got all of this rich worldbuilding – but with the knowledge that this was a real historical culture that I was learning about. This added an extra layer of interest!
- Leela. I absolutely adored Leela. She was everything I love in a heroine – incredibly intelligent (her genius truly saves the day at one point in this book), yet caring and compassionate. She is strong-willed, but she doesn’t throw her family’s reputation and culture aside for her own desires. She respects them and wants to please them (though she sometimes breaks the mold anyway). Leela wrestles with the astrological beliefs of her society. On the one hand, her father, the man she respects more than anyone in the world, has taught her that the stars can truly affect her destiny. On the other hand, she doesn’t feel like the horrible person her astrological reading insists she should be. This doubt brings her hope – hope that perhaps she can truly overcome her destiny – but it doesn’t erase her fear.
- Rahul. Again, pretty much the perfect leading man. Rahul is intelligent, but not prideful, strong and capable in battle, but he doesn’t have a warrior’s spirit. He understand Leela in a way that no one else ever really can. And though there are many obstacles that stand in their way (religion, caste, the stars), Rahul and Leela seem meant for one another.
- The story. I found myself captivated by this story in so many ways. I didn’t know how the romance between Leela and Rahul would work itself out (or if it would – the legend that’s told at the beginning of the book didn’t have a happy ending, and I wasn’t sure if the book would either), so I was definitely waiting with bated breath to find out how it would all play out!
About the Author
Nandini Bajpai grew up in New Delhi, India, one of four sisters and many cousins, in a family that liked to read.
She lived and worked in India, Australia, and the US, before settling in the Boston area with her husband, kids, and a fluctuating number and variety of pets. Although she dabbled in corporate finance, business analysis, and fostering shelter animals, her first love is writing.