A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna (The Celestial Trilogy #1)

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. 

Inspired by the Mahabharata and other ancient Indian stories, A Spark of White Fire is a lush, sweeping space opera about family, curses, and the endless battle between jealousy and love.

CONTRIBUTOR(S): Soneela Nankani (Narrator)
PUBLISHER: Recorded Books Audio
YEAR: 2021
LENGTH: 311 pages (9 hours 54 minutes)
AGE: Young Adult
GENRE: Fantasy, Science Fiction
RECOMMENDED: Yes

Queer Rep Summary: Gay/Achillean Secondary Character(s), Bi/Pan Secondary Character(s).

I enjoyed this overall, I didn't see the twist coming, and I think the romance was underdeveloped. I'm too demisexual to vibe with romances where they just click without really getting to know each other on more than a repeated proximity level.

Most of the major characters are related to each other, which means the options for romance are limited. The one that’s chosen is between Esmae and the cousin who was adopted into the family. Given that this is a retelling of a much older story, it seems like any hints of incest are from that source material. To any readers who aren’t interested in a romance between cousins where one of them is adopted, this isn’t going to be the series for you. I don’t mind it, it makes sense in the story, especially since her best friend isn’t written as a romantic interest at all, and has a very specific narrative trajectory that was sent doesn’t lend itself well to being the love interest.

The worldbuilding is well done, I like how everything's in space, on different planets and ships. There’s enough detail to make it feel like a different place, but it doesn’t get bogged down in the minutia of life in space. The balance is handled really well, which is important to help keep it feeling like this epic that uses outer space, rather than an epic that is completely about space. As the first book in a series, this resolves a prophecy which was teased early on and then stated explicitly partway through. It changes the state of play, and makes it clear that the next book will involve much more war.

I like this enough to probably keep reading the series.

Moderate CW for grief, ableism, blood, violence, war, child death, death.

Minor CW for abandonment, pregnancy, parental death.

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A crown made of glowing white stars drifts above a spacewhip flying thorough a red nebula against dark space full of stars

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