Hello! It feels like ages since I’ve written a book review, and as I adored/loved/am-still-reeling from this book, I thought I’d record my thoughts on it. Wildspark is the second novel by the wonderful Vashti Hardy.
A year after the death of her older brother, Prue Haywood’s family is still shattered by grief. But everything changes when a stranger arrives at the farm. A new, incredible technology has been discovered in the city of Medlock, where a secretive guild of inventors have developed a way to capture spirits of the dead in animal-like machines, bringing them back to life. Prue knows that the “Ghost Guild” might hold the key to bringing her brother back, so she seizes the stranger’s offer to join as an apprentice. But to find her brother, she needs to find a way to get the ghost machines to remember the people they used to be. Yet if Prue succeeds, all of society could come apart…
- Firstly, HOW GORGEOUS IS THAT COVER? In my mind, it perfectly encapsulates the sort of adventure you go on when you open the book: it’s whimsy, has a steampunk-edge and is gloriously magical.
- Great world building is becoming a theme in Vashti’s stories. I felt the same way about Brightstorm as I do about Wildspark–the worlds of both felt vivid and multi-layered, and I finished the book wanting more!
- Wildspark gives us a fresh and mature take on the complex issue of death and grief. It wasn’t afraid to ask difficult questions that don’t have straightforward answers. I really enjoyed the concept of second-lifer’s–human spirits who are reborn into animalistic machines, but who remember nothing of their previous life–not only was it super original, but Vashti executed it so perfectly.
- Prue was a brilliant heroine–stubbornly determined and smart as a whip–and I loved that we now have another female middle-grade MC who’s interested (and amazing at) STEM. I also thought her friendships and relationships with her fellow apprentices at the Guild developed beautifully, and I especially loved her fragile friendship with a girl named Cora (complex relationships FTW!)
- Like Vashti’s predecessor, Wildspark’s plot was full of adventure and mystery, and I really enjoyed the trope of “small town girl in the big city” and the added element of Prue getting used to her role as an apprentice, learning the ropes of a whole new role.
- The thread that weaves throughout the whole story is the enduring love and grief Prue experiences in the wake of her brother’s death, which occurs before the narrative begins. This relationship was at the core of Prue’s journey, her motivation from the very beginning is to try and bring her brother back, and her heartbreak and reminisces about Francis is so powerful.
- I really *can’t* gush about this enough. I don’t think this review does Wildspark enough justice–it’s a story that blew me away, and Vashti Hardy is a middle-grade writer to watch–I can’t wait for her next book!