A Spark Of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna — Mahabharata Inspired YA Science Fiction-Fantasy

What was life before I read this book? Nothing. As someone who has always been interested in the multifaceted stories seen in the epics and legends of Hindu mythology, I had almost give up hope to find a reimagination that would hold the essence of the Mahabharata and yet create something completely different. But then I came across Shealea’s review and knew this book is where my search will end.

A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna

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.

NEXT: A House of Rage and Sorrow (#2)

Buy now!

A Spark of White Fire is a Mahabharata (Indian mythology) inspired science fiction set in space that incorporates fantasy elements too. It follows Esmae, a young adult female who wants a family, her family, and walks on this path that then leads to all the bittersweet chaos in this galaxy where gods and mortals coexist and things are much more complex than they might seem.

Quick points if you’re on a time crunch.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Representation: Indian mythology, inspiration from Hindu epics.
Ownvoices reader as: an Indian, desi.
Trigger warnings: family abandonment, murder, attempted killing, heartbreak, rage, war possibility.

WHAT IS WORLD IF NOT GREY.

Reading a story inspired by Indian mythology is every desi’s dream so it shouldn’t be a surprise that I loved it simply for what it represented. Mahabharata is classic folklore that is often seen to be taken up and crafted into retelling, but the best part about A Spark of White Fire is the inspiration it takes from the mythology instead of piecing it together as it historically is. The characters aren’t morally driven according to the classic tale and that’s exactly what impressed me the most. No character is absolutely right or wrong, each character is affected by the decisions they took and that, in turn, affects the decisions they’re going to take. Full points to the complexity! 

THE TWISTS ARE GOING TO LEAVE YOU SURPRISED.

Esmae is a lost princess and if you think that was a spoiler, you have no idea what twists and turns are thrown in the latter parts of the story. Her want for a family, for a mother who had to give up her daughter, is intense and drives her motive through the book. I’m always immensely impressed by strong female characters especially in YA and Esmae gives me everything in that aspect. She makes independent decisions and hard choices to get wherever the story takes her. Which means not everything she does is right but that’s what brings her even more alive to me. 

EVERYONE IS CONNECTED AND THAT MAKES EVERYTHING EVEN MORE COMPLEX.

The family dynamics and the tear between so many relationships increases the complexity of this book and I’m all here for it because what can be more realistic than that. There’s the focus on a throne and a war that’s almost here, but the way it wasn’t displayed in a stereotypical manner made me so happy. The young characters are given as much say and credit for their intelligence as the elders sitting around the tables. The love, respect, and honor that is gradually built for each character are pleasantly surprising. 

THE GODS ARE AS FLAWED AS HUMANS.

Incorporating gods with mortal universes is a tricky thing for me, but the way it was done in this book is so good. The gods aren’t strikingly superior to the mortals. Sure, they have powers and they have their favourites but they aren’t writing every turn of this story. They’re, in fact, a part of it. And not many stories give you that! They’re fully supportive of the ones they want to side with but they are also as much vulnerable and the author doesn’t let us forget that. 

MEET THE VERY MANY CHARACTERS

🚀 Titania : sentient spaceship built by gods; can never be defeated or destroyed. 
👸 Esmae Rey : Princess of Kali, daughter of King Cassel and Queen Kyra; the strong young female who will make decisions she loves or regrets.
🤴 Max Rey : Crown prince of Kali, adopted son of King Elvar and Queen Guinne; commander of Hundred and the One army; the guy you don’t want to like but why do you not want to like him??? 
💏 Elvar and Guinne Rey : King and Queen of Kali; former is blind while latter wears a blindfold; adoptive parents of Max.
👴 Rickard : Elvar’s trusted advisor, head of Kali’s army; one of the greatest warriors; teaches only the royal children.
👦 Alexi Rey : apparently the rightful ruler of Kali; the golden prince, finest warriors, archer.
💁‍♂️ Rama Karn : youngest prince of Wychstar; Esmae’s best friend. 
🧝 Amba : war goddess; loves Esmae and favours her. 
🧝 Kirrin : god of tricks, Amba’s brother; likes Esmae but loves Alexi. 

Quick points if you’re on a time crunch.

☛ Complex family dynamics 
☛ Redefining relationships 
☛ OTP (one true pairing): misjudged-to-liked romance
☛ Independent, strong, young female
☛ Different planets as kingdoms
☛ Great genre-mixing: science fiction + fantasy 
☛ Diverse representation
☛ POC characters, Indian mythology inspiration
☛ Gods & Goddesses 
☛ Celestial weapons and spaceships
☛ Morally grey characters 
☛ Political intrigue in YA
☛ Genre-bending
☛ Queer side character
☛ Character with disability

This post is written right from the heart and a digital copy was received via my participation in a blog tour for the sequel organised by Caffeine Book Tours in 2019 but everything stated in the post is solely my opinion and isn’t influenced by any means.

Disclaimer: Affiliate links in this post can help me earn or indulge in a benefit that would not cost anything extra to your purchase or sign-up! Considering sharing this post if you loved reading it! Wish to support this blog? You can do so by buying a quick KoFi for the blogger.

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22 / she | a desi blogger who loves books and anything related to stories! focuses on south-asian representation in literature, a writer working on a hindu eschatology-based fantasy.

One thought on “A Spark Of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna — Mahabharata Inspired YA Science Fiction-Fantasy

  1. I love the details you add to your reviews. They’re so unique to you. IM SO GLAD YOU LOVED THIS BOOK (even though we inadvertently buddy read it during the ILR). Have you already finished the second one as well? I swear I’m procrastinating simply because good God I don’t want to cry.

    Like

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