Kernel Morgan Bell gets her Young Adult on and reviews Rebecca Lim’s THE ASTROLOGER’S DAUGHTER. A teen novel set in the world of some mystery and astrology. This is Lim’s sixteenth, I repeat 16th!!!! novel, most of them young adult novels with varying levels of success. An Aurealis Awards finalist, Lim’s work has been longlisted for the Davitt Award for YA, the Gold Inky Award and the CBCA Book of the Year Award for Older Readers. Her novels have been translated into German, French, Turkish, Portuguese and Polish. Text Publishing released THE ASTROLOGER’S DAUGHTER and it is out now at all good books shops or you can purchase it HERE. Now enjoy Morgan’s review………all the best………JK.
BY MORGAN BELL
THE ASTROLOGER’S DAUGHTER is contemporary mystery slash coming-of-age story about identity, secrets, and love. This young adult novel is set in Melbourne Australia, and uses both the mystical and mathematical aspects of astrology as a unique backdrop. The paperback is 318 pages long, consisting of 22 chapters and an afterward.
At eighteen Avicenna Crowe is forced to fend for herself when her mother Joanne – the astrologer – mysteriously disappears. Avicenna is half Chinese. She has a burn scar that covers half of her face and one of her ears. Avicenna is an ostracised outsider due to her appearance. Her mother is blonde and blue-eyed and considered by most to be special and kind. Avicenna and Joanne have moved around a lot and don’t like to discuss the past.
Avicenna’s father died in the fire that scarred her. She barely remembers him. She says “I have this memory: of waking in the dark and walking into the glow of him watching the television … we’d sat side-by-side in the flickering light. And that’s it. I remember him as an instance of light, just a presence beside me.”
We are told Joanne is the kind of astrologer who works out charts for her clients, not a psychic or a fraud. Joanne has disappeared. Avicenna is taken by surprise, but can recall certain language that has been used to forecast the event, she just didn’t understand it at the time. We follow Avicenna as she reports her mother missing, is harassed by her mother’s clients, and begins to piece together how her mother’s disappearance relates to an unsolved murder case. There are three clients requiring a horary reading – their readings might be connected to her mother’s disappearance – and a bank account with mystery funds.
Rebecca Lim uses the story of Avicenna to explore the feelings of displacement and the biracial cultural schism of characters who are mixed race (half white) in Australia. People yell racist slurs at Avicenna’s mother, calling her is a chink-lover, or use their fingers to make slanted eyes. To me, Avicenna reads a little young for her age, and a little distracted by boys/men for her situation.
This novel is told entirely in first person present tense – which is my least favourite narrative style – from the point of view of Avicenna. The present tense is a little awkward in the first chapter, when Avicenna is trying to provide background information and talk about past events. It becomes less jarring in the second half of the book when we are discovering new clues and observing new rooms and spaces at the same time as the protagonist.
In the text of the book there are several illustrations of the astrology wheels that aid in visualising how the Crowe family undertakes readings. Avicenna has denied her astrology abilities for years, but, as she “it soaked in anyway”. There are some other images in the text too – a business card and a logo for [The Ark of A-Z Wunderkammer & Emporium | Scientific & Natural Oddities Bought and Sold]. This is a wonderfully inventive name for a store, and the store contains various items for studying celestial bodies. Avicenna says “I stop dead before I’ve even taken three more steps. There’s a Mariners Compass set into the centre of the marble floor, in veined shades of variegated blues and reds, outlined in thin bands of gold.” Then later about an astrolabe star-taker device (a flat brass hand-held disc) “Layers on layers; all moving and circling. I see immediately the elegance of it, the genius. How years before computers were invented, you could use one to take the measure of your place in the universe, provided the map, and the pointers, reflected your slice of the horizon.”
Where this book wins is in packaging. The cover design was created by Imogen Stubbs. She is an in-house designer for Text Publishing with some great covers under her belt (THE LOST CHILD by Suzanne McCourt, THE MINNOW by Diana Sweeney). The blend of a vibrant boysenberry purple and an upside-down greyscale image of a young woman with a magnifying glass is a striking and mysterious graphic that is sure to attract the target market: young adults.
THE ASTROLOGERS DAUGHTER is divided into three parts, each with a sample horoscope at the start. Part One reads “Your life takes an unexpected turn this week. Stay alert.” Part Two reads “Be prepared to journey to a place where there’s a likelihood of pain”. Part Three reads “Don’t allow the past to poison the present. Fight it.” These fortunes set the tone and expectations for the following chapters and maintain the mystical atmosphere that the Crowe women operate in.
Kernel Morgan is an author of short fiction, an anthology editor, and a technical writer. Her debut collection was SNIGGERLESS BOUNDULATIONS. She enjoys scowling at children and bursting bubbles. She can be tweeted and stalked at @queenboxi.