ARC Review: A War of Swallowed Stars (Celestial Trilogy #3) by Sangu Mandanna
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*
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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Indian-coded cast of characters, disability rep, depression rep, sapphic romance
death, grief, loss of a loved one, violence, war
My Review of A War of Swallowed Stars
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.
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?
Let’s go on another adventure together!