After some big meals down the gullet, we pull up a light novella of a meal with A Spark Ignites. A recipe spun up in a new contemporary superhero setting, it offers up a quick bite of superhero delight to enjoy. Considering my own preferences and inclinations, this should be a great meal … or will my taste buds be biased by my own preconceptions?
Before we discover the truth, let’s flip over our ID cards and read the Starving Review bylaws:
- I attempt to rate every book from the perspective of a fan of the genre
- I attempt to make every review as spoiler-free as possible
Spark brings us a world much like our own. Even the superheroes and supervillains that populate the fringes of this world have no actual powers, having more in common with the characters from Kick-Ass or most of the characters from Watchmen than traditional superheroes. Considering the fact they are treated more as oddities than main-line idols, you could even say there is inspiration here from the ‘real heroes’ movement we have ourselves. It makes for an interesting premise and I’m certainly curious to hear more about this world. The only point of confusion I have in this regard is the large amount of amazingly advanced technology that the heroes and villains use. For a world that is otherwise so mundane, super-costumes with loads of powers, devices that can vibrate anything to dust, and pocket-sized EMP devices all feel weirdly out of place. It doesn’t break the recipe, but it did feel odd throughout the book.
Spark is at its best when it concentrates on its cast, with some fairly well-fleshed out teenaged characters who find themselves embroiled into the superhero scene. My favorite character, though, is a pseudo-antagonist, the Inventor, who I hope to see more of in future books. The only weakness here is the main antagonist. Despite being, well, the big antagonist, he is barely in the story, with motivations that are only faintly teased at late in the story before their final revelation at the climax.
The plot, outside of the weak antagonist, rolls along well, focused more as a character-driven piece exploring the main trio of protagonists. The chef does a good job of exploring classic teenage problems confounded by the burdens of suddenly becoming a hero. Throw in liberal dashes of personal tragedy and cook till browned. With a solid and straight-forward plot, Spark keeps up a steady pace throughout.
Spark’s one real flaw, in my opinion, is its length. Yes, it’s certainly possible to present a whole meal in just a few courses and Spark does do that. It just feels weak in terms of world-building and exposition, something that is closely related to what I noted about the sci-fi elements above. Again, this is far from a deal-breaker, but it does hold Spark back from perfection.
To sum up, A Spark Ignites is a solid first meal to a brand new superhero world, a bit light but worth a bite! If you like superhero tales or coming-of-age stories with a twist, I’d definitely pick this one up. If you want to read world-smashing tales or prefer extensive world building, you might not enjoy this one as much as others.
FINAL VERDICT: **** (A solid first meal to a brand new superhero world, a bit light but worth a bite!)