September 22, 2021

Book Review: Light from Uncommon Stars

While it was the cover that initially drew my interest, it was the premise of Light from Uncommon Stars that secured the novel a spot on my TBR. This novel weaves together the fates of three individuals: Shizuka Satomi, a woman who has made a deal with the devil where she must trade the souls of seven violin prodigies to escape damnation; Katrina Nguyen, a transgender runaway who catches Shizuka’s attention with her violin skills; and Lan Tran, a retired starship captain and interstellar refugee who now runs a donut shop in the San Gabriel Valley.

Light from Uncommon Stars is so unlike anything I've ever read before. Luckily, Aoki's writing style is really immersive and incorporates just the right amount of recognizable tropes and elements. While the brief synopsis (or more like character descriptions) I shared in the previous paragraph make it feel like this book has too many disjointed working parts to make any sense, Aoki weaves it all together in a clever way. I often thought I would be able to predict how things would play out (and I did guess some things right), but I was still surprised a time or two. 

I might not have fallen in love with the characters, but still, I felt deeply moved by their stories and their struggles. It could get hard to read at times, especially when it came to hard emotional experiences (especially for Katrina's part of the story). But Aoki successfully manages to evoke the sense that there are safe spaces on the page (for the characters) and within the pages (for the reader). Despite the difficulties that play out on the page, there is a counterbalance in the moments of hope, joy, belonging and love that are a part of the narrative as well. It felt a little bit like a reminder that there are terrible people, circumstances and things in the world but there are also good, wonderful ones too.

Honestly, Light from Uncommon Stars ended up being a compelling, easy to read novel that I flew through. I really appreciated the slice-of-life vibes with a slight sci-fi and fantasy twist, which fit a narrative craving I didn't realize I had until recently. Aoki masterfully reeled me in with this story, and I look forward to reading more of her work.

[Content Warnings: physical parental abuse, mild racist comments, sexual assault, lack of or dubious consent, suicidal thoughts, deadnaming and misgendering, homophobic and transphobic commentary + acts, weapon violence, mentions of war, cutting]

Pub Info: September 28, 2021 by Tor Books
Source: ARC received from the publisher for review


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