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Review: Light from Uncommon Stars

Title: Light From Uncommon Stars
Author: Ryka Aoki
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy
Page Count: 384
Published by: Tor Books
Date Published: September 28, 2021
You can find it here: Bookshop.org

Goodreads Synopsis:

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’m not a true science fiction fan, finding it oftentimes hard to follow, but Ryka Aoki has delivered a cozy, completely approachable, compulsively readable, and most importantly, powerful read. This story is heavy and is going to broaden your empathy and knowledge on Transgender people, the micro and macro injustices and cruelties they face day to day as we follow Katrina through the days of her early transition. It is fiercely compelling.

Elements that seemingly wouldn’t work together – space aliens running a donut shop, a transgender runaway, and a violin teacher harvesting souls for hell – seamlessly blend. Lyrical, delicious descriptions of food left me constantly hungry and a passionate love letter to the beauty and connectivity of music and violins had me wanting to sign up for violin lessons immediately. This story is simply beautiful, wholly unique, and I was completely swept away. Katrina Nguyen broke my heart and healed it over and over again.

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