Monday, December 17, 2012

Spark Book Review

Author: Amy Kathleen Ryan. Release date: 2012. Publisher:  St. Martin’s Griffin. ISBN: 9780312621353.

Annotation: After rescuing the girls who were kidnapped and returning to the Empyrean, Waverly finds herself at odds with her former fiancée, Kieran. Desperate to keep the ship and its inhabitants under control so they can retrieve their parents from the New Horizon, Kieran is struggling to maintain his authority in a ship now crewed by teenagers. To make matters worse, a terrorist seems to be making every effort to sabotage the Empyrean, and Kieran suspects the fault lies with Seth, who is not imprisoned in the brig for his attempted mutiny.

Personal thoughts: I liked the first novel in this series, Glow, but after reading Spark, I can now safely say that I am a real Sky Chasers fan. I really like the author’s pacing and find that it makes the story flow smoothly enough that I would be able to recommend the series to a more reluctant teen reader. The plot is also developed enough, however, for it to be thought-provoking and enjoyable for readers who want a story with a little more meat. I applaud Amy Kathleen Ryan for writing a sequel that is as good, if not better, than the first novel, and I can’t wait to read Flame when it is released in June.

Plot summary: She almost lost her life trying to rescue the girls who were kidnapped and taken aboard the New Horizon, but Waverly Marshall finds a less than welcome homecoming after their shuttle returns to the Empyrean. Desperate to get their parents back from the clutches of the New Horizon’s charismatic leader, Anne Mather, those who are left alive on the Empyrean blame both Waverly and Kieran, who is still acting captain, for their inability to catch up with their sister ship. Seth, who tried and failed to stage a mutiny against Kieran, finds himself locked in the brig, struggling to maintain his sanity as he thinks about all those who were lost during the New Horizon’s attack. Soon after Waverly the other girls’ return to the Empyrean, however, acts of sabotage begin to happen around the ship. Seth finds himself inexplicably released from the brig, his cell door unlocked and the guards knocked out. Kieran suspects that Seth himself is the terrorist wreaking havoc, and Seth, now in hiding onboard the ship, is determined to prove that the saboteur is actually a stowaway from the New Horizon. As dissent and distrust grows on the Empyrean, will Waverly, Kieran and Seth survive long enough to see the rescue of their parents and the end of their mission to reach New Earth?

Review: The effective writing, breakneck packing, and intriguing twists and turns of the Sky Chasers series are as apparent as ever in Spark, the sequel to Amy Kathleen Ryan’s 2011 novel Glow. One of the most enjoyable parts of Glow was that the action began very early on in the story, and continued pretty much without pause throughout the book. The same is true for Spark, which picks up right where the first novel left off. Although romance wasn’t a huge part of the author’s first installment in this series, it is virtually gone in the sequel, making this novel an ideal selection for readers (especially guys) who want to stick with pure action, adventure and science-fiction. The plot twists and turns, leaving the reader guessing about what will happen next. The author does an excellent job of furthering the development of the characters she introduced in Glow, with them growing and adapting as the horrible circumstances they are facing continue to change. Waverly, the somewhat doe-eyed girl who was in love with Kieran at the beginning of the first novel, is now hardened and at odds with her former fiancée. Kieran is becoming increasingly paranoid following the near mutiny staged by Seth in Glow, fearing that the crew and inhabitants left onboard the Empyrean are plotting against him. Seth has also shifted from a brutish bully to a more sympathetic character, out to restore his good name and save the ship from the plots of the terrorist that is now onboard. The book ends on quite a cliffhanger that is certain to leave readers eagerly anticipating the third novel, Flame, which is set to be released on June 4, 2013. Overall, a solid installment in a solid sci-fi series that both teens and adults can easily enjoy.

Genre:  Science-Fiction

Reading level: Grade 8+

Similar titles: Across the Universe and A Million Suns by Beth Revis, A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan.  

Themes:  Space travel, trust, loyalty, sabotage, religion, war.    

Awards/Reviews:  Positive review from Kirkus.       

Series Information: Second novel in Sky Chasers series. First novel, Glow (2011), third novel, Flame, set to be released June 4, 2013.   
Discussion questions:
-         Did you enjoy this novel more or less than Glow? Why?

-       Why do you think Waverly was so conflicted about rescuing the girls from the New Horizon?

-       Do you think Kieran was paranoid following the near mutiny by Seth and his followers? Why or why not?

-        Do you think Seth is a protagonist or antagonist?

-         Do you think Kieran is the best person to be captain of the Empyrean? Why or why not?

-        Who do you agree with on the subject of torturing prisoners: Kieran or Waverly? Why?

-         What would you like to see happen in the third novel, Flame?

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