A Spark Unseen Blog Hop, Day 9: Review by Morgan

Today we have reviewer, Morgan, on the blog to give her fantastic review for A Spark Unseen!

When I first read The Dark Unwinding in February of this year, I was blown away. It was the perfect amalgam of beautifully descriptive writing, rich characters and a haunting setting. I was enchanted and read it in one sitting. A Spark Unseen, the sequel to The Dark Unwinding, more than lived up to its predecessor for me. It was one of my most anticipated reads of the year and I loved every minute- the 5 star rating was definitely earned!

Tension radiated from the very first page and I was thrown right back into the gothic halls of Stranwyne. I was anxious, wishing Katharine would turn the key faster! The heartpounding opening sets the tone for the entire novel- it carries on at a brisk and action packed pace, even during the slower bits. Sharon Cameron’s writing never feels rushed, however. She is simply adept at finding the right turn of phrase and the perfect situation to keep the story moving ever onward. Much can be said in a word or a glance. Her writing is descriptive but to the point, with a lyrical cadence that I adored. I also liked that throughout the novel the French remains largely untranslated. The reader has to wonder at the words and puzzle out their meaning just like Katharine does, which kept me engaged.

The best sort of sequel in my opinion capitalizes on the parts that made the first so wonderful but enhances or twists them in a way to give the second book its own flavor and feel. I enjoyed the myriad connections to The Dark Unwinding, from Stranwyne itself to the mystery of the mechanical fish, and Ben Aldridge. There were many floating threads from that book that were carried into A Spark Unseen to great advantage.

At the same time, I loved how different the tone of the plot felt. The Dark Unwinding is best described as a gothic novel with touches of steampunk. It was haunting and magical in the best way. A Spark Unseen feels more like a spy novel. I loved that Katharine had to interact with the ladies of society- biting wit and tea make excellent companions! And I loved the political undertones and secretiveness of Paris. The tone reminded me of Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation books, a historical romance spy series set during the Napoleonic Wars (with plenty of strong heroines and cutting dialogue!).

As much as I enjoyed the setting, the real magic of A Spark Unseen belongs to the characters. Each one had more to them than met the eye and it was fascinating to peel back their layers and discover what secrets lay beneath. Mrs. Hardcastle turned out to be delightfully fun and I knew Mr. Marchand has something up his sleeve. It takes talent to make not just one, but multiple secondary characters stand out and leap off the page. And Katharine is one of the best-written heroines I have ever had the pleasure to read. She is strong and capable but always willing to ask for help from her friends. She’s loyal and loving in the best ways, but fiercely independent and intelligent, able to take care of herself and those around her. She is real, and rash, and not afraid to speak her mind couched in civil language. The conversation she has towards the end of the novel with one character in particular was as close to perfect as it could be. I was grinning from ear to ear. I liked her unconventional friendship with Mary and was glad to see so much of it too. But my favorite, of course, is her relationship with Uncle Tully.

Uncle Tully is one of the most unique characters I have come across. He is simple and complex all at once; I often felt nervous for him and sad for him at times, but he can be so joyous too. He takes pleasure in the simplest things and it warms the heart. I love his eccentricities and his endearment for Katharine: Simon’s baby. I also love their relationship; it is very sweet but never condescending, and the exchange with the flower was perhaps my favorite part. I simply adore how Sharon Cameron has written him. It’s charming and interesting and utterly endearing.

There is so much to be said for this wonderful book, and this series. It’s romantic, action-packed, original and mesmerizing. My mouth dropped open at multiple parts, which I wouldn’t dream of sharing! The twists and secrets are too good to be spoiled. One of my favorite fun parts had to be the dream that Katharine has- it was so sweet and so swoonworthy! My heart melted. I also love when the dress on the cover of a book matches the book’s description, as it did here! And perhaps best of all, I love spotting the meaning of a book’s title in the book itself. Pure delight.

I had to put the book down a few times to go about my life, but every time I did I couldn’t wait to pick it up and start reading again. I’m bereft that it’s over, but at least I can always reread both! I truly hope that there will be more to Katharine’s story in the future. If you liked The Dark Unwinding, you will love A Spark Unseen. It is everything that was fantastic about the first while standing strongly on its own enchanting merits.