A Spark Unseen is the second installment in Sharon Cameron’s The Dark Unwinding series. This historical teen fiction was full of intrigue and adventure for Katharine Tulman as she flees to Paris to find her lost love, Lane Moreau, and protect her uncle.
When Katharine is attacked in her own home she knows that she must do something to protect her uncle Tully, a brilliant inventor. However, since Lane left, she has been managing the estate and her uncle on her own. To protect her uncle she fakes his death and they remove to Paris in hopes that the British government will not search for him on Napoleon’s side of the channel. Katharine is also desperate to prove that Lane has not been killed, as she has been told; however, the search in Paris is not as easy as she had thought, especially when she encounters a friend of her awful aunt’s and a persistent gentleman bent on “assisting” in her search.
A Spark Unseen was more mystery than anything else. Katharine is caught between the intrigues of the British government and enemy France. It struck me that Katharine, despite her age and her, at times, childish behaviour, was a very courageous character. The fact that she manages an impossible situation and finds herself in a strange city with few allies showed her courage. Katharine is not a tough heroine in the usual way you seem to find in the more fantastical teen fiction of the moment; she can’t fight, she doesn’t have any special abilities. In fact, Katharine is a pretty ordinary young woman with a managing personality. Yet, this did not stop Katharine from saving the day. I liked the fact that Katharine was ordinary and had her failings, her quick temper being one of them. Katharine was an interesting character and I liked her determination throughout the course of her adventures.
While the summary of the book does mention romance, I wouldn’t say that A Spark Unseen was filled with romance. For the most part of the book Katharine’s love interest was missing. What really carried the novel was the mystery that Katharine was slowly unraveling. Who is the man watching her house? Why is an old enemy suddenly in Napoleon’s court? Can she really trust her new found acquaintance? Will she ever find Lane? There was a lot of questions that Katharine was seeking the answers to and this was drove the novel onward. This mystery aspect was well executed and I certainly was surprised a time or two.
I also liked how A Spark Unseen captured the limitations of Katharine’s social status and sex. Katharine’s reputation is brought into question because of her past actions with Lane and her current situation in Paris. I liked this inclusion of historical detail. It does make you think about your actions and how willing you are to compromise your reputation for important matters. But how to decide what’s important? During the period set for A Spark Unseen a woman’s reputation is worth a lot, and it’s apparent that it does lead to some conflict within Katharine, and I can see it coming into question again and again if this series continues. Katharine did not make an easy choice in her situation, and this makes her stand out as an interesting character all the more.
In the end, I enjoyed this historical mystery and would recommend it for teens that enjoy historical fiction and mysteries. There was a dash of romance in A Spark Unseen but it was by no means the centre of the novel.