Okay, so – my bad. I was totally supposed to have this review out last August 22. But I totally misread Shealea’s email (oof) and I also got swamped with so much work this week (what else is new). Hence, this late review.
As per usual, thank you very much to Shealea @ Shut Up, Shealea (click the link to read her interview with Sangu Mandanna!) and Caffeine Book Tours for letting me be a part of the blog tour for this marvelous sequel! And if you haven’t read the first book, A Spark of White Fire, please do so! You can check out my review to see what I thought about it and to get to purchase links!
Title: A House of Rage and Sorrow
Author: Sangu Mandanna
Age Range: Young Adult
Genre: Sci-Fi, Space Opera
Esmae once wanted nothing more than to help her golden brother win the crown of Kali but that dream died with her best friend. Alexi broke her heart, and she vowed to destroy him for it. And with her sentient warship Titania beside her, how can she possibly fail?
As gods, beasts, and kingdoms choose sides, Alexi seeks out a weapon more devastating than even Titania. Past lives threaten the present. Old enemies claim their due. And Esmae cannot outrun the ghosts and the questions that haunt her. What really happened to her father? What was the third boon her mother asked of Amba? For in the shadows, lurking in wait, are secrets that will swallow her whole.
The House of Rey is at war. And the entire galaxy will bleed before the end.
Content warnings: Violence, murder, body mutilation, broken families
☕ Quotes ☕
“You’re a star hurtling at a thousand miles an hour and it’s impossible to hold on to you.”
“I trusted in the gods for most of my life, but then I saw with my own eyes how fickle they are. How they bestow and withhold their favor on a whim. Our worship of them is not faith, Princess, it’s fear.”
“Every battle is a scream. Every strategy is a scream. I hear myself inside my own head. I never, ever stop screaming. Every single breath I take is a scream, building and building until one day it will reach such ruin that my brother will shatter into a thousand pieces.”
“I may have become a monster, but I’m a monster who does her own dirty work.”
“Girls are too easily broken. Are we? Or is it just that more people want to break us?”
“This is the secret no one tells. It’s easy to go. It’s harder to stay.”
“You have been so determined to have only two children, Mother, so I’ll make you a promise. By the end of this war, you will have only two children. I just can’t promise they’ll be the ones you want.”
☕ Plot ☕
A House of Rage and Sorrow picks up almost right where the first book, A Spark of White Fire, left us – with Alexi’s betrayal and Esmae plunging the galaxy into war to get her revenge. As one could expect from the set-up the first book left us with, this book is a lot more action-packed – and, subsequently, a lot more painful.
Don’t allow this to lull you into a false sense of security. Aside from showing off the brutal realities of war, this sequel also provides us a deeper look into some of the characters mindsets and motives. I suppose one would wonder, how can the sequel do that when A Spark of White Fire by itself was already pretty introspective? Well, in the first book, we are given a look into what Esmae, hopeful and eager to impress, is thinking. But in this sequel? Esmae is no longer just a girl looking to belong. She’s a girl out for blood, and seeing how her faith and trust in family is utterly ripped to shreds is nothing short of heartbreaking.
As pretty much implied by the subtitle of this review, this book was a painful roller coaster ride. And I enjoyed every excruciating second of it.
☕ Writing ☕
Sangu Mandanna still masterfully employs the beautifully simplistic, straightforward writing style that made me fall in love with the first book. A House of Rage and Sorrow deals with a lot more profound and thought-provoking material than the first book, and Sangu’s writing style lends itself perfectly once more to this particular brand of science fiction.
As befits the title, this book was full of anger and fear and hatred, and Sangu just utterly portrayed that perfectly. I felt every moment of Esmae’s uncertainty and desire for revenge and Titania’s helplessness as a girl she’s come to love is drawn into violence and death. The way the themes of power, revenge, warfare, and motive are explored is nothing short of masterful.
☕ Characters ☕
Whereas the first book was more event-driven, I would say A House of Rage and Sorrow is driven by its characters. And all of them – even those who didn’t get a POV – are excellently written.
Both Esmae and Titania are given POV chapters in this one, and the two play off of each other beautifully. On the one hand, you have Titania, a plaything of the gods who’s grown to love and care for humans, especially Esmae. On the other, Esmae is nothing now but anger and hatred and a desire for revenge, despite the occasional moments of softness between her and the few remaining friends she has. The juxtaposition between the two is so heartbreakingly stark and shows just how much has changed in Esmae since the first book.
No spoilers, but also, remember the character I hated from the first book who shot her daughter out of a goddam airlock? She gets worse in this one. Didn’t know it was possible, but there you go.
☕ Overall ☕
Sequel syndrome? Sangu Mandanna definitely doesn’t know her. Not only did I adore this book, it left me practically salivating for the conclusion to this series.