Readers, slayers and friends, we meet again 😀 If you haven’t read my full review of Star Daughter, please click the link to do so. As part of the Hear Our Voices Blog Tour, I’m also doing a Review in 5 GIFs! *ta-da* I’m making this a separate post because my review post is already too long.💀
In the beginning of the book, Sheetal goes to a family event where she’s accosted by all the desi aunties and uncles who want to know her “future plans” so they can flaunt how their ward has one-upped Sheetal already. One thing you must know about desi aunties is that they have the eyesight of a hawk. They’re always sniffing around for tea. A bit like this:
Can you not feel Sheetal’s exasperation? 😂 Especially when you’re there just for the food!
Sheetal’s Nakshatra family may be royals but the way they put on airs and expect you to be the obedient child is more about desi manners than you’d expect.
Family or not, you need to be this way to the elders all the time🤐 No, you can’t argue. Where are your manners, beta?
Painfully accurate Desi representation aside, strong relationships are one of this book’s greatest strengths. I absolutely loved the friendship between Sheetal and Minal. They’re what you call #goals.
Thakrar’s prose brought out such a beautiful imagery that I totally imagined the Celestial Court in the Svargalok to look straight out of a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film set. Grand. Majestic. Shimmering. Too much to take in with just two eyes.
I keep talking about the controlling tendencies of a desi family so you can imagine how I loved it when Sheetal saw a chance to turn the tables on her family and she took it. I can imagine how her transformation must have left her family shook! The very thought amuses me to no end.😂
Like I’ve mentioned in my original review, I didn’t really care for the romance in this book. In fact, every time Dev spoke, my face was exactly like this:
When I see something beautiful, my Desi af self’s kneejerk reaction would be to remove nazar (ward off evil eye), so despite feeling lukewarm about some parts of the book, I can summarize my reaction for Star Daughter with one gif.
(I know I said this is a review in 5 gifs but looks like I may have gone a liiittle overboard once I started gif-hunting. sorry about that.🙈)
Thanks for reading and I hope you check out the book! If you’ve already read the book, let’s discuss in the comments! 😊
I’m excited to bring my first ever blog tour post! 😀 I’m happy that it is for a bonafide Own Voices Desi book. All thanks to Hear Our Voices book tours for giving me the opportunity to be a tour host and providing a digital ARC❤
This gorgeously imagined YA debut blends shades of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust and a breathtaking landscape of Hindu mythology into a radiant contemporary fantasy.
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.
Brimming with celestial intrigue, this sparkling YA debut is perfect for fans of Roshani Chokshi and Laini Taylor.
Content warnings for this book: Panic attacks, use of a fictional slur, captivity of a character and torture. Borrowed from this post with permission from the reviewer.
Review | What I Liked
Although part of it is set in present day New Jersey, Star Daughter is steeped in magic, music, mythology, and wondrous prose that marries the clashing worlds of the known and the unknown beautifully.
Good prose alone maketh not a good book and the author knows this. 😉 The plot may be woven with magic but it was built upon the strong foundation of the relationships in this book. Be it Sheetal’s loving and caring father, her (literally and figuratively) dazzling mother, her stern but affectionate aunt, or her ever-supportive best friend Minal, all of them added to the strength of the plot. Special mention to the strong bond Sheetal and Minal share in the book—I just love it when friendship between two female characters are done well, okay😭
The magic in this book was as lush as you’d expect it to be. There were many beautiful things but amongst those, my favorite has to be the Night Market! The Night Market is filled with exciting, shiny things beyond the scope of our logic or imagination—after all, this is where apsaras, kinaras and all manner of celestial beings come for shopping. 😳 To give you a sneak-peek into the Night Market: Magical barrettes that help you walk on actual clouds? Check. Fabric woven from the night sky? Check. Ghost-breath flavored ice cream? Check, check, check. You may understand why I want a spinoff story dedicated just to the Night Market. 😆
The celestial court in the svargalok is richly imagined and beautifully laid out in the book. 🤩 Here, Sheetal encounters several interesting characters; I liked that they all had their own quirks and were memorable in their own way. Amongst those, I liked Padmini and her brother Kaushal the best. I was very happy with the way Minal and Padmini’s relationship felt natural and not like it was added just for tokenism. Minal is probably my favorite character in the entire book and I’m just really happy for her okay?? My girl deserves only the best.🥰
The sky has several stars but in Hindu mythology, there are 27 prominent Nakshatras. These stars make up the Royals at the starry court with their Houses. They were, however, a scary lot. Powerful, omniscient Nakshatras looking for any opportunity to get the better of their opponents. Uff. There’s guile, treachery, attempts at backstabbing—you know, just a regular day in a royal palace? But our girl Sheetal gets dropped smack in the middle of it all without warning and that ensues a lot of tearing of skin on her fingers (a painful habit I happen to share with Sheetal).
Own Voices Reflection
The whole point of own voices book is to experience the joy of seeing ourselves represented in a realistic manner, right? From an own voices point of view, this book hit all the right notes for me. From tantalizing descriptions of delicious Indian food, meddling aunties and uncles at family events, to the intense family pressure that comes with being desi, this book had it all.
What made it more special was the way Hindu mythology was incorporated into this book. I grew up listening to mythology stories as bedtime stories from my grandmother so it will not be amiss to say, in a way, they are part of my being.
There are so many Hindu mythology Easter eggs peppered throughout the book and it just made my heart sing! To cite one in particular, the story of Gajendra the elephant was my favorite as a child—it is a story of enduring faith and devotion. While I don’t identify with that kind of faith anymore, it made me feel happy to read the story again in a contemporary book. 😄 If my grandma were alive, I would have told her about it and it would have made her happy too. Subtle references and incorporations like these are a telltale sign that the author really knows her stuff; and THAT, in essence, is why I love and seek out own voices desi books. 💖
While Sheetal’s family belongs to the House of Pushya I got a kick out of seeing my birth star Magha getting a mention too! We, at House Magha, had our own Champion who was an expert in the art of Rajastani Kathputli Puppetry. Before reading Star Daughter, I read Magical Women, an anthology of SFF short stories by Indian women authors and Shveta Thakrar had written a short story for it too. That story revolved around a Kathputli puppet that comes to life and struggles to deal with her new-found freedom and identity crisis. To me, that felt like an interesting little easter egg too, referencing to the author’s previous work.😬
Shveta Thakrar has written a very insightful guest post on the Steel Thistles blog where she talks about how she drew inspiration for Star Daughter from Hindu mythology–I’ll link the post here for your reading pleasure. 😊
I can’t talk about desi rep in the book without talking about Sheetal’s family. Her loving, frustrating, maddening, family. I think the author really nailed the stubborn nature of the elders and their “respect your elders, no matter what” attitude. Regardless of ethnicity, all families pressurize their kids, yes BUT if you’re desi, you know it’s a whole other level of pressure we feel. Many Desi parents have kids just to realize their other own dreams through their kids. Many kids do not have the autonomy of choosing their lives or disobeying their family. Nakshatra or not, it seems all desi families are the same; I really felt for Sheetal because of the way she was forced to carry the burden of her family’s dream all by herself when she was all of 16 years old. It’s unfair, but it’s an accurate representation. It is how it is. Oh god, I sound like a desi aunty now 😦
What I Didn’t Like
Where the prose soared, the pace suffered. Especially in the middle parts of the book, there were a lot of things happening, all crammed within a very short period of time but I did not feel the rush Sheetal was feeling; it was the opposite, it felt very draggy. However, the pace picked up again once the competition in the starry court started.
Now, this is a highly subjective opinion because I know I’m not a YA reader hence not the target demographic for this book but I gotta mention this: I did not care for the love interest, Dev Merai and his dynamic with Sheetal. Dev is your average, vapid desi boy, who struts around with his fancyass Bollywood name like the world revolves around him (the way desi boys do. No, I never understood why either) I MEAN, there’s Minal🥰 Sheetal’s parents 🥰 Radhikafoi🥰 like, people who genuinely care about Sheetal and then there’s Dev and his self-important teenage angst.🙄
Maybe I felt this way because cutesy romance was not what I expected out of this book. I wanted magic and mythology and I got plenty of that so…. let’s move on from Dev 😂 However, if you like Bollywood-esque cute romantic moments you’ll probably enjoy those parts way more than I did! I also felt like the book could have ended on a stronger note; there was a lot of build-up but the landing felt like a soft thud rather than the stronger, more confident landing I was expecting, you know what I mean?
Music, food, magic—three elements that make up most stories in the Hindu mythology. Thakrar managed to weave all of it into a beautiful tapestry that is Star Daughter. Read it even if you have no clue about Indian mythologies. It’s an entertaining book with excellent own voices rep. but do NOT read when you’re hungry because the food descriptions will make your stomach growl. 😅 This has been a PSA. Thank you for reading the post, I hope you enjoyed my review and hope it made you want to read the book too! 😄
I have also posted a review in GIFs for the book; I’d love it if you would check that out too, if it sounds like your thing. 😀
Shveta Thakrar is a part-time nagini and full-time believer in magic. Her work has appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies including Enchanted Living, Uncanny Magazine, A Thousand Beginnings and Endings, and Toil & Trouble. Her debut young adult fantasy novel, Star Daughter, is forthcoming from HarperTeen on August 11, 2020. When not spinning stories about spider silk and shadows, magic and marauders, and courageous girls illuminated by dancing rainbow flames, Shveta crafts, devours books, daydreams, travels, bakes, and occasionally even plays her harp.
Author: Balli Kaur Jaswal
Genre: Contemporary fiction
No. of Pages: 312
Publisher: William Morrow
Published on: April 30, 2019
Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
The British-born Punjabi Shergill sisters—Rajni, Jezmeen, and Shirina—were never close and barely got along growing up, and now as adults, have grown even further apart. Rajni, a school principal is a stickler for order. Jezmeen, a thirty-year-old struggling actress, fears her big break may never come. Shirina, the peacemaking “good” sister married into wealth and enjoys a picture-perfect life.
On her deathbed, their mother voices one last wish: that her daughters will make a pilgrimage together to the Golden Temple in Amritsar to carry out her final rites. After a trip to India with her mother long ago, Rajni vowed never to return. But she’s always been a dutiful daughter, and cannot, even now, refuse her mother’s request. Jezmeen has just been publicly fired from her television job, so the trip to India is a welcome break to help her pick up the pieces of her broken career. Shirina’s in-laws are pushing her to make a pivotal decision about her married life; time away will help her decide whether to meekly obey, or to bravely stand up for herself for the first time.
Arriving in India, these sisters will make unexpected discoveries about themselves, their mother, and their lives—and learn the real story behind the trip Rajni took with their Mother long ago—a momentous journey that resulted in Mum never being able to return to India again.
Having enjoyed Jaswal’s previous book Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, I was eager to check this book out and it’s fair to say the synopsis drew me in hook, line, and sinker. Being an only child, I’ve always been a sucker for good sibling dynamic stories and I knew that Jaswal is a really good storyteller so it was no surprise at all that I immensely enjoyed The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters.
What I Liked
I liked the three sisters from get-go. I loved that they each had distinctive personalities, the effect only exacerbated by the fact that they didn’t seem close on an emotional level, despite being sisters. At the time their mother dies, all three were busy adults with their own problems to deal with:
Rajni, the eldest sister and a busy school principal, has to deal with her teenage son getting engaged with a woman almost twice his age (ohhh the drama!)
Jezmeen, an already struggling actress who cannot afford any bad publicity at the moment, has to face the consequences of a brawl that was a caught on camera for all the world to see.
Shirina, the seemingly perfect sister with her Hallmark-card-perfect life in Australia, has her overbearing mother-in-law and her spineless husband to worry about.
None of them were in a position to abandon their current lives and go on a pilgrimage to India TOGETHER, but that was their mother’s last wish and god forbid if they don’t fulfill it. All this, despite the resentments left over from their childhood. Perhaps they resented their mother too, for banding them together unwillingly and forcing the sisters to confront their emotions. But it ended up as a way for them to resolve some of their hard feelings and I, for one, am glad for it. *dabs at my eyes with a handkerchief*
It would seem, growing up in the UK as the children of a very desi immigrant mother comes with a lot of culture clash. We see desi diaspora represented a lot in media but unlike in other such books I’ve read (not many, I’ll be honest), Rajni, Jezmeen, and Shirina are forced to confront the cultural disparities head-on. Basically, the story was not told through the usual romanticised diaspora lens that I’m used to.
Balli Kaur Jaswal is a gifted storyteller who knows how to keep her reader’s attention on a leash. The book is peppered with a lot of drama and bad decisions by the characters (don’t you love it when they do that? I love it); emotional moments are juxtaposed with lighter ones. Jaswal doesn’t shy away from showing the ugly side of India: the rampant misogyny, leering men, the noise, the crowd, people paying absolute zero respect to you or your personal space….I can go on. I will absolutely fight anyone that says Jaswal portrays India in a bad light, she’s just calling a spade….a spade.
The story of the Shergill Sisters is a very emotional one in a lot of ways. It is about self-discovery, acceptance, forgiveness, and sisterhood, among others.
What I Didn’t Like
I felt that the pace lagged in parts; it didn’t necessarily hinder the narrative or my enjoyment of the book, but the pace would have been a lot tighter if it wasn’t for that. I also felt like the whole secretiveness around Rajni’s past deed was drawn out for a lot longer than necessary. Any desi reader could have imagined a hundred different scenarios in which Rajni could have brought shame to her family. 😂
These are just tiny nitpicks, overall I really enjoyed the book! I’m usually not a fan of nicely wrapped up, HEA stories (it’s more fun to watch characters suffer okay? don’t judge me) but I really appreciated the neat ending this book gives you. I saw a bit of myself in each of the sisters at times, I hope you also find them relatable and as human as I did.
Thanks a ton William Morrow, for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this book through Edelweiss in exchange for an unbiased review.