Let me take you back to October 2019 when the cover of Star Daughter was first announced. I was blown away. While I’ve seen some great South-Asian book covers and a lot of them do have beautiful desi people on the cover, but this one had me wondering what could be more gorgeous. Everything from the earrings to the golden bits, the cover had impressed me. But then I read the blurb and I knew this book will get to my heart. Fast forward to August 2020 and I’m here, recommending this desi gem to you all.
Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar
This gorgeously imagined YA debut blends shades of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust and a breathtaking landscape of Hindu mythology into a radiant contemporary fantasy.
The daughter of a star and a mortal, Sheetal is used to keeping secrets. Pretending to be “normal.” But when an accidental flare of her starfire puts her human father in the hospital, Sheetal needs a full star’s help to heal him. A star like her mother, who returned to the sky long ago.
Sheetal’s quest to save her father will take her to a celestial court of shining wonders and dark shadows, where she must take the stage as her family’s champion in a competition to decide the next ruling house of the heavens–and win, or risk never returning to Earth at all.
Brimming with celestial intrigue, this sparkling YA debut is perfect for fans of Roshani Chokshi and Laini Taylor.
Star Daughter shines with the half-star half-mortal identity of a young woman, a gorgeous setting among the clouds, music that plays on one’s heartstrings, emotionally complex familial relationships, inspiration from the nakshatras of Hindu mythology, and lush narration through a lyrical writing.
Representation: Indian (Gujarati)-American MC, Hindu mythology, desi culture.
Ownvoices reader for: Desi & Indian.
Trigger warnings: Critically-ill father, parent abandonment, anxiety including a panic attack, fictional slurs, stabbing, hostage tortured, and identity crisis.
A YOUNG WOMAN IS STRUCK TO LIVE THE PART OF HER SHE HAS KEPT HIDDEN FOR SO LONG.
Sheetal, the daughter of a a human dad and a star mother, has always pushed down the heavenly part of her by either dying the silver hair strands or attempting to ignore the starsong that flows to and through her. But when the dye and the ignorance can’t keep her away from the truth of being a star’s daughter, from letting her sparks flow, she unintentionally harms her father and the solution is among the clouds.
As someone caught between the two possibilities of existing—in the heavens or on the Earth—Sheetal makes decisions out of desperation and love. Her flawed personality makes her realistic, relatable, and easy to understand. She’s new to the family high above this world and new to being so open, so true, so herself as a star. Consequently, the discoveries she make, the secrets that are unravelled, and the ancestry she had no knowledge of are surprising and highly influence her portrayal as someone filled with uncertainty.
THE CELESTIAL COURT IS SPARKLING AND THE SHIMMER OF SVARGLOK IS HYPNOTIC.
The setting is one of beauty, charm, and magic. Especially with immortals roaming around in fashionable pieces & flawless skin. Whether it’s the hallways lined with intricate designs on the walls or a hall full of mirrors that can help you see anything or anyone on Earth, the svarglok—a heavenly world in Hindu cosmology—is a place you want to roam in all day.
A SUPPORTING CAST THAT SHINE INDIVIDUALLY AND RELATIONSHIPS THAT ARE COMPLEX.
From the best friend, Minal, who always has Sheetal’s back and sprinkles humour everywhere to the love interest, Dev, who is a soft boy, the side characters have distinct personalities you simply cannot not love. The friendship is proven right at the gates of heaven and the romantic attachment is build on an already existing bloom of feelings. The rest of the side characters, including those who are competing against Sheetal in the high-stakes celestial competition, have enough to contribute and are worth remembering at the end of it all.
The new-found familial relationships have an understandable dual effect—the pure happiness of connecting with those who share your bloodline as well as the undeniable insecurity & constant questioning of what family really is. The mother-daughter connection is very well explored through Sheetal’s broken heart after being abandoned getting fixed again. Similarly, the father-daughter love is excellent too—and personally, my absolute favourite.
THE INDIAN CULTURE, THE HINDU MYTHOLOGY & THE OWNVOICES BRILLIANCE: FOOD, MUSIC, AND WORLD.
Right off the bat, Sheetal’s starsong—an astral melody that travels across the sky and through a star’s heart—and Dev singing a Kishore Kumar song in a party, the music is beautifully integrated in the story. Along the same lines, seeing words like dilruba, bansuri, bhajan, and gandharva can impress the ownvoices readers very much.
The culture is perfectly depicted through food references like samosa, naan, bhajia, aloo mattar, dal and rasmalai or through literal translations like dikri, bhai, nani, nana, and chhokri—my personal favourite since this was the first time I ever saw a word my mom uses to angrily acknowledge me. *heart explodes with love* The inspiration from Hindu mythology is also seamlessly incorporated through the essence of nakshatras and mention of deities as well as customs like pressing vermilion and a grain of raw rice on the forehead in blessing.
Overall, a definite recommendation for those who enjoy standalone with fast-paced mythology-inspired fantasy plot and lush writing that makes you want to be lost in the shine of a star.
This post is written for a promotional blog tour hosted by Hear Our Voices Book Tours but everything stated in the post is solely my opinion and recommendation.
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