A few days ago I finished a wonderful book called Star Daughter, by Shveta Thakrar. It’s been a really long time (REALLY long time) since I’ve written a review, so I’m going to try my best to put my thoughts onto this page!
Before I get into this, can we just take a moment to
appreciate be absolutely DISGUSTED by the current block editor? I would just like my classic editor back, please 😭 I have no idea how to use blocks…
Star Daughter – Shveta Thakrar – Spoiler-Free Review
Representation: Indian MC and completely Indian cast of characters, sapphic side romance
TWs: multiple descriptions of cutting another character for blood (skippable & not condoned)
What I liked:
Regardless of whether you like Star Daughter or not, everyone has to admit that this cover is stunning. I would give this book five stars just for the cover. 😍 It’s also unapologetically Indian- we have a beautiful brown girl on the cover wearing a bindi and a chutti and it’s gorgeous. 🥰
OKAY. Maybe this should fall under ‘writing’, but one of my favorite parts of this book was the way all the settings were described.
“All around them, intricately decorated stalls overflowed with impossible goods, and the patrons who browsed them were just as odd. A family of kinnaras, their equine heads fusing seamlessly with their human lower bodies, examined a carved copper lantern encrusted with gems in colors Sheetal had never seen before. Nearby, an apsara who might have been sculpted by marble, she was so enticing, haggled over a selection of black-and-silver bottles shaped like birds in flight.”
The way Shveta Thakrar writes about settings, it’s like I’m there and I’m physically experiencing sleeping on a bed made of the night sky with clouds as my canopies. It’s like I can almost picture the golden inlay and mosaic ceilings and carved marble pillars of the palace. It’s breathtaking.
“Jeweled silver oil lamps dangled overhead at different heights, tossing rainbows over the ink-black walls and floor. Shimmering blue curtains lined the picture windows, which alternated with silver-framed paintings of figures from Hindu myths.”
Like I mentioned above, my absolute favorite part of this book is the writing style. The words that slip and slide off of your tongue but mean the most eccentric and wonderous things, the descriptions that make your mouth water and your eyes sigh, the verbs that make you want to jump up and do a cartwheel.
“The starry melody whispered in Sheetal’s ears, ethereal as lace and replete with a yearning so pure it made her throat hurt. All of the grief and anger and utter yearning of the past ten years raced toward her, an avalanche, until she thought she might suffocate beneath it.”
Like, don’t even try and tell me that “ethereal as lace and replete with a yearning so pure” doesn’t makes your heart ache and actually feel, even one bit.
Her writing is full of metaphors and similes but also full of vivid descriptions and every emotion is laid out on the page for you to see and feel. It’s quite refreshing, given that many authors hint and tiptoe around what they’re intending to say, trying to create an illusion of secretiveness (hint, Leigh Bardugo) which is something I really like, but is also hard to get through when you’re not in the right mindset. Shveta tells it like it is and more- she embellishes it until it’s literal eye candy. 🌟
“A million tiny stars streamed out, bright and scintillating. Their music might have been the haunting, elusive pitch of a bansuri, a bamboo flute. Instead of falling straight down, they swished across the room, swirling around Sheetal and Nani and wreathing them in lambent warmth before dancing down through the open floor toward the mortal world, bearing with them the prospect of hope, of dreams, of magic.”
Something else I really enjoyed about Star Daughter was the friendship between Sheetal and Minal. Normally I need to love the characters to love a novel, and while that is true in this case, the writing outshines any characters in this story. Still, Sheetal and Minal’s friendship and their individual characters are both really sweet. I quite like Sheetal as a main character, and Minal is so supportive and the easy banter between the two of them reminds me of myself (me being Minal, obviously- horrible jokes and I’ve always got your back! 😉).
When I went into this book, I was curious to see how it would incorporate Hindu mythology because it’s incredibly hard to do. Given that this is a religion which is currently in practice, it’s hard to choose what parts of the myths to add and to not add. I’ve been thinking a lot about the untapped potential that authors could write about using Hindu mythology, but it’s going to be really difficult. I think that Shveta did a great job despite that!
“The stars of House Pushya began to sing. The song was the silver of starlight, of wind chimes and ringing bells and stories braided with skeins of myths and dreams and wishes. It called to the blood in Sheetal’s veins, stoking the fire at her core, making her ache for the strings of her harp and her dilruba.”
Without going too much into detail, the ‘magic’ of the main character Sheetal is basically song. And the author mainly stuck to the mythical creatures as her form of fantasy (e.g. apsaras, naginis, and gandharvas) while creating the ‘star-song-is-magic-and-stars-are-people, and that nakshatrams-are-more-than-just-constellations‘ as the worldbuilding unique to her story. I say this because a lot of non-Hindu readers won’t know what is based on Hinduism and what isn’t, so it’s cool to be able to separate what’s going on in the story from what is based on myths!
What I didn’t like:
If I’m being honest, the only lackluster part of this entire book was the romance. I just didn’t feel any chemistry between Sheetal and Dev, her love interest. The role of the morally gray character was already taken up by someone else (no spoilers!), and Dev seemed sweet, but his character was one-dimensional. If I’m being honest, the entire time Sheetal was in Svargalok (the main setting of this story) I was hoping that Sheetal wouldn’t mention Dev, just because he didn’t interest me 😭
Still, despite the fact that I believe Sheetal would have been better off single (and why do they always force a love interest in YA? Basically none of us are dating at the age of 16, okay?), I still really really enjoyed this story.
Something that I don’t want to go too into depth with but definitely need to touch on is the representation. I’ve written multiple posts on the need for diverse representation in the media of people who look like the diverse audience that sees it.
🌟 Here’s my review of Never Have I Ever with a discussion on representation, and here’s another post that I wrote on diversity in YA. I also recently wrote some stuff on internalized whiteness in the book community if you want to check any of these posts out! 🌟
Reading Star Daughter made me so, so happy because it actively embraced and was inspired by my culture and my heritage. Also, the brown girl pride is real 😉
Overall, I highly recommend reading Star Daughter, especially if you have already been exposed to Hindu mythology in some form!
I rate this five beautiful feathers!
P.S.- I’m changing up my rating system so be on the lookout for a new page on my blog!
I had a lot of fun writing this post, so I may write more reviews in the future. 😀 This post is also super long (not a surprise, it’s basically a running jokes for consistent readers by now tbh) so I’m going to wrap it up right here with a promise to post more often.
Have you read this book? What are your thoughts on it? And do you want me to do more reviews?