Our Friend is Here! Asian Heritage Month Edition – An Interview with Sangu Mandanna, Author of A Spark of White Fire; On Retelling Mahābhārata, Free Will versus Fate, and the Stories Behind Her Books

Our Friend is Here! Asian Heritage Month. Author Interview with Sangu Mandanna; author of A Spark of White Fire, on retelling mahabharata, free will versus fate, and the stores behind her books. illustration of xiaolong the axolotl, her arms out wide as if showing off something, with sangu as a deer wearing a green jumper and brown pants, waving whole holding a Nintendo Switch.

Our Friend is Hereis a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.

Asian Heritage Month Edition is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond, where Asian authors and bookish content creators are invited to celebrate being Asian, Asian books, and the experiences of being an Asian reader. (Note: Here is an explanation of why we are calling this guest series ‘Asian Heritage Month’.)

One of the best things that a reader can do for themselves is to read with curiosity and openness. When I started to diversify my reading and explore books by Asian authors that portrayed experiences outside my own, I was blown away by the beauty and wonder of their stories. In particular, I started to fall in love with retellings of Asian folklore and mythology. My first introduction to Asian mythology in young adult literature was A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman, which only made me crave even more retellings.

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Five Reasons To Read: Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee – A Fun and Delightful Korean-Inspired Space Opera/Fantasy

Text: Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee. Image: A girl with black hair, wearing a spacesuit, holds a space helmet to her side. In the corner is a translucent and blue ghost of a fox.
Blurb:

To keep the family safe, Min’s mother insists that none of them use any fox-magic, such as Charm or shape-shifting. They must appear human at all times. Min feels hemmed in by the household rules and resents the endless chores, the cousins who crowd her, and the aunties who judge her. She would like nothing more than to escape Jinju, her neglected, dust-ridden, and impoverished planet. She’s counting the days until she can follow her older brother, Jun, into the Space Forces and see more of the Thousand Worlds.

When word arrives that Jun is suspected of leaving his post to go in search of the Dragon Pearl, Min knows that something is wrong. Jun would never desert his battle cruiser, even for a mystical object rumored to have tremendous power. She decides to run away to find him and clear his name.

Min’s quest will have her meeting gamblers, pirates, and vengeful ghosts. It will involve deception, lies, and sabotage. She will be forced to use more fox-magic than ever before, and to rely on all of her cleverness and bravery. The outcome may not be what she had hoped, but it has the potential to exceed her wildest dreams.

CW’s review:

Dragon Pearl is a delightful adventure story that follows Min, a young teen who lives in the poorer fringes of the galaxy and is a shape-shifting fox spirit. When she receives her word that her brother has been accused of desertion, she runs away from home and embarks on an epic adventure across the galaxy to find her brother and becomes entangled with a plot to find the mysterious and powerful Dragon Pearl. Along the way, she’ll meet space pirates, gamblers, ghosts, and maybe she’ll befriend a galactic soldier or two.

Why should you read this book? Well, today’s book review of Dragon Pearl is a little different to my usual book reviews. Instead a long review, I provide five awesome reasons why you should pick up this wonderful book!

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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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