Alright. This is the last of the books that I read in 2020, that I reviewed, but did not post. So, let’s go on ahead and get this out of the way, and head to books from 2021!
Customary warning: This is a reminder that these are my personal opinions. My thoughts and feelings are not your thoughts and feelings. I may not always be the target audience for a book; sometimes I am. If I do not like a book, that doesn’t mean you’ll dislike it. If I love a book or simply like a book, you may hate it. Take everything I say with this knowledge. If it sounds interesting to you despite what I’ve said, then go ahead and read it. You’ll only know you like something if you read it yourself.
That being said… Spoilers ahead.
Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar
Synopsis From The Book
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.
Fantasy | YA – E | Family Pressure, Near Death | Identity, The Importance of Arts, Self Discovery
Initial Thoughts Before Reading:
Alright, so this book is gorgeous. Second it’s about stars and I’ve realized I love stars so much. Third it’s a culture I know not so much about, so I’m excited to see and learn more. This book will be a lot of fun, I feel. So let’s learn about the girl who is starlight.
Initial Thoughts After Reading:
I’m still pretty certain I missed like 50% of the cultural references. I hope that those who are of the culture found this book endearing and lovely. As an outsider I can say that I was confused at moment, however that just meant I needed to slow down and understand context clues a bit more. This book was beautiful in so many ways. I did think the plot dragged a bit in the center, but the gorgeous writing really did make up for that.
Sheetal is half star half human. She wants nothing more to blend in and keep her silver/white roots from showing. She is dating a boy named Dev behind her father’s back, and the novel opens with her at a party. At the party she hears the star song, a whisper from the heavens calling to her and her aunt realizes her roots are showing. The next day she wakes up to all of her black hair dye having ran out of her hair, so she calls on her best friend to help her redye it. She goes to her boyfriend’s house, Dev, eats cookies, listens to his music and takes a nap. She sees his dream which is a story of a man who captured a star long long ago and bled her and tortured her for what she could offer others. Sheetal rejects Dev after he explains that he knew she was a Star the whole time. She is picked up by her aunt and father, and yells at them for not telling her anything about her heritage. Dev is trying to text her to fix things between them. In this she explodes outright at her father, and burns him. He ends up in the ICU. She learns from her aunt that her mother did not abandon and forget her. And that her mother left her a person to find when it was time to go to the heavens. Sheetal, her aunt, and Minal (Her best friend) go to the Night Market. They have to get through dazzling street vendors who wooed them with their amazing offerings, and find the harp sisters. Sheetal gets a lotus from them, and with Minal, she walks into the sky.
Sheetal and Minal arrive and convince the guards of who Sheetal was. She enters a welcoming ball, that is in preparation for an arts competition. Her family names her their champion. She begs them for blood to heal her father and they tell her they’ll give it to her if she competes. The current rulers of the star kingdom are turning supernova, and the new ruling house has to be decided through an arts competition. They have three days. Sheetal meets Jeet, Dev’s cousin, who is there with Dev. Jeet is performing as a writer for another house. Sheetal is mocked for her inability to sing, because of stage fright and then framed for stealing another girl’s marionettes. Sheetal does find the marionettes later, and secretly returns them, but she does not know who stole them.
Sheetal learns more about her heritage, and that the tortured star was her maternal grandmother’s sister. She and Dev argue more as Sheetal learns what it takes to be a star and contemplates leaving. She does find out that the star backing Jeet has been giving him blood and manipulating the competition. The day of, Sheetal turns seventeen. The others compete and rat out the actual competitor who had tried to sabotage everyone. Jeet is revealed to be a bad writer, and his back star reveals the truth to everyone. Sheetal’s mother argues with Sheetal’s grandmother on the legacy of their people and the need to guide the mortals. Sheetal realizes with Dev’s help that her mother is just as bad, with wanting to control everything. She says she’s ready and uses a circlet to fully fall into her status as a Star, becoming a full star. She then names Dev as her champion, inspires him, and he sings. Dev wins the competition.
Sheetal saves her father. She is learning more about her people and spreading puns. She and Dev talk about inspiration, and how they will continue to go onward into the future.
What I Liked:
Sheetal; This girl really did go through so much in five days. I feel so bad for her. However she took it like a trooper and made the best out of it. I hope she is able to remain happy.
Minal; This girl is perfect. We must protect her forever. Sheetal tells her she’s a star, Minal’s like. Aye at least your hot tho (pun intended). Goes with Sheetal to a magical kingdom and completely acts as ever is necessary. She was word of reason, and a great friend. She has to be protected at all costs, do you understand me?
Magic System; I might not know anything about foklore and culture by which this is based. HOWEVER this magical system is everything I can hope for. Startlight and the arts tied into one? Do writers just know that’s like my favorite combination or…? I really loved learning more about the magic itself for stars, and how inspiration worked. I wish we had more time with it, but I’ll accept what we got.
Dev; He was great, magical and a entertaining person to watch. I did love how he did truly adore Sheetal.
What I Would Have Liked or Changed:
Something about the writing Writing; I LOVED this writing at points. At others I was extremely bored. I am not sure if it was the pacing or something else. However the part where Jeet is revealed to be a bad story teller didn’t seem so jarring to me, and I know it has to do with this. This book was so complex and beautiful in its prose at moments and then so simple at others. I am not sure if this was on purpose, however because of it, I did have a weird lull in the writing where it felt disjointed to me at times. I did get a little bored, and sleepy, and that does not happen when I read. However, i also like to think of it as the fairy tale effect, that sometimes when things are so pretty and fairy tale like, they make me sleepy, so I can’t really hate the book for that. It’s mostly about the general switch from such luscious vocabulary, to simple sentences that threw me off, as well as how Jeet’s writing didn’t seem too terrible in comparison to some parts of the book.
The Journal entries; I really loved them for their beauty and insight, but I’m not sure they were necessary to the actual understanding of the novel.
Dev x Sheetal; I had exactly 0 investment into this relationship.
“Your hair’s still black as a politician’s heart.” – pg 41
“I’m a writer. I want people to read my stories and carry them around in their heads. I want to change how they see the world. There’s literally nothing I wouldn’t do to have what I want. Nothing.” – pg 246