Publication Date: August 30, 2012
In Sparks Ignite by J.A. Gouthro, Elves fight an epic battle against the darkness and then go into hiding. Over the centuries they mix with humans making a hybrid race. The catch is that a lot of those part-human folks don’t know that they have any elf in them at all and never realize that they have magic burning inside of them. Owen, a modern day 18-year-old, has known for years that he had a special power — he once burned a wolf to crisp but not soon enough to save his friend. When Owen’s girlfriend is kidnapped he embarks on a journey to discover his own usefulness, power and ability to save humanity.
I’m going to quote one of my favorite authors, Gary Henry, and his blog Honest Indie Reviews here. It’s a great accomplishment to write a novel. I have heard from other authors that writing a novel is like sending your child out into the world and hoping they make you proud. What follows is my opinion. I so wanted to like this novel but have promised to protect our bond of trust by always being honest with you.
I’m sorry, J.A. Gouthro. I really wanted to like the novel but did not. I know the first go to question for anyone who has read my reviews for a while will be, “Did you not like it because it’s YA?” While Sparks Ignite: Part One of White Fire (Volume 1) is listed by the author as a young adult novel for kids 14+, given the writing style, I think that it should really be geared more toward kids between the ages of 7 – 9. To be sure that I, as a reviewer, was being fair, my 10-year-old daughter (a major fan of the fantasy genre) and I read the first chapters through to where we meet Owen together. She didn’t want to read any further. One of the things my child noticed — and I did too — was the repetition of first names even when there were only two people in a scene.
An example of this is:
Owen tried to suppress the memory but somehow it kept coming back to trouble him. Andrew’s death was the worst thing Owen had ever experienced. Owen was fortunate that Andrew lost consciousness when he did or he would have seen Owen’s fireworks display. Even so, Owen hadn’t wanted Andrew to die.
I find the repetition of name distracting. It always gives the narrative a police report type of quality. Just the facts. We’re not looking in on a scene, we’re looking a static picture and here is what’s happening.
While the plot was a very good idea, the writing style overall lacked a certain sophistication that I think children of the target audience possess. Owen, within the plot, did this and this and this and the reaction to the events was shown through internal dialogue. The narration was very dry and the dialogue is also very stilted. In one scene, a young Elvin apprentice visits another compound to be taken to a dodo cage. He tells the young girl leading him “This is great but what does it have to do with me?” Is that the way someone would react in a realistic sense? Perhaps if the reader was able to connect better with the characters, it would be easier to swallow.
Character development was very shallow. The only mention of Owen having parents comes from his mom fawning over him on prom night and telling him that she always knew he and Alexia would get together. Other than Owen’s friend dying, when he was five and his lifelong love for the beauteous, Alexia, we don’t get much of a backstory on this character. The women in “Sparks Ignite” are vapid, pretty things. In one scene, Alexia is chattering and Owen finds her chattering distracting. Both characters read much younger than their stated age. Felicia is a bit more empowering but she is also kind that gives herself in deference to the males of the story.
All of this said the last 10% of the novel shows great promise. The final scenes with Andrew almost reflect a different kind of writing style. It made me, as a reader, wonder if perhaps Gouthro liked the Andrew character better and gave him the best of the writing. Because of the ending, I would probably read the next book in this series to see if the style improved to more showing than telling us.
The story overall has the feeling of a vignette from the movie The Neverending Story written in a style for younger children (though some content would not be appropriate for younger children). If you like that “Just the Facts, Ma’am” writing style, this may be one for you.
You can read an excerpt and buy Sparks Ignite by J.A. Gouthro on