A Spark of White Fire is absolutely stunning. If it isn’t on your TBR already, stop right now and put it there.
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.
A Spark of White Fire is this gorgeous mash up of destiny, space, diversity, and gods/goddesses. It’s entrancing. You lose yourself somewhere between the fantasy, the spaceships, and Esmae’s journey to find her family. It’s a book that makes you question fate, family, and trust. It’s a book that grows its characters and deepens its resolve. And it’s only the beginning.
Time and time again Mandanna’s cleverness outwits us. The combination of fantastic and immersive world building, with the themes of family and fate give me chills even weeks after reading. It’s that good. We question the concrete-ness of fate. And wonder, is it ever written in stone? There’s always different ways of reading prophecy, ways to get around it, hidden angles and shadows.
A theme I really enjoyed was family. Is there something essential about family? A bond that spans over light years? Can our love conquer fear? Layers and layers of mystery and plot twists are thrown at us, until the very last page. There are allegiances, family battles, and a whole system of planets which hang in the balance. At the end, we have to ask ourselves whose side do we choose, if we have to pick sides at all, and if we can afford the cost of war?
(A theme that Mandanna plays with is this idea of found family. We can get set on a quest to find our family of blood, that we can’t see the family around us. The loyalty of those we love. And, often, they can still surprise us).
These are impossible choices. And sometimes family isn’t strong enough to weather the storm. We are just humans – even our flesh and blood (maybe even more so). When we put them on a pedestal, there’s an awful long way to fall and we can never satisfy them. A Spark of White Fire is, in some ways, a bittersweet book.
There’s this pull for resolution and a happy family. But we all know, deep down, how unrealistic that is. In history, we get sucked into ruling, pride, and power. The small slights and lost arguments span decades and grudges. There just, sometimes, seems to be no other way. This book is delightful and it takes your heart, transfixes it, and smushes it.
You’ll want the sequel ASAP. But, like me, you won’t have it. Let’s soothe our pain together. Esmae’s journey is one that is going to grow so much. She’s a truly unique character who I am head over heels in love with. And I’m so here for all of it.
What’s your favorite underrated fantasy?
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