REVIEWED by J.A. Kenney
Review: 3.0 Stars
Spark Rising (Book 1 in the Progenitor Saga) by Kate Corcino is set in a post-apocalyptic world. All fossil fuels were destroyed two centuries before, and the story takes place in and around the surviving pockets of civilization. Cities that have been built on the backs of humans with special gifts.
Lena Gracey is a Spark, who can draw electrical power from “the dust”. With this ability she and those like her can charge batteries, and power the grids of the few remaining cities. But, Lena was too powerful, for a girl. So her family faked her death, and hid her away. After her father’s murder she flees into the wilderness to live on her own.
Alex Reyes is an agent, a powerful spark trained in the Ward School to police and control rogue sparks. However, he is also a revolutionary who has been working behind the scenes to take down the government and give sparks their freedom.
When Alex is sent to apprehend a renegade spark, the two meet, and the action begins.
Ignition Point the Prequel Anthology to the series is also available.
Spark Rising is action packed. The story starts with that first confrontation between the main characters, and for most of the first half, is one escape or battle between Lena and the Council’s agents after another. Even after the rebels manage to get her to a “safe” place, the action only slows down, but never really stops.
Alex Reyes was in my opinion a great male protagonist. He was strong, kind, but logical and ruthless. Willing to risk himself to make the world a better place, but protective of those under his command.
Lena also had some very good traits. She was a strong, independent character. A survivor. Who cared a great deal for those who were born like she was, strong female sparks, and suffered because of it.
The first thing I feel compelled to mention is that even though the story won a Toronto RWA Catherine Award, I would not describe it as a romance. It is much more an Urban Fantasy book with Sci-fi elements. The relationship between the two main characters is secondary. As far as I can tell the author herself doesn’t describe it as a romance either, so it is just that RWA tag that might be unintentionally misleading.
The “dust” is the second thing that caused me some confusion and kept dragging me out of the story. Without being too spoilery, the dust is presented at the beginning of the book as a mysterious substance that can provide electrical power to the sparks. As the story develops, its nature and the way it works are explained in more detail. I’m not a huge stickler for scientific accuracy in science fiction, but I found the lack of clarity and some (at least to my mind) contradictory elements (How it effects electricity, fossil fuels, hydro power, fire, steam, etc…) to be distracting from the story. I keep frowning, and thinking about things like fossil fuel distributions, the nature of electrical generators, and what constituted an energetic reaction (For Example: the tiny explosion inside a bullet did, but a fire that created enough steam to power a train did not).
Up until this point of the review this book was still a firm 4.0 for me. The first half was great, with only those few issues, which were not enough to downgrade the story as a whole.
Unfortunately, for me, there was one final issue that derailed the story. The sexual dynamics, were slightly antagonistic from the beginning. For example, Lena who is strong enough to be a female “agent” was hidden so she would not be killed. The basis of her parent’s fear or the sexual dimorphism was not explained, at least not directly.
Only after the addition of more, powerful, female sparks, to the story, does the degree of this conflict became clear. To some readers this might not be a concern, but to me it was too much and came to fruition too quickly.
Again, without giving any true spoilers, the interaction between the genders reminded me a bit of Robert Jordan’s A Wheel of Time series. Where the two genders of Aes Sedai (magic users) cannot teach each other, have separate training, and at least historically, had been killing each other.
In Spark Rising, the stronger female sparks have been systematically slaughtered or imprisoned, and there is hatred, distrust, and violence between the genders. There is also an added component of sexual predation which I found to be deeply disturbing. Especially, when paired with the sexual relationship between the two main characters, and the impression that even the “good” male sparks were seen as a threat.
The exact circumstances of the climax of this conflict, and the justifications used to explain it from Lena’s perspective, also did not work for me. When combined with her personal choices following the event, they lowered my opinion of her. I lost the respect and admiration from earlier in the story, and instead saw her as illogical, and dangerous to herself, and those she wanted to protect.
This drew me out of the story, and disconnected me emotionally from the protagonists. I did finish the book, but I had to put it down for several days before I could do so.
I wanted to love this book, and I did for most of its length.
The problems I had with it might not offend or disturb other readers. However, for me, that last negative took away a lot of my enjoyment.
You can’t love them all.
Genre: NA Post Apocalyptic Speculative/Science Fiction
Publication date: December 13th, 2014
Length: 368 Pages
Blush Quotient: Pink
Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair review.