Author: Amy Kathleen Ryan
Series: Sky Chasers
Publication: August 2nd 2012
Publisher: Macmillan Children's
Paperback, 375 pages
Buy: The Book Depository
Unsettling, grim, nerve-wracking, action-packed, frightening, riveting, enthralling, intelligent, fast-paced, claustrophobic, eerie, appalling, passionate… Any one of these words can be used to describe Spark, and yet, not even all of them put together come close to explaining the all-consuming thrill ride that is this book. Amy Kathleen Ryan achieved something not many authors can: Spark is one of those highly adaptable books that can be read one way by a younger audience, and completely differently by someone older. Behind the exciting story are layers and layers of psychology and current issues that can be discussed for hours on end.
Spark picks up exactly where Glow left off. The girls are back on the Empyrean, but all they did by returning was replace one religious tyrant with another. Kieran is leading the ship with sermons, lies and deceptions, and not even his ex fiancé can stand in his way. Weaverly has more enemies than she can count, both on Empyrean and the New Horizon, and Seth has lost everything when Kieran took over.
She’d been through too much. Some part of her had snapped. Her humanity had gone on hiatus, and what was left behind was her animal instinct: kill, hurt, maim, survive.
There are no heroes in Spark. Each of these characters exist in a moral gray area, and Kieran, who started out as a classic hero in Glow, turned into something entirely different. The most frightening thing about him is his firm belief that he is right, that he is being led by God and that, as God’s chosen vessel, he can do no wrong. Weaverly and Seth are confronted with the impossibility of reasoning with someone like him while still trying to find the remnants of the person he used to be.
What makes Spark truly stand out is that Amy Kathleen Ryan doesn’t hide behind the age of her characters. She refuses to adapt, embellish or gloss over the ugly facts. There are some truly selfless and kind secondary characters because there have to be – there always are in life - but the leaders, our protagonists, are all power-hungry and selfish to the core. There’s nothing even remotely good in Kieran Alden anymore, and Weaverly Marshall is on the verge of insanity, crazed by her need for revenge. Oh, sure, Seth Ardvale had a change of heart and came to understand the error of his ways, but all that got him were a couple of fractured ribs and a place in the brig.
She’d known fear before, of course, but this terror at the end of her life had been new. It hollowed her out, debased her, turned her into nothing more than airless lungs and bloodless brain. A gray cloud had crept into the borders of her vision and a voice inside her had screamed, I’m dying! I’m dying now!
And the situations they’re in are even more dangerous than last time. In Glow, the crew was fighting an external enemy and the disaster was of much bigger proportions, but that somehow made it less personal. In Spark, the kids of the Empyrean are mostly fighting each other, and as it turns out, there’s nothing more dangerous or cruel than a group of young people left to fend for themselves, especially when the kids in question are motivated almost entirely by revenge. Survival takes the back seat in Spark. Kieran and his crew are willing to sacrifice almost anything to get their parents back and inflict revenge on the crew of New Horizon.
Spark is obviously not for the faint-hearted. It gave me food for thought but, quite frankly, these aren’t things I enjoy thinking about. Who knows how any of us would behave in such conditions?
Extra brownie points go to Amy Kathleen Ryan for achieving the impossible and getting me out of my reading slump. Hurray!