Review Detail4.7 1
The Dark Unwinding enchanted and delighted me, so, upon the news that there would in fact be a sequel, I was thrilled, even though such surprise sequels generally result in angry Twitter rants. Of course, sequels to books that were closed enough that you didn't know there would be one can be a tricky business. Though I didn't enjoy A Spark Unseen as much as its predecessor, I'm still happy to have read it and would, if a third pops up, read that one too without a doubt.
In The Dark Unwinding, I fell in love with the characters that call Stranwyne Keep home, and they are just as wonderful in A Spark Unseen. Katherine Tulman very much takes center stage this time, because Lane's missing and Uncle Tully is incapacitated because reasons for much of the book. Though I did miss them, Katherine is a magnificent heroine. She's incredibly strong emotionally and intellectually, and I completely love her for the way she stands up to people. Also, she may be the inheritor of an estate, but she doesn't think herself better than anyone else because of an accident of birth and fortune. At one point, her maid, Mary, rings a bell for her to come and she does, shocking a visitor, but that's the sort of person Katherine is.
One of the highlights of A Spark Unseen turns out to be Mrs. Hardcastle. Initially, she's this nosy, untrustworthy busybody. Over the course of the book, though, she begins showing hidden depths. I mention this fairly minor character to highlight an aspect of Cameron's characterization that I love: people are not dismissed as stereotypes. Uncle Tully could have been dismissed, as he is by many, as a nutcase, but he's respected and loved by the people of Stranwyne Keep. He's brilliant if you stand by to see that, and I like the way Cameron gives depth even to more minor characters.
Now, I do warn that a very minor spoiler is ahead, so you can duck out now if you wish. One of the big plot points is that Lane, Katherine's love interest, has been gone for a year and a half, and is now presumed dead. Katherine heads to Paris to search for him, and, inevitably finds him. A heroine finding her love interest alive in this sort of book is to me not a spoiler, but whatever. Anyway, my very favorite part of the book is when Katherine takes Lane to task for not contacting her and for trying to push her away for her own good. She monologues at him for a couple of pages, and it is a thing of beauty. More heroines need to act this way when their boys start making decisions for them. You tell him, girl!
What Left Me Wanting More:
However, much as I love the characters, I did struggle a bit with A Spark Unseen. I feel like the plot of The Dark Unwinding was more character-focused with an almost magical realism feel to Uncle Tully's toys. A Spark Unseen goes much more heavy on the historical and the political. Sadly, I'm not as interested in the political machinations as I am in the interactions of the colorful cast. For readers who are more plot-focused, I'm sure A Spark Unseen will be your favorite of the two novels. There are also some intriguing twists for those who like those best.
The Final Verdict:
Though not my favorite of the series, A Spark Unseen does contain the magic that made The Dark Unwinding a favorite. As ever, I eagerly anticipate whatever Sharon Cameron writes next.