A Spark Unseen, by Sharon Cameron (Scholastic, 2013), is the sequel to The Dark Unwinding, and continues the adventures of young Katharine Tulman as she struggles to keep her mentally fragile uncle and his brilliant inventions safe, and away from England's enemies (and its government). It is the age of Napoleon III, and the balance of power between the European nations is precarious--mechanical devices that could sink ironclads would easily tip the balance, and that is just one of Uncle Tully's fantastical creations.
When The Dark Unwinding ended, Lane, the love of Katharine's life, had left her on a mission to France...and when this book opens, so long a time has passed with no word from him that he is presumed dead. Katharine, though, refuses to believe this is so, and when she is caught between armed men, working from the French, attempting to kidnap her uncle, and her own government attempting to co-opt him, she boldly smuggles him out of the country to a dangerous refugee--the old family house in Paris.
There Katharine, searching for Lane while trying to keep her uncle happily sequestered and secret, finds herself caught in a web of political intrigue and danger, where neither she (nor the reader) knows who can be trusted, and just what the heck is really going on....The pages sure do turn fast, but this is definitely one for the reader who is stronger of heart then me-there was absolutely no respite from distress and danger and tension. So if you like those things, you will probably like this one lots.
Although I appreciated the suspense of it all (even though it wasn't quite my cup of tea), I most definitely prefer the first book, which was full of Gothic mystery and magically surreal bits, as well as all the lovely smoldering tension between Katharine and Lane. And that fist book had a lovely sense of place; in this one, Paris, as seen through the desperate eyes of Katharine as just about everything goes wrong around her, doesn't get a chance to shine.
That being said, the sweet relationship between Katharine and Uncle Tully is still as pleasing as ever, and many interesting minor characters added to the interest.
Things are wrapped up more or less at the end of the book (although as long as Uncle Tully is alive, governments will want to exploit him). Though there are hints of more story to come, I just hope poor Katharine will finally get a chance to catch her breath before new danger comes to find her!
(A peevish aside, of no bearing on the book--I find it annoying to see 21st century hair on a 19th century young woman. She looks like she's solving a murder mystery on prom night).
disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher