Good Omens meets The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet in Ryka Aoki's Light From Uncommon Stars, a defiantly joyful adventure set in California's San Gabriel Valley, with cursed violins, Faustian bargains, and queer alien courtship over fresh-made donuts.
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.
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Aoki (He Mele a Hilo) draws from her own experiences as a queer Japanese American woman to craft a dark but ultimately hopeful sci-fi exploration of the threats faced by queer people of color. Violin teacher Shizuka Satomi has a contract with hell to deliver the souls of seven brilliant violinists. When she meets Katrina Nguyen in Los Angeles, Shizuka is certain she'll make the perfect final sacrifice. Katrina, a transgender runaway and survival sex worker with no prior musical training, possesses a supernatural musical gift and is happy to trade her soul for lessons and a safe place to stay. Shizuka calls on Lucy Mat a, a third-generation violin restorer, to repair both Katrina's beloved violin and the cursed bow that will steal Katrina's soul. But as the women get to know each other, Shizuka starts having second thoughts. Meanwhile, Shizuka's slow-burn romance with Lan Tran, a donut maker and extraterrestrial refugee fleeing danger on her home planet, further complicates her plans. Aoki's depiction of abuse and trauma is unflinching and intense, but at its core, the novel is a love letter to immigrant culture and the power people have to save each other. Readers prepared for the emotionally difficult scenes will find a beautiful, satisfying story of redemption and families of choice. \n