Review: A HOUSE OF RAGE AND SORROW by Sangu Mandanna

Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Page Count: 264
Release Date: September 17th, 2019
Series: THE CELESTIAL TRILOGY, Book 2
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars – Liked It!

Note: I was provided a free ARC of this book by the publisher in return for my fair and honest review.

Warning: Light Spoilers Ahead for A SPARK OF WHITE FIRE.  Haven’t read it yet?  You can see my review here!

43258307._sy475_Esmae’s years-long quest to see her brother returned to the throne he was exiled from has come to a screeching halt.  Despite her efforts to get to know and work with the brothers she never met until she was 18-years-old, Alexi ultimately betrayed Esmae and crushed her heart. Now Esmae has vowed revenge and plunged the galaxy into war. As plots, curses, and secrets swirl, Esmae has to decide how far she will take her thirst for vengeance, and how to navigate the celestial stakes involved in her personal struggle.

A HOUSE OF RAGE AND SORROW is a diverting and emotional sci-fi fairy tale that struggles sometimes under the weight of its secrets within secrets.  Unless you have a photographic memory, I highly recommend you either read this closely following book one, A SPARK OF WHITE FIRE, or go back and give said book a quick reread.  While Mandanna gives you a brief refresher of the cast with a “Dramatis Personae” at the beginning of the book, there are so many plots, curses, and shifting alliances that I frequently found myself skimming the first book to re-contextualize characters and their motivations.  It definitely felt like a stoory that could have heavily benefited from a recap, or at least more one-liners to remind the audience of who cursed whom or who killed whom centuries ago, especially since so many actions have repercussions.

But first, let’s get to what I enjoyed!  The atmosphere and world of THE CELESTIAL TRILOGY is unique and wonderful.  Inspired by various Indian folklore tales, including the Mahabharata, this is a series that imagines Earth society thousands of years in the future, when Earth is an ancient legend and we’ve settled across dozens of planets and created new empires.  But what we haven’t left behind are the Indian gods, who continue to meddle in human existence.  It’s the kind of setting where uttering “I curse you to…” has actual real world consequences, and a poorly worded wish can have devastating effects. Gods appearing and making bargains are commonplace.  It really feels like someone has taken Indian mythology and retold it among spaceships and laser weapons, and I’m utterly charmed by the effect.

I was also taken away by the depth of emotion I continue to feel with Esmae.  This girl has been on a bit of a roller coaster, raised to believe in her brothers, only to see them attempt to kill her.  This sequel is largely focused on Esmae working through her own emotions, the pain in her heart she can’t let go.  She’ll get her revenge even if she has to burn down the galaxy to get it.

Where the book suffered a bit, however, was from an overall lack of depth. At 264 pages, the story moves at breakneck speed, and as mentioned above, I wish some extra time had been spent reminding us who made what wish when that put us in this predicament, especially since the consequences continue to reverberate throughout the sequel.  It also feels at times like there is just reveal after reveal in a manner that starts to rob them of some of their shock value.  The revealed ultimate fate of one character goes by so quickly, I had little reaction to it, and was honestly confused why THAT had been their fate, other than to provide plot impetus.

Despite these pitfalls, I’ve enjoyed reading these first two books.  My current judgement is that, based on these first two books, it almost feels like this trilogy could have been one standalone novel.  It’s a rare instance where I think having the complete story in one go is the best way to consume the three books, especially given how short they are.  I find myself planning to simply reread the whole thing from start to finish when book three eventually comes out, and giving a final verdict then about the success of the series.  For now, if you’re looking to a unique spin on ancient mythology that you can consume in a weekend, these are worth a read!

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