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Natalia Dzielnicka
“Light From Uncommon Stars” is an uplifting fantasy book that takes readers on a unique sci-fi journey. It follows a famous violin teacher, Shizuka Satomi, and her student, Katrina Nguyen, as they impact each other’s lives in monumental ways.

[Review] ‘Light from Uncommon Stars’ is a sci-fi inspired fantasy novel that everyone should read

The fantasy and sci-fi book, “Light from Uncommon Stars” by Ryka Aoki details the stories of three different people: a violin teacher, a young runaway musician and the owner of a donut shop in California. Writing about extraordinary and fantastical people going through ordinary and human struggles, Aoki’s novel contains very real and very relatable characters.
The violin teacher’s name is Shizuka Satomi, and she was once renowned for her skill and is now famous for her skillful students. She is also surrounded by rumors, with all of her students having met tragic ends, giving her the name “The Queen of Hell.” While most of the talk is simply jealous gossip, Satomi has actually made a pact with a demon. She needs seven souls to sell in order to save her own soul from hell.
Satomi now needs one more soul to complete her goal and is searching for the musician that will provide it. Satomi’s character is absolutely fascinating, as the people around her portray her as a deadly villain and worship the ground she stands on, whereas she is simply cruel out of necessity. She is a very complex character in her intentions and the way in which she processes problems.
Katrina Nguyen is a young transgender girl from a small town called Oakland. She wears makeup every day to hide her face and bruises. Running away from home, she catches a bus to Los Angeles, traveling with a violin she found years ago for free.
While Nguyen is traveling to Los Angeles, Satomi journeys to California as well to find her seventh soul. In California, Satomi develops the habit of going by the Stargate donut shop to purchase large donuts. She then sits, eats and feeds ducks her leftovers on a park bench. There, she meets Nguyen, offers her some food and asks her to play her violin for her. Something about the way Nguyen plays entrances Satomi and she wants Nguyen to become her student, but Nguyen leaves before she can get an answer.
Satomi continues to return to the donut shop as a regular, where she frequently sees the owner of the shop, Lan Tran. Tran and her family run the donut shop and she and Satomi become friends, as Tran tells her about her life. Satomi learns that Tran is an alien that has escaped from the Galactic Empire with her four children. Tran runs her donut shop with advanced machinery, which allows her to make infinite identical copies of the Stargate donuts to sell. Aoki’s writing is so unique and unexpected, that she was able to create a backstory unlike anything else out there.
When Nguyen’s supposed friends and roommates try to break her violin, she finally goes to find Satomi. Nguyen finds her and Tran, and they help her buy her violin back. From them, Nguyen learns that there are people out there who are willing to support her and her music. She even agrees to be Satomi’s student and begins to take lessons with her.
Slowly, Nguyen learns what it is like to be herself. Her struggles with self-acceptance make her a deeply relatable character that everyone can resonate with on some level. Nguyen eventually grows to become a performer as well, but soon enough everyone learns of Satomi’s true intentions. Tran is heartbroken; however, Nguyen accepts her fate willingly.
Another important theme that is explored throughout the novel is legacy. The violin maker that fixed Nguyen’s violin was named Lucy Matiá. She was not meant to fix violins because she was not a son and was therefore deemed unworthy of inheriting the family business. Fortunately, she came to realize that she does deserve the job and that she is perfectly capable of carrying on the family legacy despite not being male.
Tran inherited a legacy donut shop, and eventually learns that copying the food mechanically is not good enough. Instead, her whole family learns how to make donuts traditionally, which is how Stargate donuts are meant to be made.
Nguyen finds her family in the people surrounding her, like Tran’s daughter, who wants to help her feel comfortable in who she is. Tran and Satomi grow from their pasts and help to fix each other’s problems. Tran helps Satomi escape her curse and Satomi teaches Tran how to escape the pain of losing her home.
The author is so skilled in her descriptions of food and music that she has managed to make “Light from Uncommon Stars” a very comforting read. Aoki has written a book that is fantasy, sci-fi, and the modern world all mixed into one, and still managed to execute it marvelously. The novel contains a character-driven story that allows readers to see the monumental character growth that each and every character endures. “Light From Uncommon Stars” is a whimsical story about legacy and family that is completely unique and unforgettable.

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About the Contributor
Natalia Dzielnicka
Natalia Dzielnicka, Reporter
Natalia Dzielnicka is a freshman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. She enjoys reading books, biking and helping out in Marjory's Garden.
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