ARC Review: A War of Swallowed Stars (Celestial Trilogy #3) by Sangu Mandanna

(Last Updated On: May 29, 2021)

Friends, it’s been three weeks since I read and was destroyed by A War of Swallowed Stars. Emotional devastation wormed its way into my life with the conclusion of the Celestial Trilogy and to be honest? I’m okay with that because I love these characters so much and am thankful for the time I had with them. (Yes, Esmae and Sybilla and Max are all real to me, and I won’t be accepting criticism at this time.)

About A War of Swallowed Stars

Publisher: Sky Pony Press  |  Release Date: June 29, 2021  |  Pages: 288
Age Range: Young Adult | Genre: Science Fiction, Retelling | Format: eBook |  Source: Netgalley*

cover for A War of Swallowed Stars“A rare gem of a sequel . . . Each page drips with action and moral complexities.” —Natasha Ngan, New York Times bestselling author of Girls of Paper and Fire, on A House of Rage & Sorrow

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.

Celebrated author Sangu Mandanna promises a gripping conclusion to the Celestial Trilogy in A War of Swallowed Stars.

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Representation

Indian-coded cast of characters, disability rep, depression rep, sapphic romance

Content Warnings

death, grief, loss of a loved one, violence, war

My Review of A War of Swallowed Stars

eARC for A War of Swallowed Stars
eARC of A War of Swallowed Stars
A Spark of White Fire review House of Rage and Sorrow review

It’s not hyperbole when I say that the Celestial Trilogy is one of the best I’ve ever read, and A War of Swallowed Stars is a heartrendingly beautiful and intensely satisfying end to a truly epic space opera. I don’t know that I will ever be able to write the eloquent review that this book deserves, but I’ll try. TL;DR this book and series swallowed my heart and returned it a little battered.

To prepare for this bout of emotional devastation, I re-read A Spark of White Fire (for the third time) and A House of Rage and Sorrow (for a second time), and let me tell you that these books truly get better each time I read them. Some of my other “comfort favorites” (which all happen to inflict a lot of pain… I should look into that) don’t hold up in the same way upon re-reading and I will skip around to my favorite bits. Every single page in this trilogy is my favorite bit. All 935 pages of it!

Intricately plotted and fast-paced, A War of Swallowed Stars picks up right after the events of A House of Rage and Sorrow and plows forward with momentum consistent to the entire trilogy. The war for the throne of Kali rages on and has consequences far beyond it’s ship as a slumbering and hungry god’s awoken.

“We are all running out of time. Stars have gone out. Soon, it’ll be our sun.”

There’s never a dull moment to the reader, but that doesn’t mean that it’s 288 pages of non-stop action and fight scenes. Mandanna does a fantastic job providing her characters time to breathe and spend quiet moments together. My eARC has 397 annotations in it and I’m sure at least 100 of them are just me saying “NO!”

Words cannot express how much I love the characters, especially because I want to keep this review spoiler-free and much of what I want to scream about is tied to the plot. But I cherished every moment and page that I spent with each of them and this review could literally be me screaming about their relationships and their growth. Titania the sentient spaceship continues to be my absolute favorite and her arc in this book is *chef’s kiss*. Sybilla especially stole a piece of my soul and her budding relationship with Radha. The succulent! 😭 But this book not only has the sapphic bodyguard romance of my dreams, it also has the “my loved one is in trouble and I am going to go feral to rescue them at the risk of my own self” trope that I devour.

“Broken things can be fixed. And when they can’t be fixed, they can be remade.”

I love that despite all of the pain, devastation, and violence, the characters never lose hope. They keep fighting, grappling with the consequences of earlier choices, and continue to strive to be better. To try and right the wrongs from previous generations and why compromise isn’t always easy: both Elvar and Alexi were wronged.

“‘The people have a right to have their voices heard,’ I say quietly. ‘And it sounds like neither side is wrong.'”

One thing that I absolutely love about this trilogy is how it looks at the concepts of right and wrong, and morality in general… particularly in time of war. How do we as a society cope with a war where both sides are kind of right? When they are both fighting to right a wrong through no fault of either party. What do you do in that instance and how do you reach a compromise when both sides have been wronged? I love how the lines of morality lives there, blurred.

“This is a cycle without an end. It doesn’t matter what it costs us. Somehow, sooner or later, we end up back here, fully of fury and sorrow.”

At the heart, the Celestial Trilogy grapples with generational trauma and cycles of violence carrying on grudges to new generations where both sides have been wronged and are “right” and how we can break those cycles. There isn’t a right or wrong side of history in this tale, and perhaps this is a lesson for us all. Not only is history written by the victors, but every side has their own story.

I’m honestly so impressed with how much each book in the trilogy accomplishes in so few pages. A War of Swallowed Stars clocks in just under 300 pages but doesn’t feel short at all and I read it slowly to savor the experience and prolong the pain. Truly every action has its ripple effects – particularly with the involvement of the gods who always have their own agenda. There are so many moments and aspects of this trilogy I could scream about forever, but I need for you to read the series so we can screech about it. K?

A Spark of White Fire is grossly underrated with less than 1,000 ratings on Goodreads at the time of my writing this review for the trilogy’s conclusion. The series is inspired by the Hindu epic The Mahabharata and places it in space, but the trilogy is a far cry from hard science fiction. With a fast-paced and character-driven narrative, the Celestial Trilogy will suck you in, make you love the characters, bring pain upon you… and you’ll beg for more. The book community has been sleeping on one of the best trilogies I’ve ever read in my life: now the perfect time for you to see what the fuss is about.

I received a review copy from the publisher for my honest review. This does not affect neither my opinion of the book nor the content of my review. Quotations are from an uncorrected proof and are subject to change upon final publication.

No two readers experience a book in the same way; this was mine, but what about you?

💬  Have you read The Celestial Trilogy yet? If so, what are your thoughts?

💬  Did I convince you to add this book to your TBR?

💬  What are your favorite space operas (bonus points for BIPOC authors!)? What should I add to my TBR?


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Let’s go on another adventure together!

10 Comments

  1. Sahi

    May 27, 2021 at 10:08 PM

    Great review as always Kal … and I will forever be upset that more ppl haven’t experienced the joy and pain of reading this series. It’s definitely my favorite of all time too 😍😍

    1. Kal

      June 11, 2021 at 9:48 PM

      Thank you so much, Sahi! And ME TOO! I think it is my lifelong mission to shove this trilogy at everyone because they are truly missing out. SO MUCH PAIN

  2. Jayati

    May 27, 2021 at 10:30 PM

    Honestly, you summed up everything I felt. This trilogy is so wonderful and all I really want is for everyone else to pick it up and see how great it is!
    I loved the ending – how it was hopeful and the start of a new era, another beginning where maybe these mistakes will not be repeated and I just wish everyone is happy. I am so unbearably sad to have this trilogy end but with a finale as perfect as this, it makes it even harder to leave it behind and move forward.

    1. Kal

      June 11, 2021 at 9:52 PM

      WE WILL GET EVERYONE TO READ THIS TRILOGY, Jayati! I know it! I swear it’s been a month since I’ve read this and I am still thinking about the damn book. You hit the nail on the head about the hope and new beginnings — I truly believe these characters are living their best life now.

  3. Jenny @ Reading the End

    May 28, 2021 at 4:55 AM

    Gosh I cannot WAIT to read this! I agree, this series is absolutely terrific and criminally underrated.

    1. Kal

      June 11, 2021 at 9:53 PM

      This is honestly such a satisfying ending to the trilogy and I can’t wait for you to read it!!!

  4. Sumedha

    May 28, 2021 at 10:08 PM

    So I’ve actually heard a LOT about this book and I thought it’s more popular but apparently I just follow the right people? 1000 reviews is too less for how good this sounds. It is on my priority tbr but a little higher now. Plus I’d love to read a book based on Mahabharata which is complex so.. this trilogy is right up my street. Great review, Kal!

    1. Kal

      June 11, 2021 at 9:55 PM

      Hahaha yea, there’s a very vocal group of us on book twitter giving the trilogy the attention it deserves. 1000 reviews is NOTHING and it makes me so sad. I can’t wait for you to read and experience these books Sumedha!

  5. Charvi Koul

    June 1, 2021 at 10:17 PM

    I’m fucking terrified of picking this book up but sometime this month I’m gonna get my soul broken💔
    Love your review!!!

    1. Kal

      June 11, 2021 at 10:37 PM

      Please pick it up so we can commiserate together! Your soul may break but you know what? You’ll thank Sangu for it.

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