A Spark Of White Fire By Sangu Mandanna – Inspired By Mahabharata, A Lost Princess, Divine Intervention; Stunning From Start To Finish

TEXT: A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna. Background depicts a galaxy, with a cluster of white stars that form the shape of a crown, and spaceship flies across the screen.
Blurb:

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.

My review:

Discovering new favourite books can sometimes feel like finally releasing a long breath – you’ve been waiting for it, you feel like life has returned to you, and you feel invigorated. The relief and satisfaction of discovering and reading A Spark of White Fire cannot be described by words. It is a science-fiction space opera, inspired by the Sanskrit epic, Mahabharata, and follows a lost princess who infiltrates the circles of those who stole her family’s crown, only to realise that they may not be as wicked as she once believed. I’m in awe, friends. A Spark of White Fire is thoroughly brilliant, and I hope my book review will convince you to pick up this new YA SF gem.

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Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse – Gods, Monsters, Monster Hunters, and a Wickedly Awesome Adventure Across the Dinétah

Text: TRAIL OF LIGHTNING, The Sixth World, by Rebecca Roanhorse. Image: A Native-American woman holding a shotgun in one hand and a knife in the other, standing on top of a car and looking away from the camera. Lightning strikes down the image. On the top-right corner, a stamp with Xiaolong the pink axolotl wearing an upside down purple hat, with the text "REVIEWED BY CW, THE QUIET POND"
Summary:

While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.

Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine.

Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel to the rez to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.

As Maggie discovers the truth behind the disappearances, she will have to confront her past—if she wants to survive.

Welcome to the Sixth World.

My review:

Edit (11 Feb 2019): After publishing this review, I was made aware of this article that addresses the issues of Trail of Lightning. I highly recommend reading this, as it addresses some of the issues regarding representation and appropriation within the book.

It’s not often that I use ‘cool’ to describe a book; ‘brilliant’ and ‘wonderful’ seem to be my go-to adjectives, but ‘cool’? Cool is now a word I want to exclusively use to describe Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse. Trail of Lightning is a Native-American inspired urban fantasy that takes place in the Navajo reservation following a post-climate-apocalypse. Enter Maggie, a gifted monster hunter who lives in this new world, and her journey across the reservation to uncover the mystery of a brutal monster and the truths she won’t face about her past.

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BLOG TOUR: The Weight Of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf – A Malay Teen Searches For Her Mother During the Malaysian 1969 Riots (Book Review & Author Interview)

White block reads 'The Weight of Our Sky, Hanna Alkaf, South-east Asian Blog Tour. January 28th - February 8th 2019. On the right is an image of a Malay female teen wearing a blue pinafore over a white tshirt on a moped, driven by a Chinese male teen wearing a white shirt and black slacks, with fire and smoke in the background.

“Friend, friend, friend!”

Xiaolong scurries to you, a bounce in her step and a big smile on her face. “I have some wonderful plans for your visit today!”

You crouch down so you can see her better, and ask her about her plans.

Xiaolong the pink axolotl, wearing an upside down flower hat, holding a staff and gesturing to a floating book, The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf.

“Okay, first!” She raises her staff, magicks a book from midair, and gestures to the book. “This book! It only just released, friend! And it’s such a good book. I couldn’t put it down! I just wanted to keep reading and reading and reading, and then, when I finished it, Gen told me that it was time for dinner.” She shakes her head. “I also learned a lot, friend. I had no idea about the historical events that this book talks about, and I… I learned a lot. And I think it’s really important that I tell you about this book.”

Once you find a comfier spot by the Pond, you settle down and ask Xiaolong about this important book.

“So,” she says, holding the cover out for you to see. “This book is called The Weight of Our Sky…

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Darius The Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram – A heartfelt and charming story about a teen’s journey to Iran, mental illness, and family

TEXT: Darius the Great Is Not Okay, Adib Khorram. IMAGE: Two boys, one on the left with faded hair and wearing a leather jacket and one on the right with short curly hair wearing a beanie, overlooking Iran. On the top-right, a stamp of Xiaolong the pink axolotl, with the text: REVIEW BY CW, THE QUIET POND.

Summary:

Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s about to take his first-ever trip to Iran, and it’s pretty overwhelming–especially when he’s also dealing with clinical depression, a disapproving dad, and a chronically anemic social life. In Iran, he gets to know his ailing but still formidable grandfather, his loving grandmother, and the rest of his mom’s family for the first time. And he meets Sohrab, the boy next door who changes everything.

Sohrab makes sure people speak English so Darius can understand what’s going on. He gets Darius an Iranian National Football Team jersey that makes him feel like a True Persian for the first time. And he understands that sometimes, best friends don’t have to talk. Darius has never had a true friend before, but now he’s spending his days with Sohrab playing soccer, eating rosewater ice cream, and sitting together for hours in their special place, a rooftop overlooking the Yazdi skyline.

Sohrab calls him Darioush–the original Persian version of his name–and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab. When it’s time to go home to America, he’ll have to find a way to be Darioush on his own.

My review:

Darius the Great Is Not Okay might have made me weep openly on the bus, but it was also an effortless favourite. I adored this book; adored it for its wonderful and genuine explorations of biracial identity, our bonds with people, and living with mental illness. This character-driven story tells of Darius; a Persian-American teen who follows his family to Iran to visit family that he has only ever met through Skype. There, he navigates unfamiliar familial landscapes, meets the enigmatic and charming Sohrab, and discovers what it means to be Darius and Dariush.

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The Rise of the Empress Series – A Juxtaposition Between Good versus Evil; In Which the Good was Great and the Evil was Boring

TEXT: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, Julie C. Dao (left); Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix, Julie Dao (right)

The Rise of the Empress duology was a thoroughly unexpected series, and, even more unexpected, was that reading these two books reminded me of two important things. First, sometimes your expectations are completely wrong and that you should check them at the door. Second, that it’s not always a bad idea to give a series a second chance.

The Rise of the Empress duology written by Julie Dao consists of two books: the first is Forest of a Thousand Lanterns and the second, which takes place years later but centers on a different character (and thus can be read as a standalone if the reader wishes), is called Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix. As a whole, the Rise of the Empress duology is an East-Asian reimagining of Snow White, set in a fantasy world inspired by the Far East.

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