A Spark of White Fire, inspired by the Mahabharata, an ancient Indian epic, follows Esmae, a girl who "has no wealth, no glory, no power, and no family." A pawn in a massive game between royalty and gods, Esmae tells the reader, "[y]ou'd be forgiven for thinking the girl is irrelevant.... But she's not irrelevant. I'm not irrelevant."
Esmae's uncle, King Elvar, usurped the Kali throne from her father and exiled her family. Esmae, however, was cursed as a baby and sent away by her mother before the exile; everything she knows about her own history and royal lineage was told to her by a god. Esmae, now 17, seeks a way to break her curse and return to her family. Hoping to accomplish this, she enters a contest in which the prize is an unbeatable, god-created warship called the Titania. Alexi, Esmae's twin brother, and her adopted cousin, Max, also enter the contest--Alexi is preparing to take back the throne, while Max is working to keep his father, Elvar, on it. It is Esmae, though, who prevails, winning the Titania and the chance to find her family. But the story that Esmae was told about her mother isn't the real story, and returning to Kali means stepping into a web of political and romantic intrigue. Esmae ultimately must decide whether the family she has sought her entire life is the one she is destined to call her own, or if the gods have another future for her.
Sangu Mandanna's (The Lost Girl) novel seamlessly weaves science fiction elements with Indian mythology, creating a world that feels truly alive. Mandanna's characters are fully fleshed, especially the engaging and sympathetic Esmae. A Spark of White Fire is the first in a trilogy, and readers will be eager for the next installment. --Clarissa Hadge, manager, Trident Booksellers & Café, Boston, Mass.