Review - Spark by Alice Broadway
Spark by Alice Broadway
Spark is the second book in the Skin books trilogy. You can find my review of the first book, Ink, here
Picture a world where your every action, every deed, every significant moment is tattooed on your skin forever...
Leora is questioning everything she has ever known about her family and herself. As half-Marked and half-Blank, can she ever wholly belong in either fractured community? Mayor Longsight wants to use her as a weapon: to infiltrate Featherstone, home of the Blanks, and deliver them to him for obliteration.
Leora longs for answers about her mysterious birth mother, and Featherstone may reveal them.
But will she find solace and safety there or a viper's nest of suspicion and secrets?
I was sent a copy of Spark by the publisher, Scholastic UK, in return for an honest review.
I will keep this review as spoiler-free as I can, though it will inevitably discuss some of the outcomes of Ink, so beware if you haven't read the first book!
I loved Ink a lot, so much so that as much as I was looking forward to reading Spark, I was a little nervous about starting. Middle books in trilogies can sometimes fall a bit flat, and high expectations can put a lot of pressure on a book. Spark did not disappoint. I loved it from the opening line. "A walk through the woods is never just a walk through the woods." and it kept me gripped right up to the final shocking scenes.
Spark manages to pull off quite a clever trick. It is totally different to Ink, yet the two complement each other beautifully. The back cover of Ink has only one line. "The truth will get under your skin" and it did. This strange, macabre world of skin books and tattoos played on my mind after I'd put the book down, the faith systems made sense, their stories fitted in with their beliefs and what felt so alien when I first read it crept under my skin. The back cover of Spark reads "There are always two sides to every story." This is what Spark is in so many ways, it's a second side to the story. The setting is different, the majority of the characters are different, with different beliefs, different stories. But put them together and things start making sense.
Spark picks up right at the end of Ink. Leora is facing punishment for her actions at the end of the first novel and is soon leaving town heading for the Blank settlement of Featherstone. Almost all of the book is set in and around Featherstone, and it explores the community and the beliefs of the Blanks in depth.
In Ink, the Blanks are talked about as monsters, unknowable fiends. When she gets to Featherstone, Leora discovers what they think about the marked ones of Saintstone. Spark deals a lot with the fear of the outsider, and how that fear can be manipulated to political ends by populist leaders. It's a theme that started in Ink, but is explored in greater depth as tensions rise between the groups.
Something else that I loved about Spark was the way it addressed faith and belief. I felt like the approach to religion and the afterlife in Ink was very Egyptian in its influences, with the weighing of the soul ceremony. In Spark, the beliefs of the Blanks is a lot more Christian in nature. It's all about guilt and penance, redemption and sacrifice. Like many Christians, the Blank children are taught from an early age that they are sinners, teaching them guilt and making them atone, and certainly the immersion in water and the washing away of the sins has a strong Christian feel to it. As a practicing, but free-thinking, Catholic, I found this fascinating.
I still love Leora. She grows a lot from the first book, as her ideas and preconceptions are challenged, as she's forced into difficult decisions. Yet she's still the idealistic, rather naive girl she always was, as she is manipulated by the people around her.
The other characters are all interesting and complex. There's very much a new cast for this book, with cameo roles for a few of Ink's characters, apart from Leora, who remains the main character. I felt like everyone had their own agenda, their own beliefs, formed in part by their background, their cultures, their stories. I particularly loved Gull, the Blank girl Leora meets, and the story of these two girls seems to capture a lot of what Ink and Spark are telling us, that we can have different cultures, different beliefs, but we're all people.
The plot is interesting and although I thought I knew where it was going at times, it still managed to surprise me. It matches the stories within the book, everything is more complex than it seems, there are no simple truths.
Spark is published by Scholastic, and is out on 5th April 2018.
I'm giving Spark five moons. I went in with high hopes, and it's even better than Ink!