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Monday, July 23, 2012

'Spark' Sky Chasers #2 by Amy Kathleen Ryan

 Received from the Publisher 

From the BLURB:

Teenagers Waverly and Kieran were the first boy and girl born in space, and the first to fall in love.

Cruelly wrenched apart when the enemy ship the New Horizon attacked the Empyrean, they have finally been reunited. Now the young crew on board the Empyrean must chase down the other ship in the race to save their parents. But Kieran's leadership methods have raised suspicions, and Waverly questions if this could really be the same handsome loving boy she was torn from such a short time ago. Meanwhile she finds herself drawn ever closer to the wild and unpredictable Seth, despite the accusations Kieran has levelled against him...


After the attack, everything changed.

Two spaceships heading to New Earth hadn’t crossed paths for light-years. And then one day, out of the blue, the New Horizon captained by Anne Mather requested permission to board The Empyrean . . . but that was just the beginning.

Upon her orders, Mather’s New Horizon unleashed an attack that devastated the Empyrean crew and killed most of the adults onboard. But their onslaught didn’t end there – they also kidnapped all the Empyrean’s girl children, as part of grand plan to restore their declining fertility rate and re-populate the New Horizon.

It was only oldest teenager, Waverly’s, grand plan that saw the Empyrean girls escape and return to the devastation of their ship – where they were to discover that the boys had managed to rescue some, but not all, of the badly wounded adults and a fight for leadership had erupted between ship’s protégé Kieran and black sheep, Seth.

Now the Empyrean is trying to catch-up with the New Horizon, and rescue the sole-surviving parents of the attack which left their crew devastated and halved. But fights for leadership amongst this young, inexperienced crew are still breaking out. And when a sabotaging New Horizon spy is thought to have snuck onboard, tensions rise and their battle turns inwards. . .

‘Spark’ is the second book in Amy Kathleen Ryan’s ‘Sky Chasers’ intergalactic YA series.

I really enjoyed first book ‘Glow’ last year. It was quite a space Odyssey/Dystopian, with the narrative split between Kieran and Waverly and observing the kidnapped chaos onboard the New Horizon, and ‘Lord of the Flies’ type battles going on in the Empyrean. It was a great addition to the YA scene, and I really looked forward to second book ‘Spark’.

I must admit that I suspected Amy Kathleen Ryan would struggle to keep my interest in the second book, considering that a lot of the drama and tension had been sucked out and somewhat resolved by the end of ‘Glow’. My favourite thing about that first book was Waverly’s story taking place on the New Horizon – where religious zealot ship’s captain, Anne Mather, had made a flock of her crew and convinced them that kidnapping girl children (raging from teens to pre-teens) was a good and Godly solution to their infertility problem. The New Horizon crew then proceeded to harvest the older girl’s eggs, and speak to them of being the future Eve’s of New Earth. It was creepy-fantastic, zealous religious exploration mixed in with a high-octane escape plot. By contrast, I sort of felt like Kieran and Seth’s battle for captaincy aboard the Empyrean wasn’t nearly as interesting.

When ‘Spark’ begins, the girls have been back onboard the Empyrean for a few weeks. To account for the lacking crew, all children have been assigned jobs – from security to clean-up, harvest and maintenance. Kieran has assumed the role of captain, and Seth Ardvale is being held in the brig – for attempted murder. Waverly is a pariah amongst the crew, who blame her for leaving their kidnapped parents aboard the New Horizon (never mind that she managed to save all the girls – and get shot in the process). The Empyrean is currently abusing their thrusters trying to catch-up to the New Horizon, and rescue the remaining parents onboard – but the extra speed is wreaking havoc on their bodies, and when engine failures and mechanical faults start occurring, it’s suspected that a New Horizon saboteur has somehow snuck on board.

Even though I wasn’t terribly invested in the goings-on of the Empyrean in ‘Glow’, I can appreciate that Ryan has ratcheted up the tensions onboard and done a commendable job of making the new Empyrean situation a damn interesting one. When tensions are running high, Kieran starts succumbing to the same power-hungry failings of his predecessor, Seth Ardvale; throwing dissidents into the brig and failing to share all communications with Anne Mather with the rest of his crew, who have a vested interest in any peace-talks.

Where ‘Glow’ began by introducing us to Kieran and Waverly’s romance (partly of convenience and expectancy – since they are the two oldest children onboard, and expected to procreate) when ‘Spark’ begins it’s clear that Waverly is on the outs, especially with Kieran. Having seen what slavish devotion does to a crew from Anne Mathers’ example, Waverly is becoming increasingly concerned with Kieran’s insistence on crew sermons and the expectation that everyone just do as he says.

Waverly sighed heavily. “Have we all lost our minds?”
“Kids aren’t meant to deal with this kind of stuff.”
“Adults are no better,” Waverly said ruefully, thinking f the way Captain Jones and Anne Mather had both seemed to have their adult crews hoodwinked completely.

Ryan has certainly written an interesting tangled web for the Empyrean children. But, as I suspected I would be, I wasn’t as invested in this story that is solely about the power-struggles between youth. I was perking up much more towards the end, when there’s more overlap with the New Horizon story and I have high-hopes that a third book takes us back onboard that ship, manned by a crazy zealot.

Lots of things worked for me in ‘Spark’ – particularly the changing character of Seth Ardvale, who went from being a frightening bully in ‘Glow’, to a changing man in ‘Spark’. What didn’t work so much for me was Seth’s budding romance with Waverly. I suspected that the Empyrean female favourite and black sheep outcast would have a lot more spark than Waverly and Kieran – but I felt a little let-down by their romantic play in ‘Spark’. I think it comes down to more telling than showing – with the majority of their respective feelings being picked apart in inner monologues, with the characters thinking about acting on their feelings, but not taking the plunge into *showing* how they feel.

Something else that sort of bugged me in ‘Spark’ was the polarities of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ characters. Now, I like characters who live in the grey areas – but I feel like in ‘Spark’, Ryan’s three main characters were all being slotted into ‘black’ and ‘white’. What I loved about Seth in ‘Glow’ was that I wasn’t sure if readers were meant to even like him – he was a total jackass and nearly murderous, but we were given insights into his abusive childhood and hopeless infatuation with Waverly. I loved that Seth was a tricky character to piece together. But in ‘Spark’ I feel like Seth went to the other extreme and became too nice – I wish he’d retained some of his jackass behaviour, for character consistency and just to make him more interesting.  Likewise, I thought Kieran to be a card-board cut out ‘good guy’ in ‘Glow’ (and therefore not nearly as fascinating as Seth) but in ‘Spark’ he is also at the extreme, becoming a complete jerk. And some of his decisions didn’t even seem to be reactive to the situation; it was just to make him come across a little meaner.

I loved first book ‘Glow’, and I’m not too surprised that I didn’t love ‘Spark’ the same way. I understand that this story had to primarily take place aboard the Empyrean, but as I suspected from book one, that ship is not nearly as interesting as the New Horizon. I will be making the trek to book three, if only to be reacquainted with Anne Mather’s villainous plot and zealous theatrics.

3/5
Spark is also available as an Audiobook!

4 comments:

  1. I read Glow last year and liked it, but I wasn't fully absorbed by the story. (I found the themes of religious fanaticism to be the most interesting part, too, though.)It seems like there's a lot that could be there, but something's just missing in these books.

    Great review!! (:

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    1. I think it was good.

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  2. Omg when is the third book coming out i need to prepare for it! please tell me

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    Replies
    1. January 7th 2014

      Get ready for a looooooooong wait :)

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