I was lucky to participate in this year's National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award contest, sponsored by the First Coast Romance Writers, a chapter of the RWA. I was the final round judge for the Paranormal and Futuristic category. I am happy to announce the winner of this year's contest!
2015 NERFA WinnerParanormal and Futuristic Romance Fiction:Spark Rising
Congrats to the winner!
Below you can read my review for the winning book. And definitely check out these links to get a copy for yourself!
(The Progenitor #1)
Release: December 15, 2014
All that’s required to ignite a revolution is a single spark rising.Review:
Two hundred years after the cataclysm that annihilated fossil fuels, Sparks keep electricity flowing through their control of energy-giving Dust. The Council of Nine rebuilt civilization on the backs of Sparks, offering citizens a comfortable life in a relo-city in exchange for power, particularly over the children able to fuel the future. The strongest of the boys are taken as Wards and raised to become elite agents, the Council’s enforcers and spies. Strong girls—those who could advance the rapidly-evolving matrilineal power—don’t exist. Not according to the Council.
Lena Gracey died as a child, mourned publicly by parents desperate to keep her from the Council. She was raised in hiding until she fled the relo-city for solitary freedom in the desert. Lena lives off the grid, selling her power on the black market.
Agent Alex Reyes was honed into a calculating weapon at the Ward School to do the Council’s dirty work. But Alex lives a double life. He’s leading the next generation of agents in a secret revolution to destroy those in power from within.
The life Lena built to escape her past ends the day Alex arrives looking for a renegade Spark.
Spark Rising was a wonderful find: an adult dystopian sci-fi with well-rounded characters, an exciting plot, and a great slow burning romance. I was happily impressed with this book and I'm looking forward to future installments in this series!
The first surprise I got with Spark Rising was that it was an adult novel. I'm not sure why, but I thought it was going to be Young Adult. I don't think dystopians are seen in adult speculative fiction as often as YA, at least not by me. So as I began reading and discovered that the main female character, Lena, is twenty-four years old and the main male character, Alex is even older, I became even more excited to read on!
As I read about the world that the author had created I became fully immersed in the story. Spark Rising is set a few hundred years in the future, after an apocalyptic event that led to the world being forced to pretty much go back to the days before electricity. Something that people call Dust is settled all over the world, in every object both organic and inorganic, and is even inside people. I do wish the explanation for Dust had come sooner. As it is, it wasn't fully explained until about the halfway point, and I kept wondering before then what the heck Dust was and how it could do the things it could do. But, if you don't let that distract you and understand that you'll get an explanation that makes sense eventually, you will really enjoy the concept of Dust.
In the world of Spark Rising, a Spark is a person who can control and manipulate this Dust. One of the things that Sparks can do is create electricity, and the remade government likes to take advantage of this fact and use Sparks to power towns through painful methods. They even 'send away' Sparks that are too strong. Its the typical dystopian setup: protagonists going up against some sort of big, bad government types that are keeping secrets and have evil intentions. What I think sets this book apart is the premise of the Sparks, world building that was actually relatable, and well fleshed-out characters.
The book is written from the alternating points of view of Lena and Alex, and I honestly don't know whose POV I preferred. Both are such fantastic characters! Lena is strong, feisty, and smart. She has some serious spunk, and she is an extremely talented Spark who has lived in hiding. After meeting Alex she has to decide whether or not to put herself in danger to do what's right. Its a powerful struggle that she goes through and I liked how she could be impulsive one moment and level-headed the next.
Alex, who is also a Spark, definitely goes through his own difficult struggle though. He's often stoic and serious, probably because he's always making important decisions in his head. However, he's sexy and he knows it. For a long time there's some great sexual tension between him and Lena. I wasn't even sure for a while that we would even get any romance out of these two because they were both so staunchly dead set against it! But when they finally start to work out their kinks it's GREAT. There's some definite sparks between these two! (Ha, see what I did there!?) Alex is loyal and protective, but his number one goal is the mission...until he starts falling for Lena. I enjoyed watching him go through his internal conflict of the mission versus Lena's safety, and it was a constant inner battle for him. There is a slight love triangle here, but I honestly don't believe that the other person is really any match for these two. Lena and Alex are a complicated couple who are prefect for each other. They understand each other, even the bad parts.
Overall I absolutely loved Spark Rising! I'm so thrilled to have found a new author and a terrific series to continue to keep an eye on! I recommend giving this book a try. I'll be waiting for the next in the Progenitor Saga!
Recommended for fans of: an urban fantasy-type plot pace, post-apocalyptic settings, strong heroines, science fiction in a dystopian world, slow building romance, and great romance couples.
A copy of this book was received as part of the contest, in exchange for an honest review.
4.5 / 5 stars