I had the honor to be an ARC reader for debut author, Shveta Thakrar’s, Star Daughter, a mystical tale of a half-mortal, half-star Indian teenager named Sheetal. After an accident, Sheetal’s father is hospitalized, and needs a full star to help her heal him. 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.
These are my thoughts and my thoughts only. No one has influenced them. I will read, review, and critique this book as I do every book that I read. That being said, I will take into consideration that this is Thakrar’s debut novel and that this novel explores themes and ideas that have yet to be explored.
This has no spoilers in it (promise). Onto 15 thoughts I had while reading Star Daughter!
- That cover is everything I want for a YA Fantasy story that represents my ethnicity. It is so thoughtfully made, and for once, I can feel myself represented through a book. Representation is a whole different topic, but it’s oddly empowering to see such a beautiful depiction of an Indian teen on a book cover. 10/10
- The writing style walks on the fine balance of elegance and realism. I love this about Thakrar’s writing style: it flourishes in description, yet Sheetal’s youthful voice is never comprimised. The prose is written in a way where one moment you’re gawking over how gorgeous the description is, and the next you’re smiling at how realistic Sheetal’s voice is. Unlike other fantasy books, Sheetal not only acts like a teen, she talks and sounds like one, and something about that is awe-inspiring.
- I love the contemporary setting. Star Daughter is a YA Fantasy, but Sheetal lives in a world quite similar to ours (minus the stars and stuff). This means there are TVs and cars and technological advancements. This type of contemporary fantasy is getting popular in the genre, and I’m glad about it. It’s very interesting to think about how our world would interact with stars (as people) and magic.
- Dev is a cutie. I don’t know about you, but Dev is probably the most unproblematic brown boy I’ve ever read/met/heard about. It’s evident that Thakrar knows what young desi girls desire in a desi boy (and often don’t get). I actually heard a podcast with the author where she said she wrote the desi boyfriend she wanted. Dev is genuinely good and passionate, which is refreshing from the typical bad boy. There were points where I was lost in his story or his character, but nevertheless, he is a cutie.
- Thakrar nails authenticity. I’m not suprised by this, but pleased. I’m an Indian Christian, but I know a good amount about Hindu culture. It’s very accurate and never feels like it’s forced, which is a great addition. She weaves in her world of stars and magic with the current world we live in (once again, props for that).
- While she nails cultural authenticity, she also nails the second gen desi girl immigrant experience. Overprotective father, no boyfriend rule, aunts and uncles dotting her, and more. While doing this, Thakrar doesn’t play into stereotypes, which is nice. For example, her dad isn’t obsessive about school (in the perameters of the book, at least) which is a nice break from the norm. You know, not all Desi parent’s obsess over their kid’s grades. Even if he is outside of the story, I like how Thakrar didn’t bring it up. It’s not related to the storyline, so she focused on what is. Overall, nice balance.
- I love how supportive her parents are. Desi parents often get a bad rap for being strict with their kids, so it’s nice to see Sheetal’s relationship with her dad. I never really connected with or understood her mom. She felt very mystical to me almost, as if she didn’t really exist. Nevertheless, it’s nice to see good Desi parents.
- How awesome would it be if I were a star? Pretty cool, that’s for sure. The love for music and culture and the grey hair make it really really cool. That being said, I feel like the magic was underdeveloped in this story. Then again, that’s the inner writer in me who loves really crazy powers, so it certainly doesn’t take away from the book. Stars do have grey hair though, which is really cool.
- Sheetal is kinda difficult to connect with. I know, I know, I’m very picky with what I read. Maybe it’s because I’ve grown out of the YA Fantasy genre, but I found her character difficult to connect with. I wish Sheetal had a darker side, some desperations. Her only stakes are saving her father, and I wish that there was some other internal motivation. Sheetal is sweet and soft and gifted, but where’s that spark of darkness that makes her human? There was one instance where some negative traits start showing, like when she blames Dev for what happened to her dad. I perked up then, but immediately after, she apologized. Maybe it’s the inner lover of complexity in me, but it is what it is.
- The worldbuilding is glorious. The Night Market, Star Court, and all the myth is beautiful explained and imagined. Never did I feel like the world was underdeveloped. Star Daughter has some inspiration from Neil Gaimen, but with a Hindu Mythology twist. I have to remember that Thakrar is writing to an audience that doesn’t know Hindu myth, so she has to build that, but there are times in the book where the worldbuilding and cultural integration take over Sheetal and the other characters.
- I appreciate the friendship between Sheetal and Minal: Okay, so I know I’ve written some conflicting thoughts in this section, but I think this is my final thought. I really appreciate the friendship between Sheetal and Minal. Before, I said I wished there was more diversity in the novel, but I’ve been thinking about it recently. Why did I think this way? In the other fantasy novels I read, I haven’t paid attention to the diversity of two friends, but for some reason, in my original review, I wished for some more Desi diversity. In retrospect, I wonder why I thought that way about my own race. My best friends that I would go on these mystical trips with are from my same ethnicity, so why would I bring up a lack of diversity in a story about Hindu Myth? Probably because everything I read before hasn’t been like this, so seeing it seemed unnatural when it really wasn’t. I think this is really interesting to think about who without knowing, I’ve criticised my own life in a book because it was new to me, so I immediately thought something was odd about it. I don’t think the book needs more diversity. It’s specifically a Hindu Myth, so it makes sense that the character’s are all Hindu. Sheetal and Minal’s relationship is very adorable and loving, and it emulates my own friendships. I apologize to Shveta and all the Desi girls who saw themselves in Sheetal and Minal and were offended by my comment. I find it funny that I thought this way at first, but I’ve realized as I’ve processed this gorgeous book that this healthy, loving friendship between two Indian-American girls is not only realistic, it’s undertold in American literature, and we need more of it.
- I liked the substance of the competition. I’ve read reviews where people say it’s overdone, but I don’t find that the case. Thakrar built the story around a different kind of competition, which was really unique and interesting! I’m not going to spoil that for you, so you’ll have to read Star Daughter and see for yourself!
- Dang, I wish I had a physical copy. I got an e-arc . I found myself skimming, but I blame that on the format of the e-ARC. I think if I had a physical copy, this would be a different story, so take this with a grain of salt. I recommend you buy this book in physical edition to get the full experience of reading it (and that cover is too beautiful to not have a physical copy).
- The story is a lot about Sheetal’s self-discovery, and I liked that. Shveta does this realllly well. Did I mention her amazing writing? This is a genuine YA Fantasy perfect for an audience in between 10-16. I think I’ve outgrown her character, which is why she didn’t resonate deeply with me. This doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the book. I did, I just think someone within that age group would enjoy it more. Though I love self-discovery, I love stories with characters that are discovering something deeper about themself.
- This book is empowering. It’s not just empowering to me as a reader to see a desi female lead, it’s inspiring to me as a writer. Thakrar and some other desi authors are paving the way for diverse stories, introduction of our culture into the mainstream, and more. These stories mean so much to me, and so do the authors. Shveta is so sweet. She interacts with her fans, she responds to DMs, her personality is bubbly, and her writing is gorgeous. Star Daughter may not be perfect, but it is worth the read for it’s cosmic worldbuilding, beautiful prose, and celebration of Desi Culture
I recommend this book for lovers of YA Fantasy, Desi girls, and anyone that loves a good read with great writing.
Revising my reflection as I’ve thought more about this book and what it means. Though I rarely noticed it, I didn’t have much representation in the books I’ve read when I was younger. There were no Indian or Desi girls in there, especially not as main characters. That’s why I was so excited about Star Daughter, but that also explains why I initially felt jarred by the full Desi cast. It’s not that having a full Desi cast is bad…at all. The point is that I was so unused to my race being the center of attention in a fantasy novel that I was subconsciously shocked. I guess I never felt like we deserved to be in YA Fantasy, that our stories were forever stuck in the back burner. As a 17 year old, this story may not have formulated my perspective on the world around me, but it surely has made me introspective. What sort of internalized prejudices do I carry as a result of not having media represent me? What double standards do I hold, and why?
Though I talk about how Sheetal’s process of self-discovery doesn’t resonate with me at this age, the process of reading, reviewing, and revising this post has actually revealed more about myself to me that I ever expected it to.
So Shveta, I want to thank you for breaking past this mindset that our stories aren’t worth being told, even if that originally received some undeserving criticism from me. The story taught me more than magic and friendship and love and stuff, it opened my mind and heart to devour more books by #OwnVoices, especially my own.
What’s next for Shveta? Well, I’m eager to know! Overall, I’m glad I had the chance to read and review this book, and I’m looking forward to supporting Shveta on her journey in publishing, whether it be another book, an anthology, a chapbook, or other things.
Go order Star Daughter today!