Spark by Alice Broadway
We left our protagonist, Leora, after she discovered that the woman she thought was her mother, wasn’t her birth mother. Within the confines of Saintstone everyone has the story of their lives tattooed on their skin and when Leora discovered her real mother was a Blank (not tattooed) and from the enemy town of Featherstone, her world is shaken. Blanks were meant to be violent, uncivilised and a threat to the peace in Saintstone, how could she be related to them?
Since choosing to mark herself with crow tattoo, the symbol of the Saintstone traitors, she has labelled herself as an outcast. Half-Marked and half-Blank, she’s questioning everything she’s ever known about her family and her upbringing. Always watching, Mayor Longsight sees his opportunity and decides to take advantage of Leora while she’s at her lowest. He gives her the choice, either go to Featherstone, beg for acceptance and report back as a spy or her friend’s lives would be at risk.
With the threat from Featherstone increasing, tension looming and war on the horizon, Leora hesitantly agrees, hoping she can stop any clashes and protect her friends at the same time.
Instead of the aggressive, backward community she has always been told exists in Featherstone, she is nursed, housed and soon accepted into a tight-knit community, steeped in tradition and on the edge of starvation. Many are fearful of her markings but the elders in the community see her as a chance to learn and share their stories. She soon learns that the Blanks share very similar stories to the Marked and she starts to appreciate all they’re offering her, even when their history has taught them that the Marked aren’t to be trusted.
Leora reports back to her contact from Saintstone once, after that she can’t bear to deceive the people she has learnt to love and respect. Soon news reaches her that her friend Obel has been taken by Mayor Longsight and she knows she has to return to Saintstone to explain that the Blanks aren’t a threat and save her friends. But will anyone listen to her or will it be too little too late?
Before anything, if you haven’t read Ink by Alice Broadway, you need to change that. It was my favourite young adult book that I read in 2017 so I’ve been excitedly waiting for this second instalment in the trilogy. I adored Ink for its world-building and the community steeped in tattoo based tradition. Spark follows Leora stepping away from that Marked community and spending more time with the Blanks. At first, I missed (what I felt) was the more exotic community but as people and legends of the Blanks is unfurled, I soon found myself equally as intrigued by them.
Leora hasn’t lost any of her strong-headed, independent nature in Spark, putting friendships at risk at the same time as trying to keep the ones she loves safe. However, she does make new friends, mostly in the form of a girl she lives with called Gull. From her, she learns about their traditions and customs. Only from the elders does she learn of the atrocities that the Blanks have suffered at the hands of the Marked and as a seeker of justice, she finds herself taking sides with her new neighbours.
Although not quite as fast-paced as Ink, Spark by Alice Broadway keeps you immersed in the Blanks world by including full chapters of their folklore and meaning. These are woven carefully into the plot and rather than breaking the flow, they add to your understanding of the two villages. This gives the books a fairy tale style that I really enjoyed. Leora unearths some great plot twists in the final quarter of the book and the cliff-hanger at the end has left me chomping at the bit for the final instalment. I can’t wait to see how it’s all tied up in Alice Broadway’s finale in this incredible trilogy.
Buy your copy of Spark by Alice Broadway