One thing that I love about writing book reviews is the wonderful new connections that I have made as a result of the social media outlets that I have developed Segnalibro with. Twitter, in particular, has been brilliant for this and has led to me reading some wonderful books following tweets from authors. Over the last few weeks, I have developed a lovely Twitter friendship with Jennifer Clayton, and downloaded her two books to read and review. Now, I’ve mentioned in previous reviews that fantasy based novels are not usually my cup of tea, but I loved chatting to Jennifer so much, I couldn’t help but give her books a read. First up was A Spark of Magic, the first book in the Chosen Saga.
The opening is very enigmatic as we are given a very poetic hint at what is to come and what the themes of this novel will be. It reads like a prophecy and gives the reader a delicious sense of trepidation of what is to come. When we are introduced to Crispin in the prologue, the dark, magical traveller who takes great pleasure at ending the lives of his followers when they displease him, the beginning of the novel starts to make sense. Yet any potential thoughts about the plot are blown out of the water when, in Chapter One, Charlie, a clumsy 15-year-old girl is introduced as the main protagonist. Written in first person narrative, Charlie is a bundle of contradictions and mixed up teenage angst. Clayton captures the stressed out teenager perfectly, as Charlie flits from one thought to the next, her emotions all over the place and laid bare for the reader to know.
A Spark of Magic tells Charlie’s story as she arrives in yet another new town after moving house for the umpteenth time. Charlie knows her Mum and Dad have not been completely honest with her and her anger at this ebbs and flows throughout. She describes her thoughts as they occur, playing out conversations in her head and is quite self-deprecating about herself. Initially, this is a bit irritating but as you rationalise that you are effectively in the head of a 15-year-old hormonal teenage girl, it works really well. I had been warned that it was a slow starter but to stick with it although I think the slow build up to a gripping climax works very well in this plot.
Charlie ultimately finds herself in a quandary as she finds herself attracted to two boys. Tru is the handsome Native American boy who befriends her outside his mother’s shop, after Charlie has been told a haunting story about Isha, the head of a Native American tribe, and his wolf companion, and about how a man only know as the Traveller wiped out Isha’s entire tribe and ripped the heart out of Isha’s wolf. The reason the Traveller lets Isha live is so that Isha can tell the rest of his people about the Traveller’s power and strength, so that they would always fear him. Charlie is spellbound by this story, as she is about the sweet, handsome Tru. He offers to give her a ride to school on her first day, but unbeknownst to Charlie, her mother has arranged for the son of a family friend to pick her up. Jace is also a handsome boy who infuriates and enchants Charlie with his confident flirtation, right from the moment he meets her. Charlie doesn’t want to be attracted to Jace, but finds that she is. Again, Charlie is confused and bewildered and we are privy to her every thought.
However, there is a third person who seems to invade Charlie’s dreams, or are they dreams? Charlie isn’t sure and neither are we as readers at first. However, it becomes clear that Crispin,who we are introduced to in the Prologue, is the traveller from Tru’s mother’s story and that he is, for some strange reason, manifesting himself in Charlie’s dreams. As we get Crispin’s point of view too, we are allowed to know more than our main protagonist, and the juxtaposition of the two viewpoints works really well to build up the tension. As readers, we know the danger, to a point, before Charlie does, but we are also aware that Charlie is having more of an effect on Crispin than he thought he would and it appears that Charlie unwittingly has a hold on him too.
Charlie is also experiencing some weird changes in her behaviour that she does not seem to be able to control. I’m not going to elaborate further on this because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who reads it, but something is definitely amiss as Charlie struggles to get a grip on her thoughts and doubts. It also becomes obvious that Jace knows more than he is letting on and that Tru may not be all he appears either, though whether this is in a malevolent way or not, you’ll have to read to find out, and I’m not sure you’ll know all the answers by the end of this novel either!
Sometimes, it is easy to forget that Charlie is only nearly sixteen. As she experiences the feelings of first love, she doesn’t know what to do and the uncertainties in her life continue to overwhelm her for a lot of the narrative, yet at other times, she appears quite grown up in her approach and the adult themes of some of the chapters add to this sense that she is older than her years at times. The dynamic between Charlie and the other characters is really well written so that the reader knows there is more than meets the eye, but only clues are given about how this will manifest.
Personally, I could understand how Charlie was torn between Tru and Jace and my opinion changed a few times in the novel. However, the enigmatic Crispin was the character who I found most intriguing and I felt that he had a Christian Grey feel about him, a detached curiosity about someone who he should be able to overpower easily but is strangely under her spell, much like Christian with Ana.
If I had one minor complaint about this book it would be that the proof-reading could be better, but I think that has more to do with my personal anally retentive approach to spelling and grammar than anything else. It certainly doesn’t detract from what a brilliant book this is. Clayton’s analysis of a teenage girl’s mind is absolutely spot on and as I have a fifteen year old daughter myself, I am only too aware of how changeable they can be! I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did, mainly because of the fantastical element of it, but I cannot wait to read the sequel, A Blaze of Magic. There are so many open ends left begging for answers that I am really keen to know what happens next, and it has been left with one humdinger of a cliffhanger. Even at the end of this book it is still hard to tell how everything links up at the moment but I hope that by reading A Blaze of Magic, I’ll be enlightened. Most of all, though, I am in awe at the writing skills of my new friend Jennifer Clayton, as she seamlessly flits between the deep, mysterious narrative of Crispin, to the self-doubting, yet tougher than she appears, Charlie.