In the time since I finished Spark by Sarah Beth Durst, I have felt thoroughly conflicted about my rating for it. I haven’t quite been able to determine just what my final opinion of the novel is. There are quite a number of really good pieces to this book, but I just felt regularly that it was bogged down with an unnecessary exacerbation of a character who could not grow on her own until the very end. While the novel had an immense amount of potential, with a world both exceptionally unique and exceedingly exciting and one of the most amazing starts to a novel I’ve read in quite some time, I can’t help feeling that the execution for the major portion of the book fell flat.
In Spark, the children of the world are responsible for taking care of the most important jobs surrounding weather that ultimately affects everyone. At a certain age, qualified children are given an egg which will later hatch a weather beast based on the child with whom they will be matched. These creatures control the weather from sunlight to rain to wind to lightning. And when Mina’s egg hatches a lightning beast, her family is sure there must have been a mistake. But before they know it, she has been accepted at the lightning school and travels away to begin her education.
The best thing Durst does for her novel is build a fantastic and captivating universe. I was immediately jealous that I hadn’t been the one to imagine up such an amazing world. From the weather beasts themselves, to the beautiful descriptions of how they run the entire society, I was hooked. And the beginning of the novel, in which we were introduced both to the world and the main character, Mina, was superbly written. I fell in love with her character immediately, which ultimately lead to a great deal of disappointment when I realized how poorly her development throughout the novel would be portrayed.
The level of repetitiveness in Mina’s incessant lack of confidence about everything and especially in herself and her role in the world grew increasingly frustrating with each turned page. While it was understandable, relatable even, for Mina to have these feelings during such a pivotal moment of her life, but after a while the novel fell into a formulated routine each time. First, Mina began to feel doubt in herself–whether as a result of her family’s responses or her own failings–and then her lightning beast, Pixit, annoyingly refuses to acknowledge how she’s feeling but rather tells her that she’s wrong to doubt herself.
And I think, ironically, Pixit is what destroyed my entire experience with this novel. Where the message was wonderful and the plot was fantastic, the character of Pixit completely decimated the wonderful character that Mina began as. He made little sense in a number of ways, hatching out of his egg with the ability to speak to Mina instantly, unlike literally every single infant in existence. There was a suspension of belief there that I was unable to accommodate largely because Pixit was just massively annoying.
For the most part, I did enjoy this novel, and I think it will be an exceptional read for many young children happening up on it. I doubt they’ll be as annoyed with Pixit as I was, but if there was one thing Durst really need to do for her story, it was to overhaul his character and make him less pushy and more realistic because, frankly, he brought the entire novel down.