‘Tell her – and tell her clearly – that if you are not for us, you are against us. She will go to Featherstone, and she will do what she is told, or her friends here will suffer’
(Spark by Alice Broadway. P24.)
The events of Ink left Leora questioning everything she thought she knew about herself and her community. As someone who is half-marked/half-blank, can she continue to live in the Marked community of Saintstone?
Leora is sent by Mayor Longsight to gather information on the Blanks. This takes her outside of Saintstone and puts her in touch with the community her birth-mother belonged to. Leora learns a new set of rituals and stories while she searches for information about her birth-mother.
Will she find safety there? As events unfold, Leora must work out where the threat is coming from.
Spark continues the story where Ink left off and takes us into the wider world and the blank community. For those of you who are not familiar with the series, it is set in a world where some people’s bodies are covered with tattoo-like marks. These marks detail a person’s history: their age and occupation and rites of passage. In Saintstone, people are deeply suspicious of anyone without marks. This fear is exacerbated by religious stories and a corrupt political regime.
In Ink we learned the stories of Saintstone. The Blank community has a contrasting set of stories. The same characters and events take place, but the stories have different themes and outcomes. I love this exploration of storytelling. How theme begins with the storyteller’s opinions. As much as I loved Spark itself, my favourite part was the way it reshaped what we thought we knew.
Leora’s issues are so relatable. She is trying to figure out where she belongs, and she has also realised that one person’s truth may be nothing like another’s. Young people try to form their own opinions, but they are surrounded by adults who sincerely believe their own version of events. Leora has a lot of internal conflicts, which demonstrates that brave heroines don’t have to be full of action.
I also love the theme of political corruption. Even in a community where truth is the watch-word, it turns out that ‘truth’ has a smaller voice than ‘power’. This is a bitter-truth which many of us learn the hard way. It can also be liberating to understand this – that just because someone has the status to come out on top, it doesn’t mean they were correct or even honest. In a climate of misinformation and prejudice, these themes have never been more relevant.
The ending is explosive. I’m counting down for the next installment. Alice Broadway is a major-talent and she has created a fascinating world.
Huge thanks to Scholastic UK for my copy of Spark. Opinions my own.