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

B | A solid science fiction/fantasy. The worldbuilding was far more compelling than the characters themselves. The romance was unnecessary and just felt forced. Worldbuilding and the ending are what saved this book for me.

So I was browsing through Edelweiss+ to see which books to add to my “to read” list and I stumbled upon A House of Rage and Sorrow which is the yet to be released sequel. After reading the synopsis, I thought it was super interesting so I wanted to give this series a shot. How could I not? A science fiction novel with fantasy elements mixed in? I had to get my hands on the books.

Let me talk about the things I adored first before I go anywhere else.

I am a sucker for good worldbuilding. I admire authors who are able to craft universes with paragraphs because it’s only those kinds of books that I’m really able to escape into. If a book’s worldbuilding is lacking, it means it’s harder for me to be consumed by a book, especially if the characters don’t really compel me.

The worldbuilding in this novel is stunning. It’s beautifully crafted. It was easier to visualize this world – this universe of gods and technology. It was easy to fall into this world and I enjoyed the book for this worldbuilding.

However, I wish I could say the same for the characters. I couldn’t connect with any of them. Although the characters felt like they had weight to them and were well written, I just could not find that click. Yeah, sure, I felt stuff because of the character’s actions, but connect? Not so much.

Still, I can’t deny that I loved how morally grey everything felt. At first, you think it’s an easy black and white story, but as you progress, the lines blur. What is the truth and what is the lie? Are Esmae’s brothers working with her or are they just using her because they see a willing pawn?

Admittedly, I spent 90% of the book annoyed with Esmae. Quite frankly, I dislike characters whose entire existence is about returning to their REAL family. I get it. It’s human to long for family, but if a person’s entire motive is driven by the idea of reuniting with their real family while simultaneously ignoring the people around them who do treat them like family, then I just can’t stand by that.

Esmae wants to help her twin – a twin who doesn’t even know of her existence – win back “his crown”. Help him win back the crown and then she’ll have a family and a home.

Maybe it’s because I couldn’t make a good connection with her, but it just made my eyes roll up skyward that she was so determined to help this stranger – her twin sure, but a stranger nonetheless – win this crown. What has he done that deserves this loyalty?

And what about the family she has with Rama? Is he not family? Or was he just something to pass time and loneliness? From the way she was acting for the majority of the book, it felt like the latter rather than the former and that made me weep.

What saved her for me was the ending. That ending wrecked me in a good way, but I was glad it happened because Esmae needed a wake-up call. She needed to have those rose-tinted glasses of hers ripped from her face.

But don’t take my annoyance with Esmae as me thinking she’s a bad character. No. In fact? I thought she was a fantastic character. I might not have been able to make a connection with her and spent 90% of the book annoyed with her, but she was a well-written character.

I would have given this book a higher rating if it wasn’t for the fact that the romance was just so bad.

It was totally unnecessary and felt forced. It was almost as if it was inserted last minute. I didn’t like it and honestly, this book would have been better without it.

#bookreview #ya