BooksOfTheMoon

Star Daughter

By Shveta Thakrar

Rating: 4 stars

This was a fun coming of age story, which I enjoyed quite a lot. Sheetal Mistry is the daughter of a mortal man and a living star, who came to earth for a while, fell in love, had a child and then left again. Sheetal has grown up having to hide her silvery, glowing hair and her heritage, but as her seventeenth birthday approaches, she finds her powers harder and harder to control, until she accidentally seriously burns her father, and has to go on a quest to the immortal realm and find her mother to save him.

Sometimes it feels like you don’t realise how important that representation in media is until, after a decades long drought, you start to see yourself. In the last few years, we’ve had a slow drip of south Asian characters appear in our stories (I’m a big fan of Yaz from Doctor Who), but characters living in the West, with a Hindu upbringing are still pretty rare. That was a lot of what I loved about this book, seeing the foods of my childhood, and recognisable archetypes of my family and others while growing up.

And speaking of representation, Sheetal’s best friend, Minal, is gay, which is something that is also rarely (ever?) seen in the media. Being gay in south Asian culture is still a bit of a big deal, so it’s good to see this treated like the normal, non-event that it is (and the relationship that Minal forms with Padmini, a member of the court, is very sweet).

This is a YA book and Sheetal’s emotions are writ large, with everything feeling like the most important thing in the world (although, I mean, in her case she does literally have her father’s life hanging on the line). At that age, things do feel like that, but her reaction to finding out her boyfriend’s secret and the lack of willingness to communicate with him did frustrate me.

The immortal realm that Thakrar imagines is both a magical, ethereal place, and a very “human”, for want of a better word, place, full of intrigue, politics and back-stabbing, with her own family at the heart of it. She has to discover and come to terms with a family she has never met, and at the same time, worry about their motives.

One thing that I did grumble about was the political organisation of the heavens. As I grow older, despite what people say, I seem to be turning into more of a grumpy old lefty, and the idea of “a few royal houses govern[ing] the masses” makes me unreasonably annoyed. A society as long-lived and slowly changing as the stellar court would be pretty conservative, but it seems to me that they could learn a thing or two from the humans they constantly claim to inspire.

A fun book that may have made a greater emotional impact if I’d read it 25 years ago but which is still an enjoyable read.

Book details

ISBN: 9780062894625

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