Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Mini Review: A Spark Unseen by Sharon Cameron

#2 in the Dark Unwinding series
Release Date: September 24, 2013
Publisher: Scholastic 
Pages: 352
Received: ARC from publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Mini Review
(no spoilers)

You know how it's harder to write a positive review than a negative review? Yes? No? Well, it is for me. I don't know why, but whenever I dislike a book I have a clear list of reasons why the book did not work for me.

But when I love a book, gah, my brain goes all mushy and all I can come up with is, "I really loved it!" which isn't particularly helpful or reviewy.

That pretty much describes my reaction to A Spark Unseen. I really loved it.

Protagonist Katharine remains one of my absolute favorite book best friends ever. She's pragmatic. I know readers usually exclaim over characters who are bold or tough or strong or funny, (and Katharine is ALL of those things) but my favorite thing about Katharine is that she's pragmatic.

I have all sorts of visions of us sitting on our sleeping bags calmly making lists and organizational charts together, and I am in heaven.

It just so happens that the subject of all of Katharine's meticulous plans is a desperate quest to Paris with the dual purpose of:

  1. Absconding with her autistic uncle before the authorities can snatch him away and use his super genius to make weapons, AND 
  2. Seek out her spy-lover who has gone missing and is presumed dead by all but the ever-devoted Katharine (warning: I teared up, a few times)

Does that sound like a lot? I know, it is. But it's also only scratching the surface of what goes on (more spies, intrigues, double crosses, murders, inventions, society ladies, gossip, swoon!).

Of course that means the book is fast-paced (yay!), but Katharine's practical, orderly nature helps keep things from feeling like a runaway horse ride.

Though, given the twisty nature of the way Katharine finds out stuff (due to the lying and spying and so forth), I highly recommend reading without distractions (or you may have to re-read some sections for them to make sense, like I had to do).

For those who want a ton of historical details, sorry, you're not going to get them. Of course the setting is all properly historical, but there aren't a TON of tiny details about Napoleon III, current events, common fabrics used and food eaten, etc. (though Sharon Cameron definitely knows her stuff).

Which is totally fine, because the historical setting is clearly defined without taking away any focus from the plot. And, yes, I say this as a complete and unabashed history nerd.

And, one final word on the romance: this is how I want it done. Katharine's interactions with the man she loves make me love her even more. I get why they love each other, I appreciate the pacing (slow but determined) and how it motivates Katherine without monopolizing the plot or making her seem silly. And the final declaration scene, aaahh LOVE IT.

Bottom line

As a sequel, it really is important that you pick up The Dark Unwinding first (aside from being lost whenever events reference those previous happenings, you'll totally miss the significance of the hilarious scenes with a certain society gossip). Like the first book, A Spark Unseen ends well and could be seen as complete, but the door is also left open for more.  

Katharine is such a unique voice in YA fiction, and I hope to be able to read more of her adventures. Sharon Cameron strikes a brilliant balance of plot, character, mystery, and history. I am eagerly awaiting her next book, whatever it may be.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about A Spark Unseen that I haven't addressed?
Feel free to ask in the comments!

Looking for another book like this?
You might like:

 Click on the pictures to go to my reviews.


  1. I think I got this at BEA. I can't remember. I still need to read Dark Unwinding, which I've been wanting to do.

  2. I'm intrigued. Going to go look for Dark Unwinding. Thanks!

  3. I'm glad you liked it, Small!
    I don't remember seeing this one around though so I'll have to look into it :D


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