Review: Star Daughter

Title: Star Daughter
Author: Shveta Thakrar
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.
This gorgeously imagined YA debut blends shades of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust and a breathtaking landscape of Hindu mythology into a radiant contemporary fantasy.

Let me start by saying the author sent me an ARC as part of a giveaway for her newsletter subscribers, but I was in no way compensated or asked to write a glowing review. But I’m still going to write a glowing review because this book brought me a lot of joy and I know a lot of people will enjoy it!

Sheetal is part-star and part-human, and lately her more sidereal aspects have been flaring up and causing trouble in the “lay low and make sure humans don’t figure out stars exist on Earth” department. A bad accident leaves her father in the emergency room and Sheetal trying to find a way to get to the Celestial court and convince her mother to heal him. I love that this book made Sheetal’s teenager struggles about fitting in and anxieties about why her mother left her just as important (if not more so) than the grand schemes of the starry court and the role of stars in human lives. I also loved how Sheetal’s friendship with Minal was such a big part of the story. We need more female friendships in our books!

I really liked how this book used aspects of Hindu mythology to create a new (and sort of secular?) mythology. In this book’s world, there are gandarvas, apsaras, and other celestial beings from Hindu mythology, as well as magical objects. The stars from the major Hindu constellations (nakshatras) have been personified into magical beings who can choose to come down to Earth in human form. I thought the connection between the stars and the arts (music, poetry, sculpture…) was really clever, especially since we attribute a lot of inspiration to staring up at the stars or skies.

There were a few things I wasn’t a fan of, but they were pretty minor. The first is the pacing, I felt like it took too long for Sheetal to actually reach the Celestial court. Once she was there, I felt like I didn’t have as much of a sense of urgency as I was expecting considering Sheetal went up there to save her dying father but got pulled into star political shenanigans instead. The other thing that bugged me is the fact that Sheetal’s newfound star family members were really manipulative when they first met her, but Sheetal didn’t really stand up to them or call them out on it (probably because she’s a 17 year old who, like me, was raised in a culture to always obey your elders…I’m in my 20s and it’s still sometimes hard to stand up for myself). I wish Sheetal had been a little more wary of what was happening internally even if she didn’t speak out at first.

Something I noticed after I finished this book is that all the characters are Indian or Desi American, which was an interesting choice for a book set in contemporary New Jersey (and of course the Celestial court). Even though we see aspects of Sheetal’s daily life, they’re all in the context of her Indian friends and family, and I like that Shveta Thakrar didn’t feel the need to include a token white friend to make the book more “relatable”.

If you are even slightly interested in Stardust meets Hindu mythology, I would definitely recommend this book! It’s lushly written and Sheetal is a very relatable character. And if you’re worried about not knowing how to pronounce half the names, I’m gonna link you to my attempt at creating a pronunciation guide (there’s more names in the follow up tweet):

I hope you will check this book out! It’s definitely one of the better YA books I’ve read featuring Desi characters, and I wish I’d had it as a teenager.

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