The Astrologer’s Daughter started out strong. I was extremely excited to read a book that focused on astrology, which is something I find fascinating. Astrology is used in this book as a way to solve mysteries by reading the charts of people involved; all of the answers, according to Avicenna’s mother, are already laid out before them. It is fated, but it can be changed with the knowledge of it. Avicenna doesn’t believe in fate. She believes that the information is only used for self-fulfilling prophecies. Avicenna rejects her gift and her mother’s use of it. Then her mother disappears and she has to embrace the side of her that she’s been avoiding.
I really liked the concept of free-will versus fate in this story. Avicenna and her mother map a client’s chart that starts when they were born. This chart tells a client everything: whether you will be lucky in love, if you’ll come into money through your own hard work or if it will be dropped in your lap, and even the type of personality you have. Using all of these facts, they then know how a client will react when given this information. The Astrologer’s Daughter explores whether you can use this knowledge to change your fate, or if you will be condemned to follow what you think is already ordained in the stars. I like that this is paired with the mystery of her mother disappearing. Avicenna wonders: for all her mother’s talk of changing fate, did she believe she couldn’t change her own?
If her mother disappearing had been the only mystery in The Astrologer’s Daughter, I think that Rebecca Lim would have had a stronger story. Sadly, it wasn’t the only mystery. There was a cold case, a stranger, and a negative reading that resulted in yet another mystery. There were far too many mysteries that had their own story lines. Although they were minor, they took away from the main conflict: Where is Avicenna’s mother? I wish that Lim had whittled her focus down to just this one conflict. Having too many meant that none of them got an adequate amount of time spent on them. This reflects in the pacing as well.
The beginning of The Astrologer’s Daughter was slow, which is fine. That’s not a deal-breaker for me, because generally mysteries ramp up as you continue reading. Unfortunately, this slow pace continued throughout the bulk of the middle of this book. I lost interest in the story because it wasn’t focusing on the disappearance of the mother; it was focusing on all these little side mysteries that distracted from the main story line. Avicenna’s mother was forgotten and only brought up occasionally in a “oh, right, so they’re still looking for my mother” kind of way. It was incredibly frustrating. I wanted to shake Avicenna. Her mother was missing and there were times when it didn’t seem like she cared. And then, suddenly, it was THE END. There wasn’t a gradual buildup. There was far too much left to cover in the last chapters of the book. All the story lines were clumsily wrapped up in a mess of an end and some questions weren’t even answered. I understand that the author may have been trying to convey how life is messy and the answers aren’t always given to you, but the way it was done just rubbed me the wrong way. Ending a novel like this is difficult to do, and very easy to muck up. The Astrologer’s Daughter did not succeed in that aspect for me.
Oddly enough, even though I was annoyed about the pacing of The Astrologer’s Daughter, the story held up enough to get me to finish the book. I can’t say the same about the characters. There was Avicenna, who was our protagonist. I did feel bad for her because her mother disappeared, but she whined too much without actually doing anything. She was very passive for a large portion of the book. I felt like I knew nothing about her besides that fact that she has burns on her face from an accident. Then there is Simon, who is supposed to be the main male character in the book. He is introduced early on, disappears for the middle of the book, and then suddenly is back in her life at the end. Simon could have been a really interesting character. At some point he did have a back story that wasn’t expanded on. We’re given about two sentences regarding it, which I feel is a loss for the book. There needed to be more character building in general, but the lack of it for Avicenna and Simon really destroyed this book. I didn’t feel anything for them because they were flat imitations of people.
I truly only liked The Astrologer’s Daughter for the astrology. There were too many things going wrong with the pacing, characters, and conclusion to make me want to read this again. I had such high hopes for this one, too. It was a good idea but the execution was poor.
According to Net Galley, The Astrologer’s Daughter is slated for release on June 9th, 2015. However, it looks like some form of it has been released already, so I’m not sure what that is about. I received a copy from the publisher through Net Galley in exchange for a honest review.