Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki
Shizuka Satomi was once the best violinist in the world—until she lost her talent and made a deal with the devil. Deliver seven prodigies, and get her music back. She’s brought six, but time is running out on number seven…then she hears the music in the most unlikely of places, and begins to rediscover hope and donuts and happiness, and worlds beyond her own. But it’s all going to end if she doesn’t bring that soul to hell…
What makes a violin special is not its fragility, but its resilience
Oh my heart. My heart.
Or maybe my soul? I dunno, but this book has shattered and healed and shattered something again and then healed it once more.
It’s ambitious. Its scope is huge and the cast varied, while at the same time it’s as intimate as staring at your own face in the mirror. It breaks the modern rules of writing—there’s head hopping galore, there’s multiple POVs, there’s everything and sadness and life and death and just. Fuck.
It’s definitely one of my top 10 (5!) reads of 2021, if not the best book I’ve read this year.
It follows three women along their journey to each other (and to themselves as well).
Who needs the Devil when people can create a hell like this themselves?
There’s the incomparably terrifying Shizuka Satomi, legendary violin teacher who grooms geniuses who deliver never before seen musical prowess (and then they die horrifically, but whatever, they’re famous). Who has closed her heart to the world and hardened herself to her mission. Until she meets Lan.
No, you didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to make donuts—but that didn’t mean being a rocket scientist didn’t help.
Lan, retired starship captain, alien, intergalactic refugee and current owner of a donut shop. As Lan struggles to keep her family together and working on an active stargate, she meets Shizuka and realizes there might be more to life than her mission—and that following a recipe exactly (ahem, cloning) doesn’t bring as much joy as something that is imperfectly perfect.
Yet the pond did not acquire more fish. For the older ones…the fiery ones, the brilliant ones, the ones gilded with darkness, and flame, and gold…were also the ones who ate their young.
Katrinia is trans, Asian and probably the best natural musical talent anywhere in the world. She has no formal training, no legacy of teachers to proclaim herself, and a lifetime of abuse, racism and transphobia swelling in her mind. She’s skittish and wary and willing to give her soul away, because what the fuck does she need a soul for in a world that despises her very existence? What use is a soul when you’re hungry and homeless?
Just play and trust her to follow.
And on top of all the emotions, there is music and family and food. There are tangerines and bitter melons (how tf do you serve them? I still don’t know) and Hainan chicken and duck and congee and muesli and boba tea and Eggplant Parmigiana and so many fucking donuts you will not know what to do with yourself.
It is so queer, and sapphic and so Asian and so itself. It is hope and life and death and healing and souls and family and the full breadth and scope of life as a queer person of color. It is video games and Stargate and humor and Youtube and legacy, in all its shapes and the way legacy shapes you. It is pain and suffering and survival at any cost. It is southern California and violinists and bargains you make with demons when you can’t find your own way out.
And yes, I just added this to my favorites.
Please mind the trigger warnings. They are heavy and triggersome, but this book is just so heartwarming and full of hope in spite of how awful life is.
Tomorrow is tomorrow. Over there is over there. And here and now is not a bad place and time to be, especially when so much of the unknown is beautiful.
Trigger Warnings (not complete): racism, homophobia, transphobia, slut-shaming, sexual assault, rape, deadnaming, misgendering
I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review