Title: Star Daughter
Author: Shveta Thakrar
Date Published: August 11, 2020
Page Count: 448 pages
Rep: Indian-American (Gujarati) MC, Hindu representation, Hindu mythology
Content Warnings: Hospitalized father, parent abandonment, anxiety/panic attacks, torture scene
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.
(This post is part of the Star Daughter Blog Tour run by Hear Our Voices! Thank you to them and Edelweiss+ for providing me with an eARC to review.)
Star Daughter is the fairy-tale of my dreams. A captivating fantasy intertwined with threads of pulsating music and star-bright light, Star Daughter is a dazzling debut — one that shines in all its brilliance: a stunning incorporation of Hindu mythology, wonderfully-written characters, and prose that makes you sigh in contentment.
Star Daughter follows Sheetal, half-star, half-mortal, and Indian-American girl with a secret aptitude for music. Sheetal has always done all that she can to conceal the otherworldly sparkle that lies in her, by dying her glistening silver hair black, ignoring an astral music that calls down to her, and the silver flame that burns through her core. But after losing control of the fire inside her and accidentally burning her human father, sending him to the hospital, Sheetal has no choice but to answer the call of the sky, and ascend to the heavens, where she hopes to get a drop of blood from her mother — a star, whose blood has magical healing properties.
Sheetal is not perfect! And, I, personally, think that’s what makes her such a wonderful main character. There’s a lot going in Sheetal’s life, and some decisions she makes are influenced by the urgency of saving her dad’s life. She unfairly blames someone once, and is uncertain, but it all makes sense in context. The portrayal of Sheetal is so realistic: She is not “the chosen one.” She is a girl who’s part of a magical world she never asked to be, a girl who’s not comfortable in her own skin as the daughter of a star, a girl who just longs for her mother, and slightly resents her for ever leaving.
The relations in Star Daughter are well-developed, yet not overpowering. Sheetal’s friendship with her best friend, Minal, is fun and light, and it’s lovely seeing such a cute friendship. Her relation with her father was so pure and sweet! My personal favorite was Sheetal’s relationship with her mother, Charumati, since the dynamics are so interesting.
If I’m honest though, the thing I liked about Star Daughter the best was its setting and atmosphere. I love books with that subtle magic flowing through the setting, and svaraglok is nothing if not magical. Shveta Thakrar’s descriptions are enchanting, and while reading, you have no choice but to be swept up in the splendor. From the Celestial Court, the home of the stars, to the Hall of Mirrors, where stars observe humans, svaraglok is a glittering realm full of magic and rich beauty. There’s also a beautiful, color-coded library that is absolutely gorgeous, and so lovely to read about!
The entire reading reading experience is enhanced by the lush writing. Some of my favorite quotes are:
“Where there is magic, there will always be the hunger to possess it.”
“From the sky we come, and to the sky we return — the great Void that is Mother Kali.”
“There will always be those who speak in dart and spears. You must not allow yourself to be
pierced by their ill will.”
“Stars were born; stars died. A sun blinked out; a black hole loomed. Below, in the mortal realm, a queen conquered; a fool felled a king. An artist painted; an assassin slew. How fast, how brief, these mortal lives. A twinkle of a star’s lifespan.”
“But that didn’t stop the fire from spreading through her. Or the fear as radiance stained everything a blinding silver. She was going to go up in flames. Turn to ash.”
WHEN IT COMES TO BOOKS, I don’t think I’ve ever felt represented.
Allow me to elaborate: I’ve read books, and I’ve fallen in love with them. I’ve related to characters, felt as if I might make the same decisions they’ve made. But, looking at characters, feeling as if I could be them, looking up from the book, and saying, “I’m so much like her! She’s so much like me!”, just, identifying with a narrative? That has never happened before. Until now.
Star Daughter is blatantly, unapologetically Indian. It’s all in the details. For example, just look at the cover! Sheetal’s bindi, the tikka on her forehead, the churiyan she’s wearing, the lotus in her hands — all signature parts of Indian culture. The cover is exquisitely beautiful, and also exquisitely Indian, and it being both at the same time makes me so happy!
Another thing I adore is the Hindu representation — while Indian rep is becoming more common now (yay!), Hinduism is still not something I see a lot of in literature. Again, it was the small things that gave me so much joy: hearing the names of deities, Sheetal chanting a mantra for Ganesh bhagawan before starting her quest, Sheetal’s aunt anointing Sheetal’s forehead with vermillion and then pressing a grain of rice (a tilak).
And the food! The descriptions of all the food made me so hungry! Naan, pulao, samosa, aloo mattar, dal, gulab jamun, one of my favorite desserts!
The representation is so genuine, so realistic, and so normal. That’s the thing that I love the most ~ the diversity in Star Daughter: it’s normalized. Indian culture is not foreign and exotic. It’s simply amazing. Our stories are not just myths – they are a world on their own, rich and searingly beautiful.
Have you read Star Daughter? Do you want to?
When have you felt the most represented in a book?