Spark by Amy Kathleen Ryan is the sequel to Glow, reviewed here. Spark picks up right after the events of Glow. Waverly is back on the Empyrean after her harrowing experiences on the sister ship New Horizon, but she finds things have changed. Kieran, her boyfriend and presumptive husband-to-be, is acting captain of the ship but his way of running the ship strikes Waverly as too harsh. Not only that, but she is shocked to find Seth in the brig. As she acclimates to life on the Empyrean she finds previous assumptions challenged, and must find her way through a minefield of obstacles. The stakes are ratcheted up when they discover a saboteur is on board, and things get very dicey.
The thing I really liked about this book, and Glow before it, is the greyness of the characters. They all show that they are capable of doing questionable things, so you’re not really sure who to root for sometimes. Some readers like Kieran, others think he’s a jerk and root for Waverly. The characters are often bitterly opposed to each other, but there are also times when they acknowledge that the other person was right. We are often reminded that these are kids, after all, trying to run a ship in the absence of an adult crew.
Ryan goes to an interesting place with Waverly. Bitter from her experiences as a prisoner on the other ship, and disheartened by Kieran’s leadership style, she challenges him and their relationship deteriorates sharply. She gets quite ruthless as time goes on, and I thought this was understandable and really explored her character. At the same time I found myself liking her a little bit less than I did in Glow. She takes a militant stance toward the New Horizon, and while that makes sense given her history it didn’t seem very realistic that a group of kids could take on a seasoned adult crew on the other ship.
Seth gets a makeover in this book. Seth has some issues from his upbringing that partially explain why he is the way he is, but it doesn’t excuse his behavior at least in my mind. His actions towards Kieran in Glow were pretty awful. Here however he is presented much more sympathetically, although the author keeps a little edge to him. He’s still a bit of a rogue. Seth has all the best lines too. In a grim tale with little if any comic relief, Seth and his occasional one liners lighten the mood just a bit.
Most of the book involves power struggles and preparations for taking on the New Horizon- the last fifty pages or so are where the rubber hits the road. Kieran and Waverly have an uneasy truce and when the two ships finally meet, things happen and there are some nasty surprises. There is bad blood between these two crews now, but we also see that there are reasons why the New Horizon people act as they do. It doesn’t justify what they’ve done, but both crews feel they are in the right.
This is one of those books where you want the characters to pay attention and pick up on clues that are given, but they don’t and of course this has consequences later. At one point one of the guards says he wishes everyone could just get along, and I thought to myself yes if Kieran and Waverly would just sit down and work together somehow, they could get some things done. But they don’t, and things are rather grim at the end.
The book ends with a cliffhanger, and a pretty big one, but the status quo is definetly changed and it will be interesting to see where the third volume goes. I liked Spark a lot, it keeps the tension going and there are enough surprises to keep you guessing. I stayed up late to finish it and enjoyed it very much.