Today on Storythreads, the worlds of Indian mythology and space opera collide in Sangu Mandanna’s YA novel, A Spark of White Fire, the first novel in The Celestial Trilogy.
In a universe of capricious gods, dark moons, and kingdoms built on the backs of spaceships, a cursed queen sends her infant daughter away, a jealous uncle steals the throne of Kali from his nephew, and an exiled prince vows to take his crown back. Raised alone and far away from her home on Kali, Esmae longs to return to her family. When the King of Wychstar offers to gift the unbeatable, sentient warship Titania to a warrior that can win his competition, she sees her way home: she’ll enter the competition, reveal her true identity to the world, and help her famous brother win back the crown of Kali. It’s a great plan. Until it falls apart…
~ REVIEW ~
Mandanna presents an intriguing blend of interplanetary travel, advanced technology, and ancient weaponry in this Mahabharata-inspired space adventure, where young warriors struggle for power–and peace–in a universe on the cusp of war. The blend of Hindu mythology and outer space settings drew me in. I know little about Hindu mythology, but it has always struck me as having a wider, more cosmic focus than the terrestrially-fixated Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions, so it was enjoyable to see that manifest in a science fiction adventure.
I also appreciated the way Mandanna wove gods into the narrative. Although they cannot physically intervene in human affairs without sacrificing their own immortality, they can grant favors and boons, adding a layer of divine intrigue to the courtly politics of the story. One such boon is the protagonist Esmae’s spaceship, Titania, an unbeatable, conscious vessel. I enjoyed how the ship itself had personality and voice, effectively becoming a fully-fledged character that interacts with Esmae. I would have loved to see even more interactions between girl and ship–but as this is the first book in the trilogy, I suspect Titania will have further room to shine as the narrative continues!
A Spark of White Fire features a number of other interesting Game of Thrones-esque characters, kindly and conniving alike. Although I found Esmae’s budding relationship with a misunderstood prince somewhat predictable, I found the portrayal of King Elvar–simultaneously paranoid, frail and tender–a nuanced and engaging depiction of an aging tyrant.
With driven characters caught in the pull of politics and prophecy, the struggle between free will and fate is paramount in the novel. (Without giving away spoilers–) Esmae finds herself trapped between her own unbreakable oath to succeed and an agonizing prophecy that predicts her doom. It seems something has to give, but in an exciting twist ending, Mandanna manages to bring both outcomes to pass!
A Spark of White Fire is an engaging read that pits a warrior heroine amid the wonders of technology and the perils of divinity against a cosmic backdrop.
~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~
Sangu Mandanna was four years old when an elephant chased her down a forest road and she decided to write her first story about it. Seventeen years and many, many manuscripts later, she signed her first book deal. The Lost Girl, a YA sci fi novel about death and love, is available now. Sangu now lives in Norwich, a city in the east of England, with her husband and kids.
A Spark of White Fire is published by Sky Pony Press and available in Canada through Thomas Allen and Son. (Originally published 11 September 2018).
Thank you to Thomas Allen and Son for providing me with a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review!