Intergalactic travel, Faustian bargains and the misunderstood music of Béla Bartók commingle in a delightfully offbeat celebration of life, the universe and the quest for the perfect donut from Ryka Aoki (He Mele a Hilo).
Renowned violin teacher Shizuka Satomi, known as the "Queen of Hell" for her seemingly supernatural star-making power, searches the world for a last and seventh student, ending up back in her hometown of Los Angeles. There she stumbles across teen violinist Katrina Nguyen in a park. The trans girl, alone in the world after fleeing her abusive father, has tremendous musical talent, and Shizuka takes her under her wing. To traumatized, desperate Katrina, becoming the famous woman's student and finding safe haven under her roof feels too good to be true. It is. Shizuka's deal with the devil is no mere figure of speech. She owes hell seven souls and needs to pay only once more. "Souls are cheap. The trick is finding the right soul," and brilliant, guileless Katrina fits the bill perfectly. As she comes to know better Katrina's careworn but gentle heart, Shizuka finds herself having second thoughts. Her budding romance with Lan Tran, an indie donut shop entrepreneur who's secretly an extraterrestrial refugee, further leads her to wonder, what does it take for a soul to be saved?
This fresh, exuberant tribute to found family and the joy of self-love moves with surety and grace through depictions of trauma and anxiety, and elegant contemplation of performance as profession. The Light from Uncommon Stars--an Indie Next Pick, a 2022 Stonewall Book Award winner and a finalist for the 2022 Hugo Award for Best Novel--will leave readers with the breathless feeling of watching a virtuoso perform. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads