Author: Kadian Thomas
Series: A Light in the Dark (Book 1)
Genre: Young adult; fantasy
Release date: June 21st, 2017 (Pre-order your copy from Amazon here)
I was provided a free ARC of Sparks Fly by the author in exchange for an honest review.
“Destiny…tells me I can only be one thing, and nothing more.”
Calina is a loner, bullied and ridiculed. She jumps at shadows and would rather run than face a fight she knows she cannot win. Anorvia is a loner, too, though her isolation is self-imposed. Trained since infancy to defeat an evil ruler in another dimension, Anorvia is driven and self-assured. All she has to do is jump through the portal into Kollosnia and save the world. Simple. Or it would be, if Calina hadn’t stepped through first, leaving Anorvia stranded in our world.
Sparks Fly is the first in a new YA fantasy series by Jamaican-born author Kadian Thomas. It is written in dual first POV and follows two young girls, Calina and Anorvia. In part 2, a third POV is added. It is also written completely in present tense which you can take or leave as you like, but I actually quite enjoyed the intimate, conversational tone it added to the story.
I really loved the concept behind this book. It was a nice twist on the old ‘chosen one’ trope.
Structure. The whole book is so well-structured. It starts precisely at the point of change, when both POV characters’ lives are turned on their heads, though I image it would have been tempting to begin the story earlier. The opening scene had me hooked. Thomas describes Calina’s emotions so vividly I could imagine myself on that dark road with her.
Plot. The premise of this book is what really drew me in, and the plot is more watertight than you usually see even from established authors.
Descriptions. Thomas’s descriptions of setting, especially of the natural world both in Colorado and Kollosnia are vivid and beautiful.
Voice. There is no doubting Thomas can write beautifully. As I mentioned above, the present tense narration almost feels as if you’re sitting with the characters over a cup of tea while they tell you what happened. It allows for a deeper, more immersive reading experience. Although the two main ‘streams’ of the story are from the POV of a young girl, there’s never any doubt as to whether it’s Calina or Anorvia in the scene. Thomas creates distinct voices for both girls.
Consequences. Both Anorvia and Calina make some really poor choices – in who they trust and how they act, but unlike many female led YA novels, the characters are confronted with the consequences of their actions, and the fallout which follows. It was so refreshing to see!
The ending! It’s fine, I don’t need a working heart.
Dialogue. While some of the dialogue is quick and witty, especially the exchanges between Calina and Aiden, a lot of exposition is revealed through dialogue, including between characters who should know things but explain them in detail for the benefit of the reader. Much of the dialogue could have been improved by another round of edits.
Phrasing. There are some really odd turns of phrase in this book which really threw me. Early in Anorvia’s chapter, we are told the story of Kollosnia. In the description, we are told of a battle between the ‘the good guys and the bad guys of Kollosnia’ (p.36*). Later, houses are referred to as ‘domiciles’ (p.94). At one stage, a crowd is referred to as a ‘boodle’. Although it isn’t super frequent, each time I came across a weird turn of phrase or odd word choice, it disconnected me from the story. A couple of times I had to check meanings in the thesaurus.
Kadian Thomas creates vivid and beautiful settings and I was attached to each of the POV characters from the first moments they stepped onto the page. I also loved the world of Kollosnia, its colours, its history. Unfortunately, due to the issues I had with the style and the distracting nature of the exposition heavy dialogue, I feel I can only give it 3 stars. Originally, I was going to give it 2.5 but oh my god that ending! However, as the copy I read is an advanced copy, it is possible that many of these issues will be resolved by the time of the official release on June 21st.
Would I read the next book by Kadian Thomas? Yes. I think she shows a lot of promise and once she nails down the dialogue issues, will create beautiful and engaging works.
Should you read Sparks Fly? I’ll leave that ball in your court. Obviously, these are my own opinions on the book. You may notice different things, judge a story by different criteria.
That is, after all, the joy of reading. Though the words we read may be the same, the story never is.
*All page numbers were taken from the e-book ARC.