Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki

Shizuka Satomi made a deal with the devil: to escape damnation, she must entice seven other violin prodigies to trade their souls for success. She has already delivered six.

When Katrina Nguyen, a young transgender runaway, catches Shizuka’s ear with her wild talent, Shizuka can almost feel the curse lifting. She’s found her final candidate.

But in a donut shop off a bustling highway in the San Gabriel Valley, Shizuka meets Lan Tran, retired starship captain, interstellar refugee, and mother of four. Shizuka doesn’t have time for crushes or coffee dates, what with her very soul on the line, but Lan’s kind smile and eyes like stars might just redefine a soul’s worth. And maybe something as small as a warm donut is powerful enough to break a curse as vast as the California coastline.

As the lives of these three women become entangled by chance and fate, a story of magic, identity, curses, and hope begins, and a family worth crossing the universe for is found. 

*****

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

Review:

I have so many emotions reading this. Where do I even begin? Light From Uncommon Stars is so many things. An ode to the LA/SoCal food scene and the immigrants, refugees, and diaspora communities that make it flourish. A love story to those who feel in love with a violin, with music, and felt their lives changed. The honest and unflinching experiences of a young trans woman escaping the trauma a horrible family environment without a positive support group, slowly learning to love herself again. The gentle tender new love of two broken women, mothers in their own ways, finding solace in each other. A slice-of-life story of three women’s intertwined lives, slowly discovering happiness and acceptance as they live their lives.

As an Asian woman, as a queer woman, as a young girl who played the violin for nine years, I felt every part of me resonate as I read.

I googled for every donut shop within a 10 mile radius

I made plans to visit restaurants serving all the delicious foods described

I cried with the characters, for the racism, the sexism, the homophobia and transphobia they were forced to endure

I smiled at the soft, quiet moments of feeding ducks in a park and sharing meals of home-cooked dishes with loved ones

I wanted to pick my violin up again

I went in knowing little beyond a violin and a deal with the devil and came out crying on my cough, soft Bartók playing in the background. Light from Uncommon Stars hits so closely to my own experiences and I cannot beg readers enough. Please read this book.

Five fucking stars.


r/Fantasy 2021-22 Bingo Squares:

  • Comfort Read
  • Published in 2021
  • Genre Mashup (science fiction, romance, slice of life)
  • First Contact (hard mode)
  • Trans/NB Character (hard mode)

Publication Date: 28 September 2021
Publisher: Tor Books
Format: eBook, ARC
Pages: 384
Word Count: ~102,000
ISBN: 1250789060
Buy It Here: Amazon | Google Books | Barnes and Nobles | Goodreads

2 thoughts on “Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki

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