Star Daughter: A fairly strong debut

Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsStar Daughter by Shveta Thakrar science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsStar Daughter by Shveta Thakrar

16-year-old Sheetal seems like any other normal Indian-American teenager. She’s close to her large family, has a best friend and a boyfriend, and she’s looking forward to going to college. What most people don’t know, though, is that her father, a famous astrophysicist, married a star.

Sheetal’s mother left years ago to ascend to her celestial court, and she told Sheetal never to let anybody suspect that she’s half star. To hide this fact, Sheetal dyes her silver hair black, but lately the hair dye has not been taking. Also, recently, as Sheetal approaches her 17th birthday, she has started to hear her mother’s starsong and doesn’t know what that means.

When Sheetal begins to realize she has some special powers and then accidentally causes her father to have a heart attack, she realizes she must visit her mother’s court to find a cure for him. When she arrives in the celestial court, she discovers that she has been summoned to take part in a competition and that she is her mother’s family’s only hope for retaining their political power. If she wins the contest, the family will keep their power and, in return, she will be given the cure her father needs.

The best thing about Shveta Thakrar’s Star Daughter (2020) is the Indian-American setting. I loved hearing about their culture, their food and music, their habits, their family interactions, and Hindu mythology. I liked the characters, too, including Sheetal, her father, her nosy aunt, her talented boyfriend (though I didn’t really feel the connection between him and Sheetal), and, especially, her best friend Minal (this connection I did feel). The first part of the novel that focuses on the setting and characters was believable and entertaining.

Shveta Thakrar

Shveta Thakrar

Later however, when Sheetal ascends to the heavens, the plot becomes much less credible and often reliant on lucky coincidences. Because the book is set in our own world, supernatural events, such ascending to the stars, lacked sufficient explanation and characters’ reactions to these events felt inauthentic. I didn’t like any of Sheetal’s relatives and Sheetal herself becomes less likable as she spends a lot of time feeling sorry for herself.

That pacing in this part was inconsistent, with tiresome sections of conversations /arguments interspersed with action scenes that probably should have been longer. A major problem was that, though I was interested in the fates of Sheetal and her father, I could not muster any interest in the political battle being waged in the heavens. That’s partly because the cause of the conflict is an event that happened long ago which we only hear about rather than experience.

Still, though, I think Star Daughter is a fairly strong debut novel and I’m looking forward to more by Shveta Thakrar. The audio edition I listened to was published by HarperAudio and beautifully narrated by Soneela Nankani. It’s 13 hours long. I love the cover art. Star Daughter is a finalist for the Andre Norton (Nebula) Award.

Published in 2020. If the night sky holds many secrets, it holds Sheetal Mistry’s secret the closest. A secret that explains why her hair is the silver of starlight, or why some nights the stars call Sheetal by name. Stars like her mother, who returned to her place in the constellation Pushya years ago. Since that day, Sheetal has been forced to hide. But as her seventeenth birthday draws near, the pull from the sky is growing stronger. So strong that Sheetal loses control, and a flare of starfire burns her human father—an injury only a full star’s blood can heal. Sheetal has no choice but to answer the starsong and ascend to the sky. But her celestial family has summoned her for a reason: to act as their human champion in a competition to decide the next ruling house of heavens. Desperate to save her father, Sheetal agrees. But nothing could have prepared Sheetal to face the stars’ dark history—or the forces that are working to shut the gate between the realms for good.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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One comment

  1. I think I’d like this one. Your review made me really interested in Sheetal and her father, and that relationship.

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