Monday, August 19, 2013

ARC Review: A Spark Unseen - Sharon Cameron

A copy was provided by the publisher
in exchange for
an honest review.
A Spark Unseen by Sharon Cameron
Series: Dark Unwinding #2
Genre: YA, historical fiction, mystery, steampunk
Published on September 24, 2013
Published by Scholastic Press
Pages: 352
Read From: 8.9.13 - 8.12.13

When Katherine Tulman wakes in the middle of the night and accidentally foils a kidnapping attempt on her uncle, she realizes that Stranwyne Keep is no longer safe for Uncle Tully and his genius inventions. She quickly flees to Paris, where she hopes to remain undetected as she searches for the mysterious and handsome Lane, who is suspected to be dead. 
But the search for Lane is not easy, and Katherine soon finds herself caught in a web of political intrigue. From the court of Napoleon III to the underground tunnels of Paris, Katherine will have to decide how a dangerous weapon can be kept from both a queen and a emperor, and whom she can trust to make her uncle safe once and for all.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? I don't like it quite as much as the cover for The Dark Unwinding, simply because you can see the character impersonator's face. However, she works pretty well for Katherine, so she doesn't bother me as much as most character impersonators. I still love the mechanical gears, and that dress is gorgeous.

Characters: Katherine Tulman is still a great protagonist. Intelligent, practical, and brave, she's the sort of girl I love as a protagonist. Some Readers might not like how very confident and decisive Katherine is, and every once in a while I can see how her decisiveness might come across as snobbishness. But I loved how firm of mind Katherine was. There are so few female protagonists who are like that. Katherine's main flaw is her temper. When her plans are derailed, she doesn't handle it very well, but she at least never flies off the handle much. Her anger comes out cold and quiet, which works. I got a little frustrated with her inability to blend in. Katherine is trying to behave normal; to do nothing to bring suspicion down on her house, and quite honestly, she does the exact opposite. Running out on dinners, exploring someone's house unbidden, lurking outside at night. Could you be a little less obvious, Katherine? I still liked her, though; she's just not very good at handling stress. Henri Marchand, I must admit, I adored. He is the type of cad that I really enjoy in a book. It helped that he never became a love interest for Katherine - that, in fact, made all the difference. I didn't trust him, but I still loved him. He was ridiculous and flirtatious, but he was actually a very decent fellow in the end, and was only teasing. He's the sort of fellow that I might want to smack most of the time, but I couldn't dislike him. Lane isn't in A Spark Unseen much, but my good opinion of him has not wavered. He has a bad habit of blaming himself for things that are not his fault, and he is a bit more overprotective than might be desirable, but he's a good man and Katherine knows how to handle him. And his flaws make him a realistic character. A Spark Unseen also made me appreciate a character that I didn't take much notice of in The Dark Unwinding: Katherine's solicitor, Mr. Babcock. He was a man we don't learn much about, but get a very strong sense that he has quite the past. He's always in the background, pulling strings that you wouldn't think he could pull, and his personality never shines out from all of the much more prominent ones. But once one does notice him, one realizes just how awesome of a character he really is. Uncle Tully is still a very likable eccentric. I half expected him to get a little annoying in this installment - eccentrics can only be fun for so long, - but I found it to be quite the opposite. Among all of these characters are several wonderful society busybodies that added that Austenian feel that I adore in novels like this one. Mrs. Harcastle was a riot. And as for the villain? Well, I'm no big fan of returning villains. If they die, they should be dead. "I'll be back" rarely works well. It did in this, though. Remarkably. And I would almost say that Ben was a much better villain in this one than in The Dark Unwinding.

The Romance: I was worried that Henri might become a love interest for Katherine, in the absence of Lane. He was handsome and devilish. Katherine is sensible, but it is the fad for sensible females to be carried away by rogues. Thankfully, this never happened, though Henri certainly flirted horribly with her. I'm still very much in support of the romance between Katherine and Lane. They are both characters I love, and their attachment feels real and deep.

Plot: It's been two years since Stranwyne was flooded; when Ben Aldridge tried to steal one of Uncle Tully's genius inventions to sell to the French as a military weapon. Two years since Katherine's love Lane left England to try and track Ben Aldridge down. Things have quieted down, but then Katherine interrupts a kidnapping attempt on her uncle one night. When the English government demands that Uncle Tully move to London to build weapons for them, Katherine realizes that Uncle Tully simply isn't safe at Stranwyne anymore. So she does the most unlikely thing: she takes Uncle Tully to Paris, right in the heart of a country that also wants to use his genius for wartime. But keeping Uncle Tully isn't Katherine's only reason for coming to Paris. Only weeks before, she was informed of Lane's death. Refusing to believe that he is dead, Katherine is determined to find his whereabouts - and discover why he hasn't contacted her in all this time. But trying to balance keeping Uncle Tully secret, rebuilding her reputation in good society, and dodging spies and murderers is more than one girl can take. A Spark Unseen is different from The Dark Unwinding. Book One offered a Gothic-like mystery in an isolated setting with steampunk flairs. Book Two is more of a military espionage story. There is a bit of a mystery, but it isn't like Book One. That said, it is still just as good, because it is different. I enjoy espionage stories as much as mysteries, and I just loved all of the characters, the era, and the plot. This is an Author who isn't afraid to kill off characters, so I was certainly surprised several times reading this. And like with The Dark Unwinding, you spend a lot of time wondering how things will connect. And yes, it is all explained.

Believability: I have nothing of which to complain. There is one moment where Katherine comes face-to-face with Emperor Napoleon III, and usually scenes like that can feel totally improbable. But the Author manages to pull it off; the circumstances allow it.

Writing Style: First person, past tense. I really like the Author's style. It's classy, it fits the era, and it's got a nice feel to it. It, of course, has some modern-isms to it; that's very hard to get rid of when writing nowadays. But it's barely there, and overall has a Victorian ambiance to it.

Content: None.

Conclusion: Some might say that the Author crams far too many revelations in a short amount of space. Normally I would agree, and even now I half do. There are a lot of revelations in a short span of time. They come in one after another, and there's an equal amount of characters popping in and out of scenes. Usually this doesn't work. Usually it feels like a train wreck. And if there had been just one more revelation, it would have been one. But it wasn't. Surprisingly, it really wasn't. Some of the revelations the Reader will have already figured out, and they will be pleased with themselves. Other revelations the Reader will not have figured out, and will be pleased with the explanation. And still others are totally unexpected. You will briefly wonder if maybe that last revelation was just a bit too much. But in the end, you'll shake your head and say, "I still liked it anyway." The final showdown between Katherine and Ben manages to not melt into a cliche moment, despite the fact the Ben monologues a fair bit. He's one of those rare villains who can actually get by with monologuing and still be intimidating. And best of all - this may in fact be a two-book series! No trilogy! What a novel idea! I was a little worried that A Spark Unseen would be a disappointment after The Dark Unwinding, which was such a wonderful mystery. But as soon as I started reading it, I knew I would love it just as much as the first book - and I do. It ran the risk of being too much at times, but it pulled it off. Amazing!

Recommended Audience: Girl-read, any age, great for historical fiction, mystery, and espionage story fans!

Others in This Series:
1)The Dark Unwinding
2)A Spark Unseen

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