Wildspark written by Vashti Hardy
Cover illustrated by George Ermos
Published by Scholastic May 2019
430 pages in paperback
stonking philosophical spec fic
Summary from Publisher’s Website
More wild thrills from the Brightstorm creator. Inventions, ghosts and danger! What if a machine could bring back the spirits of the dead? Prue lives in the Wildspark world, where inventors are prized above all. She’s a farm girl, but her big brother Francis was an engineer, until his death shattered her family. But now an incredible new technology has been created in the city of Medlock. A secretive guild of inventors is using strange ghost-machines to bring back the spirits of the dead. So Prue joins them as an apprentice – but she’s on a risky mission of her own: to bring her brother back to life…
A Reader’s perspective:
Well, you have to pick something up with a cover like that, don’t you? (Thank you George Ermos). I wish you could see the gold lining on it too – like isobars of energy across the dark-red drama of the city of Medlock. The images are so well-suited to the spirited adventure in this thoughtful steampunk story. The huge moon and star-sequined sky hint at al the hopes and heart in the tale, and the winged lion, so wondrous and intriguing, is indeed a key character.
Open WildSpark up and there is a map (hoorah). World-building is a major feature of the Vashti Hardy’s work ( a ‘rising fantasy star’, no less) and you might like to read Brightstorm if you haven’t already. In both worlds, there’s a satisfying mix of the familiar and the strange. In this one ‘automaton farmers’ in the first paragraph soon lets you know what sort of realm it is.
The deliberately retro writing style is ideal for the alternative industrial revolution described. We get time to enjoy the culture and the surroundings and the people as the action unfolds. Any educator/librarian keen on promoting STEM will find WildSpark a great resource for discussion – not least because our main character is Prue Haywood – sister to the famous Francis.
Yet you’ll want to read it most for the story. You will find loss and grief directly related to the fascinating personifates, but it is not a melancholy story. There’s so much humour (I can’t spoil it for you but I think you’ll love Queen Adelaide) and friendship involved. These are essential to the resolution too. Watch out for some decidely scary sequences but expect an uplifting end.
All-in-all, a cracking story which engages with the emotional consequences of technology, with laughter, scares and peril along the way.
A Writer and Editor’s View (some spoilers possible)
Highlights to look out for:
- speculative fiction used to look at the psychological effects of mechanisation and loss
- effective use of traditional third person past tense – which allows for a distinct narrative voice and lets the reader to see things the main character can’t
- clever use of language to establish world – e.g. qwortzite helps reader with pronunciation and suggests it’s both like but unlike our quartzite ( c.f. Philip Pullman)
- issues of class, impostor syndrome & family expectations neatly shown – largely through dialogue
- nice extra touch – activity sheets available on publisher’s website