Shimmering and enchanting, Shveta Thakrar’s YA contemporary, fantasy novel, Star Daughter, weaves a celestial, Hindu mythology inspired tale about a half-star, half-human girl.
The pure magical and sparkly nature of this novel is out of this world (pun fully intended), and the Hindu mythology brings a fresh and vibrant breath of air to a genre that is often full of the same tired creatures and world building.
Star Daughter is the story of Sheetal— a young teenage girl, who has normal teenage problems like acne, controlling parents, and silver glowing hair that refuses to stay dyed a nice, normal black because the genetics from your star mom are too strong. Oh, and she can also hear the starsong of the heavens (where her mother now stays) singing to her, calling to her to join them in song.
Except she can’t. Or her father and aunt won’t let her reveal her true nature to anyone.
However, when an accidental flare causes Sheetal to lose control of her starfire and severely wound her father, she is left with no choice but to journey to the stars to find her mother and seek a way to save her father.
Yet once in the celestial court of the heavens, Sheetal is thrown head first into a political competition between the constellations. She must act as her family’s champion in a fight for who will be the next ruler over the heavenly court and win, or never be able to return to earth again.
The descriptions in this novel are heavenly (again, pun absolutely intended!). Thakrar completely transports the reader to a world of soft clouds, sparkling galaxy flowers, and blue mangos in the celestial courts, and to the whimsical trinkets, sentient hair accessories, and mesmerizing silks and clothes of the magical night market. Also, there is so much delicious food in this novel that it is impossible to read it without getting hungry.
Also, this novel truly feels like a YA contemporary despite its fantastical wrappings. Despite being half star, Sheetal is a normal teenage girl. She deals with pressure to do well with school, with how she looks, and handling a relationship with a dazzlingly hot boy. She also has to wrestle with feeling alone, different, and abandoned by her mom. It is not all sparkles and magic with being a star’s daughter.
With that said, most of the side characters feel underdeveloped. Minal, Sheetal’s best friend, seems to be quickly forgotten once Sheetal makes it to the starry court. She has such a sweet and fun personality, it was sad to see her barely resurface in the story from time to time. Dev, Sheetal’s boyfriend, also seems to fade into the background as the story progresses, which is unfortunate because his character background was one of the most intriguing and his interactions with Sheetal were adorable.
Finally, the competition portion of the novel feels a tad lackluster in comparison to the rest of the story. The drama and relationships of Sheetal’s life feel far more important than roaming around celestial courts, meeting fellow champions, even despite the fact that the stakes are high and she needs to win.
Nevertheless, if one is looking for a celestial fantasy, steeped in Hindu mythology, with the heartbeat of a YA contemporary, then Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar is the perfect story.