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.
Trigger Warnings: imprisonment, physical assault (character beaten, not extremely graphic but there are details), ‘self-flagellation’ (term used in-text to describe character anxiously picking skin to the point of drawing blood), panic attacks, consuming blood, murder (method mentioned, not vivid, in-depth description)
Shveta Thakrar’s Star Daughter is a worthwhile, well-written, wonderfully magical debut novel. Star Daughter narrates the story Sheetal, the daughter of a star and a mortal, as she goes on a quest to save her father from the injury she accidentally inflicted on to him, which leads her to the Celestial Court where she reunites with the mother who left her . . .
What follows is a story of self-discovery as Sheetal is confronted with the knowledge of everything that had been kept from her, and all that they keep from her still. She goes on a journey to find out more about herself, her family, and their mysterious, murky past to find out who she is and where she should fit in to this world, while combatting with the strong wills of everyone else in the Star court who all have their own opinions & ideas of what they want her to do.
The best written part of this novel is Sheetal’s emotional turmoil as she tries to come to terms with who she is, after years of being told to hide parts of herself, and never being able to express herself in the way she wants to because she’s in the mortal world and it’s dangerous for a Star. You can also feel Sheetal’s anxiety and terror at the unknown world and situation she has been thrown in to, and the upset she feels about her mother seemingly abandoning her and her father when she was a child. With the latter, I did expect more from when they finally reunited in the Celestial court. It wasn’t awful, and the story ARC was satisfactory, but I often felt that they never could quite connect because Sheetal’s mother, even with better intentions, also had a scheme she couldn’t see past in order to just be there for Sheetal. The ending did touch more on her mother and her mending more of their dynamic, and we did get explanations, but I hoped for more emotion and more scenes of them talking/figuring it out.
I also felt disappointed by the competition aspect, which was a big aspect of the main plot. The whole reason Sheetal participated was to win, and most of the novel took span over the two days she had leading up to it, with all the training she had to do. I am not sure what I quite expected, I’m not sure Thakrar had a character paint it as anything else but a talent competition, but yet when it was revealed to be that I was like ?? This is it ?? And then the competition was over before we knew it, and it got all sorts of messy in between with peoples schemes, revelations, and grasps for power and then it came to a close and it was like . . . oh. Okay. That was that, then. That whole part of the novel I honestly failed to keep up, because one second everyone was on so-and-so’s-side, and then they weren’t, and then someone tried to kill/assault someone else, and then it seemed like the clothes were also healed with the magic, and then things continued, someone else was condemned, and then it continued – and it was ultimately just a long conversation (like this sentence) that I felt like I needed to make a flow chart for.
I do hope this novel gets a sequel, though, or at least a companion novel! It ended well, but I am curious about what is going to happen because there’s still a lot of turmoil, with sort of a half-resolution that was Sheetal being like ‘I’ll deal with that later’ and I wasn’t entirely satisfied I would also like to see more of the Celestial court, because what we did get to see was magnificent! I liked the incorporation of Hindu mythology, and I kept hoping we’d see more of the Gods/Deities and magical creatures show up.
I recommend Star Daughter to you if you’re looking for a book about a talent competition set amongst the stars, a character that goes on a journey to discover who she is, and a whole lot of family and political drama. I will be reading Thakrar’s next release (whatever it may be!) because despite my few issues with this one, I think she is a decent writer and good storyteller and am excited to see what she comes up with next!