Cover Image: Spark


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Member Reviews

There were a lot of dragon stories this year, but this is one of the better ones. Readers will connect with the female character who is overcoming the odds.
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This is a cute story. It has a good message about being yourself and believing in yourself. I could see the author expanding this into a series.
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In the country of Alorria, perfect weather was the norm and crops flourished. This perfect weather did not come naturally, but was the result of storm guardians and five types of storm beasts: sun, rain, wind, snow, and lightning. Wind blew the ships when necessary, and rain only came when the farmers desired. Snow never fell below the tree line, and lightning kept Alorria's magnificent machines operating. One out of four children were selected to become storm guardians who worked with a storm beast, but first they nurtured an egg which would hatch into a the beast. Through this two year process, the child and the storm beast were to become a perfect match. When shy, thoughtful Mina's storm beast hatched, it was anything but shy--it was a fiery lightning beast, which contradicted everything about Mona's quiet disposition. This is a story about discovering who you really are, and harnessing the courage to correct injustices and change the world. Highly recommend to any budding Harry Potter fan who may need a shorter book, but it has all the elements to keep any fantasy reader engrossed and wishing for a sequel!
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The protagonist of this book was charming and the magic society interesting, but something was missing. Great middle grade book and and escpecially good recommendation for lovers of the Wing's of Fire series or the Tuesday McGillyguddy series.
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Spark is an amazing story about friendship, finding your voice, and learning to stand up for what you believe in. The novel focuses on the young storm guardian, Mina, as she and her storm beast, Pixit learn how to become storm guardians. The story deals with self doubt, and fear of rejection, as well as friendship and acceptance. All while delivering the message that even the quietest voice deserves to be heard, and no matter who you are, you can make a difference.
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Life is perfect in Alorria.  Guardians and their dragons control the weather - lightning, storms, wind, sunshine.  Now Mina and her new dragon Pixit will join the ranks.  But, Mina's dragon is a lightning dragon and quiet Mina isn't sure she has what it takes to be a lightning guardian.
As training commences Mina's fears are confirmed as she struggles to produce sparks and even falls and crashes on the wrong side of the mountain.  But that accident leads Mina to learn of the consequences of the Alorrians' actions to the people on the other side.  Can Mina and her friends raise awareness and cause change before it's too late?
This took a bit to really get going but once it did I really enjoyed it.   Having a quieter heroine was really nice and it was a good example of activism in action.
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I love how Mina demonstrates that heroes can be quiet and strong. It’s become the norm to talk about the “strong independent woman” as if she is loud and confident and can do everything by herself. Mina is the opposite. People constantly talk over her, and she needs the support of Pixit and other friends to get others to listen. And it’s okay. Because we aren’t alone; we can be independent and strong while relying others. I also love how this novel shows that best friends can be different and families can be strong support systems.

The plot is relatively straightforward. True history is being hidden (to conceal the cost of the country’s peace and stability), powerful higher-ups trying to cover up this cost, and good people doing little to push for change—which means Mina must take drastic steps to reveal the big secret.

While I enjoyed reading about Mina’s adventures, I did need to push aside doubts. The problems that Mina resolves can be reasonably solved by the adults around her; they weren’t incompetent fools like so many adults featured in MG novels. Which was a nice change but didn’t present a situation where Mina had to take action. She also takes inappropriate actions without consulting others. I understand that she feels like she has to act because no one’s listening to her, and I do believe in flawed characters. However, her actions don’t have consequences; everything goes her way other than a few setbacks that she gets over pretty easily.
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Beautifully written story of a young quiet girl finding her voice in a different way . She learns to express herself through her actions not her volume. In a fantasy land where the weather is always perfect because it is controlled by storm beast she finds there are dangerous consequences to their idyllic life on the far side of the mountains. An excellent story of friendship and doing the right thing.
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I had a discussion with a friend just the other day about what I love about Sarah Beth Durst's novels. First and foremost is that she doesn't have cookie cutter heroines. They aren't always super talented and the best at what they do, or if even they are, they often keep their talents to themselves, and work quietly from the sidelines. And this middle-grade entry offers just that- Mina is a quiet girl with a strong moral center. She is brave and has courage, without ever being brash or showy about it. Together Mina and Pixit are a force for truth. Spark was a delight to read.

The audiobook, narrated by Eevin Hartsough, is entertaining and well-voiced.

I received a Digital Review Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Quality of Writing: 9/10
Pace: 10/10
Plot Development: 7/10
Characters: 8/10
Enjoyability: 10/10
Insightfulness: 9/10
Ease of Reading: 10/10
Overall Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Hey y'all! I'm back with another review of Sarah Beth Durst's middle-grade fantasy. She did a great job, so I'm just going to swing right into my review.
Quality of Writing: Durst's worlds are always full of color and vivaciousness. Each book is set somewhere unique and this one is no different. Alloria was grand, Mytris Lightning School was imposing, and the river system was ingenious. But I couldn't live there. In her last book I felt like I could walk into the pages and blend right in. I didn't quite feel that way with this one. One of the main questions I walked away with at the end was, what do the normal people do? We learned all about storm beasts and guardians, but only one in four children receive eggs. And each member of Mina's family who was old enough has received one. That's four out of four. They must be pretty lucky. And I never learned why storm beasts run out of power after a few years. If these things had been addressed I could have bumped it up to a ten. Even without these answers, the setting and the writing were very good.
Pace: Well done. I was never bored, nor did I feel like it went to fast. An upbeat pace for an exciting book.
Plot Development: I loved most of this book, but the climax just didn't hit me with the force I was hoping it would. I don't want to spoil anything for my readers, but I didn't feel like there was any real oomf behind the climax. There wasn't a sense of real danger, so it just felt very...tame. Throughout the book there were only a few moments where I was on the edge of my seat, and most of the time they didn't last long. While I still loved the plot line and the ideas behind it, the ending was too simplistic for me.
Characters: Mina and Pixit were great characters. I loved witnessing their transition from the beginning of the book to the end. They really grew and blossomed. Jyx, Ferro, and Zek were also fun to read about. The support they gave her and how well they knew her just warmed my heart.
Enjoyability: This book was a quick and fun read for me. The story was interesting and light.
Insightfulness: Mina had a lot of good thoughts and she learned to choose her moments to shine so that people paid attention when she talked. The book had a wonderful theme about how you don't have to be loud to be a leader, and how everyone has something to say. I only took a point off for the Prime Minister, who I didn't really understand. Her motivations and reasonings move the plot forward, but they didn't resonate with me. I wanted her to be a character I could relate to, but she felt very two dimensional.
Ease of Reading: As a middle-grade fantasy book, this is very easy to read.
What a wonderful book, Sarah Beth, and I plan to read more of your books in the future!
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I wasn't sure what to expect, but I enjoyed reading this. An interesting story with fun characters. Well written.
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This is very much a story of finding your own way in the world, when everyone has expectations of you that are less than your own.  

Mina is a very shy and quiet child, and her family is shocked and dismayed when her egg hatches a lightning beast.  They fear that she will not be able to handle Pixit or the demands of bonding with such a creature.  But they do let her go to be trained, even though they think she will fail.  Mina, of course proves them wrong.  I was afraid that Mina would move away from her shy and quiet self in the story, but she never does.  She stays true to herself, even while becoming stronger and a leader.  Her relationship with Pixit was wonderful as well, both of them giving encouragement when needed, and always being there for each other.

Jyx was an interesting character, and I liked her beast Chauda, who was a bit cynical.  Jyx is the opposite of Mina, loud and outgoing and always taking risks.  Although the two become friends, it isn’t always shown how their friendship develops.  Jyx is just sort of there when Mina needs her.  This lack of development was one of the minor things that I didn’t like in the story.  I just wanted a bit more between them to develop.  

The overall plot of the story was interesting, although it was a bit slow at times.  The world building is solid.  I loved the idea of these beasts controlling the weather and making everything better in Mina’s world.  But the idea that what they did in their little corner of the world affected others, was well done.  I also really liked that Mina being quiet and shy ended up being an asset, because no thought it would be her leading the cause, she didn’t get caught.

This is a unique book with a the shy quiet heroine that you didn’t know could exist in fantasy.  I think kids will appreciate the quiet, yet powerful way that Mina takes control of her life and changes the world in the process.
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I received this e-ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

In Alorria, storm beasts and their guardians help control the weather. Sun, rain, wind -- all under their control. Mina's family has hatched storm guardians in the past and now it is Mina's turn. An usually quiet girl, Mina and her family are surprised when newly hatched Pixit turns out to be a lightning beast. Lightning guardians and beasts must go to a special school for training. Shy Mina makes friends for the first time and soon discovers that controlling the weather in Alorria may have consequences for the rest of the world. Mina must find her inner strength to do what is right.

I truly enjoyed this middle grade book! I especially liked how the heroine is shy, quiet, and rarely stands up for herself. It was delightful watching Mina slowly come out of her shell, so to speak, and find her way in the world, which wasn't the path that she expected to take. I would highly recommend this book for readers in grades 4 and up.
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Who doesn’t love an original dragon story?!  I loved that dragons could control the weather and that to create a bond, it wasn’t instantaneous as some stories but that each child had to invest their time, energy and love into an egg to create almost a soulmate. Pixit just shocked my heart into overdrive with his sweetness and Mina just makes you want to hug her. This book would be a great family read aloud or for an adventuring 9-12 year old to read on their own. There is also a hidden element of learning about the weather and how it can affect the land.
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This children's novel is set in a well-defined fantasy world, the land of Alloria, where the populace enjoys general prosperity and happiness, largely related to the always-perfect climate and weather as supplied by its "storm beasts": dragons with a variety of weather-controlling powers, ridden and directed by young Allorians who raise the dragons from eggs. When Mina's egg hatches, she is surprised to learn that her dragonette is a lightning beast. These literally electrical creatures are traditionally matched with action-seeking extroverts, but Mina is the introverted and thoughtful outlier in a loud and loving family. Nevertheless, girl and dragon bond immediately and travel together to the country's storm beast training academy. While endeavoring to perform well at school, Mina discovers that Alloria's weather domination causes destructive natural disasters in other lands, and vows to do something about it - if she can overcome her shyness and self-doubt. Although the plotline's message is broadcast a bit too repeatedly, the book is a pleasant read and a good choice for middle grade science fiction and fantasy lovers. Note: The publisher supplied an advance reading copy via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
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This is the story of a quiet young girl named Mina who lives in Alloria where the weather is always perfect. It is kept perfect because of the bonding between children and storm beasts. Mina is one of the children who bonds with a storm beast. However, when her egg hatches into a lightning beast, her family is certain that some big mistake has been made. Lightning beasts need assertive, loud partners. Mina is certain that her lightning beast Pixit is just perfect for her but her family isn't at all used to listening to her and don't really listen when she tries to tell them. They love her but they don't really know her. 

When Mina and Pixit go off to be trained, Mina has her doubts too. All the other students are much more extroverted and boisterous than she is. Pixit is there to boost her confidence even when the skills Mina needs don't come easy to her. When a storm throws Mina and Pixit to the other side of the mountain that they have been forbidden to cross, Mina is surprised to learn the consequences of Alloria's weather control. The nearby country suffers from devastating storms that kill quite a few people. 

Mina is determined to change things in her country. She needs to find her voice and convince the grown-ups who run things that they have to change their ways. It is wonderful to watch Mina as she learns that you don't have to be loud to have good ideas and that even quiet people can cause major changes. 

This was an engaging middle grade fantasy with wonderful, well-developed characters and a message that was clear but that didn't overwhelm the story. I loved the worldbuilding and the storm beasts who bonded with their selected humans.
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Quiet Mina comes from a large, noisy family. When her storm beast egg starts to hatch, she is excited to bond with the animal and train it to help control the weather in Alorria, which is always temperate and beautiful because of this control. When Pixit is hatched, he turns out to be a lightning beast, which doesn't seem to fit with Mina's personality. Nevertheless, the pair are soon sent off to the capital to train at the Myrtis Lightning School. Once there, she makes friends with Jyx and her dragon Chauda, and starts to think that she might not be in the wrong place. When on a training flight, several members of the school get blown off course and end up on the other side of the mountains, where they are forbidden to be. There, Mina meets some of the outlanders who rescue her and help both her and Pixit heal and get home. They tell her that the ten-year storms that they have on their side of the mountain are deadly, and Mina starts to realize that they might be connected to the ten-year festival that is going to occur soon. On a class trip to the city, she runs into the prime minister by accident, and asks about this coincidence. The prime minister is outraged, but luckily one of the teachers is sympathetic and aware of the situation, and sends Mina back to her family for a week so that the prime minister won't be able to hunt her down. Back at school, Mina realizes that she can't remain silent about the storms on the other side of the mountain, and she starts an awareness campaign. This results in the school being locked down and the festival being moved up, which could prove deadly to her friends on the other side. The students take their dragons across the mountains and rescue people, and also take them straight to the festival, storm-buffered and weary, to explain their plight to the public. This gains popular attention, and the prime minister is forced to shut down the festival and finally address the concerns about the storm dragons altering the weather. 

Strengths: This has a lot of action and adventure, a flying pet dragon,  a magical school, and evil adults who must be thwarted. Add to that an appealing main character who remains quiet but still manages to be powerful, sparkly flying dragons that spark, and a tween saving the day... if it had a few explosions, it would be perfect. But at least there are a couple of fires. Seriously, this is a great dragon novel. 
Weaknesses: I was never entirely sure how the dragons changed the weather (although there was an explanation), and why this made the weather on the other side of the mountains worse. Not essential to the story, but I was curious. 
What I really think: I don't buy a lot of medeivalish fantasy because there is just so much of it, but books like this, that have all the elements middle grade readers crave and are fast paced and exciting, definitely have a place in my collection, and readers who are waiting for the next Tui Sutherland Wings of Fire book may be placated by this!
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Spark is a charming story of a girl who uses her "voice" to make a change.  Introverts, will connect with Mina as she learns that being loud does not always get you heard, but she finds her voice and her innate ability to lead, to protect not only herself and Alorria, but all the people beyond the mountain.  Pixit, Mina's storm dragon, is reminiscent of Jiminy Cricket. We could all use a Pixit to help us believe in ourselves.
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To start off I really like the front cover of the book, I think that's what drove me to want to request to read this book. Sadly, for me, it felt like ages for it to finally get me to start enjoying the book. It could have been because I had a lot on my mind at the time and wasn't really deep into the book but it didn't catch me like I thought it would which is okay, because it's just from my point of view and I'm allowed to have that, I'm not going to knock the book down or anything because of how I felt but I think it would be good for someone younger and would like this. As for me, I might end up giving it another read again later on down the road.
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This is the story of one quiet girl making her voice heard, not by learning to shout the loudest, but by showing her inner strength, determination and courage, and making others listen in order to do something that matters.

As full of excitement, power and tension as a lightning storm!  Mina, an Alorrian farm girl, is waiting for her storm beast, used to help manipulate the weather, to hatch.  But the storm beast that emerges is not what her family expected for their quiet, dependable, sensible girl.  Pixit, a Lightning Beast – unpredictable, loud, brave – bonds telepathically with Mina and helps her to believe in herself.  Theirs is a heartfelt relationship, full of trust, support, love and humour.  

Mina wants excitement and adventure, and to explore the world outside her farm.  She soon finds herself training at Mytris Lightning School where she develops firm friendships, full of trust and humour, with some of the other students.   

During an attempt to harness electricity from a lightning storm, she finds herself outside the boundaries of Alorria, where she makes a startling discovery.  Are the devastating storms suffered by the Outsiders somehow related to the Ten-Year Festival celebrations of her people?  Her visit to the Alorrian Capital does nothing to allay her suspicions, but what can she do?  Can she be the spark that will change the world, just as she always hoped?  Will she be brave enough to defy the authorities, and journey beyond the mountains to find the truth?

I would highly recommend this book to children of 8+:  it is full of adventure, excitement and warmth and has some powerful messages about self-belief, being true to yourself and inner strength.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC of this book.
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