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A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna
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A Spark of White Fire

by Sangu Mandanna

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371462,449 (3.5)1
Named one of the best 25 space opera books by BookRiot! The first book in a scifi retelling of the Mahabrahata. When Esmae wins a contest of skill, she sets off events that trigger an inevitable and unwinnable war that pits her against the family she would give anything to return to. 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.… (more)

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Esmae, the secret twin sister of an exiled prince, has a plan to see her brother regain his throne. It involves going against the advice of the war goddess Amba. It involves winning a competition, revealing her identity and pretending to take her uncle’s side. But she discovers that getting to know her family and taking sides is complicated.

This hooked me from the very beginning. I liked the worldbuilding and the complex family relationships and the sentient spaceship. I liked the prose. I liked how some of the twists took me by surprise.

And I’m also aware that it had the potential to make an even bigger impact, if it had me, the reader, as invested in all of Esmae’s relationships as Esmae is. There were a few places where the story needed to dwell longer, to show rather than tell. I thought Titania -- “I’m not a very bloodthirsty warship” -- was underused, too.

But I have high hopes for the sequel!

It’s like a game of Warlords. Wychstar is the checkered board where the battle for the crown must be fought today, the competition is the battle, and Titania is the crown. And as the minutes tick down, the pieces move into place.
A usurper king.
A heroic exile.
A jealous prince.
An old warrior.
A cursed mother.
A war goddess.
And a girl.
You’d be forgiven for thinking the girl is irrelevant. The other players are powerful, important, the kinds of people around whom legends are spun. They are mighty pieces on the board. The girl, on the other hand, is a pawn, noticed by no one, the least important piece in the game.
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  Herenya | Apr 8, 2019 |
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Named one of the best 25 space opera books by BookRiot! The first book in a scifi retelling of the Mahabrahata. When Esmae wins a contest of skill, she sets off events that trigger an inevitable and unwinnable war that pits her against the family she would give anything to return to. 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.… (more)

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