Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Review: A Spark Unseen by Sharon Cameron
Title: A Spark Unseen (A Dark Unwinding, #2)
Author: Sharon Cameron
Rating: 4 Stars
I read this entire duology over the course of a weekend - on my iPhone, that too! Needless to say, it was impossible to put down and I loved every moment spent in this world. A Spark Unseen, the highly anticipated follow-up to A Dark Unwinding, is both stronger and weaker than its predecessor. On one hand, it manages to hit very high notes in certain areas; on the other hand, it fell flat for me in places where its predecessor did not. Yet, on the whole, both these books are identical in their level of reading pleasure, aesthetic appearance, and historical accuracy. While I never expected to see it, Cameron has, well and truly, written a spectacular historical fiction duology.
A Spark Unseen begins nearly two years after A Dark Unwinding has ended. In the opening scene itself, a kidnapping attempt on Uncle Tully is foiled, leaving Katharine with no choice but to leave her beloved estate. Uncle Tully, as established in the first book, is a genius, though an autistic one. It is his strict need for structure and moments of troubled interaction that allow others to believe he is insane, when, in fact, he is not. Now, caught up in the midst of an emerging battle between England and France, with both countries vying for the better weapons, Uncle Tully's inventions have come under the eye of politicians and others who wish to exploit him. Faced with no other option, Katharine whisks her uncle away to safety in Paris; both to keep him away from others and to find Lane Moreau. It is a tumultuous time that Katharine vastly underestimates, however, and in her quest to protect those dear to her, she finds both unlikely allies...and enemies.
With such an enticing opening, A Spark Unseen grabs readers from the first page and keeps them hooked...for awhile. Where this novel lagged, for me, was in its change of scenery. Although I recognize the necessity of this to keep the plot moving forward, I cannot claim that Paris held nearly as much atmosphere as Stranwyne Keep. Instead, the setting of this novel felt very much a backdrop to the plot instead of an entity all on its own and the absence of many beloved secondary characters was strongly felt. A Spark Unseen has its own cast of new introductions, from the charming Henri to the nosy Mrs. Hardcastle, but with the exception of these two, the rest failed to make much of an impression.
Nevertheless, that is where the flaws inherent in this novel vanish. A Spark Unseen has a fascinating plot, filled with mysterious disappearances, unforseen deaths, and novel innovations. One of my favorite aspects of this novel, aside from the political intrigue, was the fact that Katharine truly had to come into her own. Even with Lane gone, she had the help of Mrs. Jeffries and trusted employers to help her cope, but in Paris, she is truly alone. When stripped of all those she holds on to for support, Katharine discovers that she is more than capable of rising to her burdens herself. Cameron, once again, proves to be an adept writer, weaving together Katharine's emotional troubles with little clues that slowly tie together the mystery at hand.
Unfortunately, Lane Moreau - our resident swoon factor - is absent for much of this novel, but his presence is still strongly felt. Once Lane does, however, make an appearance, the pace of the plot quickens considerably, resulting in detailed - but tense - action sequences. Old enemies return, new ones show their faces, and unexpected help is given too. Add to this a scene of politics, complete with sneaky housekeepers and stalkers under lampposts, and you've got yourself another scintillating tale. Another strong point to this novel, though, is the romance. Although it is very much understated and pushed under the rug in favor of the plot and character development, I enjoyed the realistic direction it took and especially the fact that Katharine never backed away from conversation - or confrontation, really - when needed. It's always annoying to have secrets fester, so the manner in which Cameron dealt with this plot line, while simultaneously empowering Katharine to seek the answers she wanted, was - hands-down - my favorite part of the entire series.
A Spark Unseen is a brilliant conclusion to this duology. Both A Dark Unwinding and this novel can be read as stand-alones - what a relief the lack of a cliffhanger is! - but they both also leave room for just a little bit more. I don't believe there are plans of a sequel to this novel, but if there are, I would welcome it gladly. It's so hard to say goodbye to characters who have grown dear to your heart, or relationships that have only blossomed and taken hold, so I am - against all odds - hoping for just another glimpse into this world. Either way, I cannot wait to see what Cameron comes up with next. If this duology is anything to go by, then it's bound to be fantastic.