I absolutely loved Storm, the debut novel of Brigid Kemmerer and the first book in this series, but I have to say I think I loved Spark even more. Spark is Gabriel’s story. Gabriel is the hot-headed older brother of Chris Merrick, one of the main characters in the first book. He is fiery, quick-tempered, cocky and aggressive. He doesn’t think before he speaks. His twin brother Nick is the ‘good’ twin whilst Gabriel is the trouble-maker.
Yet Gabriel has a reason for behaving the way he does. He is tormented with guilt over the death of his parents in a fire when he was still a kid and only just coming into his powers (Gabriel’s element is fire). Gabriel is also still feeling the after-effects from the events in the first book and feels he has let his brothers down. Although he and his twin brother Nick are really close, when Nick begins to spend more and more time with Quinn (Becca’s best friend from the first book), Gabriel feels more alone than ever. After Gabriel insults Quinn, he has a falling out with Nick. The twins have always been there for each other so this is a huge blow to Gabriel, yet he cannot bring himself to apologise.
Layne is our female protagonist. She is a bit of a loner; she has very few friends, preferring to spend time with her younger brother Simon. She is shy and very clever but feels isolated from her peers. Her younger brother Simon is having a very tough time at school. He is deaf and is mercilessly bullied by his classmates. Layne tries her best to protect her brother but there is only so much she can do.
Gabriel and Layne are in the same math class. Layne has always been hyper-aware of Gabriel but knows he would never notice a girl like her. It is Layne who observes how Gabriel is struggling with the subject (Nick had always previously completed all of Gabriel’s homework in this subject and had even taken all his tests for him) and she offers to help him. At first Gabriel is resistant but the two of them soon begin to spend time together and after Gabriel sticks up for her brother Simon, Layne starts to see this ‘thug’ in a completely new light. As for Gabriel, the more time he spends with Layne, the more smitten he becomes.
Gabriel also strikes up an unlikely friendship with Hunter, the mysterious new boy from the first book. As a spirit user, Hunter is aware of Gabriel’s powers and after they end up saving people from a fire, he encourages Gabriel to try and use his abilities in a more productive way. Gabriel and Hunter start to monitor a police-scanner and rush out whenever there is a fire to try and use Gabriel’s unique abilities to save lives and also help Gabriel learn some measure of control over his element.
However, after a spate of fires break out across the town, Gabriel’s family start to view him with some suspicion and the fact that Gabriel is always showing up whenever a fire is reported soon attracts the attentions of the fire chief. Gabriel tries to maintain his innocence that he is not the one setting these fires – but the only people who really seem to believe him are Hunter and Layne. With their help, Gabriel sets out to uncover the truth before someone winds up getting hurt…or killed…
I really enjoyed this story. I loved Gabriel in the first book but it was even better getting to see inside his head. You realize what a lonely and insecure person he really his. His brash exterior is just a cover. He may not always be the nicest person around but he has a good heart and cares very deeply for his family. However, he often has a hard time trying to show it. He struggles with trying to find his place and the confusion he feels practically bleeds out onto the page. When he is isolated from his brothers, the utter loneliness he feels causes him to lash out and hurt the people that he cares most for. It is also what eventually allows him to heal and allow other people such as Hunter, Simon and especially Layne into his life.
I also really loved Layne as a character. She too had a troubled past but she starts to overcome this during the course of the book. She was smart, strong-willed and just completely right for Gabriel. I adored their romance and the fact that Gabriel showed his sweet and more vulnerable side to Layne. Their interactions were sweet but also sizzling hot. Just like the first book, with Becca and Chris, the romance was slow to build but when they do finally give into their feelings, well let’s just say: oh my! I like the fact that Layne really challenged Gabriel. She was not the type of girl to get pushed around at all and they really seem to fit very well together and balance out each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They were perfect for each other.
Gabriel and Hunter: two words – epic bromance! I seriously loved the friendship between these two. Didn’t see it coming at all but it was good to see Gabriel connect with someone outside of his family who really knows what is going on. Their interactions were absolutely brilliant and I am so glad that they have found a friend in each other and I hope they find a way to sort out their differences due to some of the events that happen in this book – it cannot be the end of their friendship – it just can’t be!! Looking forward to Hunter’s book now!!
I also enjoyed Gabriel’s interactions with Layne’s younger brother Simon and cheered when he stood up to the bullies who were tormenting the kid (seriously what kind of school is this where kids can bully a deaf boy and get away with it?!)
As for the rest of the Merrick brothers, well let’s just say Michael is still my favourite – I love him. All of his interactions with Gabriel were pitch-perfect. There was such friction between them which later grew to a deeper understanding once Michael opened up a bit more to his brother. I loved seeing their relationship develop. Chris didn’t get too much focus though I was happy to see him and Becca popping into the story now and again. Nick didn’t get as much page-time as I thought he would given the blow-up between him and Gabriel but this lack was made up when the twins finally reconnected with each other. Nick is level-headed and calm compared to Gabriel but I just bet he has some hidden issues like his brother has and I am looking forward to him getting more focus in his own book.
Spark wasn’t as action-packed as Storm but that was ok with me. I enjoyed the heavier focus on character interactions .It was more of an emotional book, being inside Gabriel’s head was more of a turmoil than Chris or Becca’s. Layne also had her fair share of demons to overcome so too much action would have made this book over-crowded.
Spark is a fast-paced, engaging and thoroughly engrossing read. There was plenty of drama and the arsonist story had twists and turns that I totally did not see coming at all. The character development was the real strength of this novel though. I loved really getting to know Gabriel and Layne. There was also plenty of new insight into Hunter and Michael. Simon was another strong character who I absolutely adored from the start. I missed seeing Chris and Becca and I wish there had been more Nick (and by extension Quinn as Nick and Quinn’s relationship has not had much focus as yet so I do not really ‘get’ them as a couple at the moment) but hopefully this will be rectified in future books.
Overall I was totally invested in Gabriel and Layne’s story. Although Michael is still my favourite Merrick brother, Gabriel is a very close second (with Nick slowly making his way up the ranks!). The brothers are the real draw of the series for me and their interactions with each other are so realistically depicted and authentic – they feel like actual real live people to me and I feel their sorrows and joys keenly. This is Brigid Kemmerer’s real strength as a writer – she makes you care very deeply about these characters. Spark was an excellent instalment in the series, and I cannot wait to read Hunter’s story Spirit.
Overall score: 5/5 stars