Review: Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki

by Rakka   Tags: review novel


Author: 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.

Where to Read: Purchase a copy at your favorite brick-and-mortar or online retailer.

Light from Uncommon Stars cover

The Good:

  • A fantastic, bizarre adventure mashing up personal struggles, galactic conflicts, and everyday things (donuts, Star Trek).
  • Very much a contemporary book, with thinly veiled references to Undertale and Your Lie in April and direct mentions of Sword Art Online and Lindsey Stirling. But it doesn’t overdo it, and instead of just name-dropping lists of things to show off, they get woven into the plot.
  • “Gets” Asian-American culture, with casual mentions of ricers and lots of poking fun at racism:


    “A violin from China,” she said without looking up. “Yes, I know.”

    “No, I mean, it’s all in pieces.”

    “Yes. So are we all.” (pg. 95)

    Characters insult “Chinese violins”, discover the joy of Hainanese chicken and steamed fish, visit favorite real-world LA shops selling Chinese BBQ, and most of all, find meaning through their music.

The Bad:

  • Nothing.

Overall: 5/5.

Scale for reference:

  • 1/5: not really worth looking into; you won’t see many of these because I’ll just drop it without bothering to review it.
  • 2/5: probably not worth the time, but you may enjoy it regardless.
  • 3/5: an average to above-average series; may be a 4/5 to fans of certain genres or themes.
  • 4/5: a strong recommendation with some flaws or shortcomings.
  • 5/5: a universal recommendation; one of my favorites. Not necessarily flawless, but has something extremely compelling.