ARC Review: A War of Swallowed Stars by Sangu Mandanna

A prince without his kingdom.

A kingdom without its princess.

The destruction of the stars themselves.

War is destroying the galaxy. Esmae has vanished without a trace. A terrifying, ravenous beast is devouring the stars one by one. Titania is offered a gift that may well be a curse. Alexi, the exiled prince, is asked to pay a heavy price for his mistakes. And far, far away, on a dark, mysterious planet, a sleeping god stirs awake.

War or family.

Pride or peace.

As the end of the world draws ever closer, Esmae and Alexi must decide how far they’ll go to win—and who they’ll sacrifice along the way. 

Now this is how a finale that I’ve been waiting for almost two years should feel like. I just don’t have any words to describe what I’m feeling, but I hope I’ll be able to articulate my thoughts here.

The one thing that has remained constant throughout this trilogy is how fast paced it is. I literally swallowed this book whole(pun fully intended) in a single sitting. And I know it couldn’t have been any other way, because I wouldn’t have been able to sleep tonight if I hadn’t finished reading it. The author’s storytelling is realistic and brutal and painful and just ohhh so brilliant, that I can’t believe I’ve had the opportunity to read such a wonderful story. The emotional depth that the author is able to create is spectacular and I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to rage or cry or despair, basically feel everything that the characters were feeling.

The original Mahabharata story may have been about a war fought between brothers for the throne, or it may have been for the sake of establishing Dharma – ultimately one thing we should remember is that it is also about the consequences of greed, jealousy, the desire for revenge, and finally the devastation of war. While we only see the true devastation during the 18 days and after the war is over in the original story, the author here tries to make the characters see the brutal reality much earlier, probably in the hopes that the longing for peace might overcome pride and the outcome is different. There is also a lot of emphasis on love and family, which is just like the original, but we also see how honor and righteousness may not always be the need of the hour. Now if you wanna know how that plays out in the story, you’ll have to read it, but I thought the author did great justice to the spirit of the epic.

The characters have also been a very excellent part of this trilogy. Esmae as a main character is full of rage and sorrow over the things she has lost and things she has done, but she also understands she is lucky enough to have friends and family who care. And as such a flawed and human character, it’s so easy to fall in love with her and feel everything she does. Max will always remain a favorite because he is loving and kind and compassionate, but I almost felt like he got less page time because there was so much going on. But however little he was present, he was awesome as always.

Titania is a delight as always but it was so fascinating to see even more new aspects of her. When she became a human temporarily, the way the author described her joy and the feeling of touching water and even just trying to walk or run, it brought tears to my eyes because she was so happy. Titania is the light of this story even if she was made to be an indestructible warship. Sybilla and Radha are such great side characters, loyal and brave to the end and I was so happy to see some cute scenes together. They were probably the only respite in an otherwise painful story.

I don’t even know if I want to talk about the other side of Esmae’s family. My blood boils at the thought of some of the things they did in the previous books, and the author ups the angst quotient even more by showing us that they are capable of worse. I don’t think I have ever felt so strongly about wanting a character to die an extremely painful death, but that’s what happens when you get so attached to some characters that they start feeling like someone you know and care for. And I don’t know if I should feel happy or angry with the author for making me so overwhelmed with emotions.

And then there are so many gods – some good, some indifferent, some awful – and while their stories of birth and their curses and motivations are all very fascinating to read in an abstract context, it’s quite anger inducing when they meddle in the lives of our favorite mortal characters and make a mess out of everything.

In the end, this book felt painful and hopeless at times but it was such a satisfying finale that I am extremely upset it’s over, but also overjoyed that I got to read it in advance, and along with all my dearest friends Dany, Shruti, Sim, Prags, Krisha and Jayati. This trilogy has always been an experience that I have loved sharing with my friends and I’m so happy we could do it this time as well. “The chat room of rage and sorrow” is a delight to be a part of and I hope we’ll find another series like this to gush about together, though I know the Celestial trilogy is truly special.

If you are someone who has never read this series, but would love a YA space opera fantasy with gods and mortals, battles and duels, celestial weapons and sentient warships, and characters you’ll either love or hate with a passion – you can’t miss this series. And if you are someone like me who has enjoyed the Mahabharata story while growing up, then I promise this trilogy will delight you. Goodbye Esmae and Max and Titania, but only for now, because I know I will meet you again 😊😊

PS: Thank you to Sky Pony and Edelweiss for providing me with this advance copy. All opinions expressed here are unbiased and solely mine.

11 thoughts on “ARC Review: A War of Swallowed Stars by Sangu Mandanna

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  1. Beautiful review, Sahi! I loved loved LOVED this book and trilogy so much and your review hits so many of the reasons why. Titania becoming human and trying to learn how to walk was the purest thing in the whole damn world. UGH. I LOVE THIS BOOK

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know.. the way Titania’s feelings are described just tugs at our heartstrings… but the whole trilogy does that anyways … I’m so so glad we all got to enjoy such a beautiful series 😍😍😍


  2. I cannot WAIT to read this! My only worry is that I won’t remember enough about the foregoing two books and will be totally lost, so I’m trying to decide if I can trust my instincts and forge ahead, or if I should go back and reread the first two first.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is a short dramatis personae at the beginning, so you might be able to recollect some events which happened. But my other friends did a reread of the two, and said the impact was even more due to that … hope you’ll get to enjoy this very soon 😍😍


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