#SPFBO Review: Spark City (Spark City Cycle #1) by Robert J. Power

SparkCitySo, Spark City is my second to last book to read and review for the final stage of the SPFBO competition.  We’re so close to the end now and for the sake of time I’m copying the description for the book from Goodreads rather than trying to elaborate on the plot.

‘Erroh has a plan. A simple plan. It’ll never work.

Despite his family’s warrior pedigree, he’d rather gamble and drink while living from one tavern to the next. But when his wanderings bring him upon a gruesome slaughter of innocents he is torn from carefree ways.

Spark City is on the horizon and with it the mysterious trials of The Cull. After a life spent rejecting his birth right, the time has come to pick up his sword and accept his destiny.

With an army marching forward, and unlikely companions buy his side, does Erroh have what it takes to stop the coming war?’

To be honest Spark City wasn’t really for me but that’s not to say that other readers won’t enjoy it.  And, I certainly gave it a fair shot, in fact I distributed the story between regular reading and audio and I think this worked quite well because it was much more obvious with the audio version to establish when Erroh was being sarcastic or self deprecating as oppose to boastful and this made a connection easier at the start of the book.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead.  As we meet Erroh he is travelling to Spark City to take part in a cull – which sounds much more drastic than it really is.  This is a world ruled by females and split into alphas and others – for want of a better description.  The alphas, in order to maintain their strong line usually take part in a selection process (the cull) where females who express interest in a particular male are given a number of days to question him and establish a connection.  Erroh, having spent a number of years on the road (probably trying to escape the reputation of his warmongering father) isn’t eager to share his life with another but eventually faces up to his responsibility and heads to the City.

At the same time it becomes apparent that war is brewing in the form of villages or towns that have been totally massacred by a brutal army bent on death and destruction.

Cast back to Spark City and Erroh takes part in the Cull – which turns into something of a trial to be sure given his inability to read others very well or the fact that he turns up to events either hungover or drunk.  Eventually he leaves with a woman who he is now bonded to for life and this is where the drama begins.  The pair travel south, and to cut a long story short, they eventually come across the invading army and are forced to make a stand.

I confess this is a difficult review to write because I have a number of observations that are probably going to come across as negative but I will try to justify my feelings as best I can.  To be honest, I don’t enjoy critical reviews particularly when there are aspects of a book that could have easily lifted it into a much more enjoyable affair for me if other things had been eliminated.

Firstly, the world building is very skimpy indeed, which isn’t to say that I had a problem getting into the story but I was a little curious about how we came to have a world governed by women – don’t get me wrong and trust me when I say I love that as an idea, BUT, and here’s the rub, it’s a concept that is really only played lip service to.  During a good proportion of the story women are often referred to as whores and I’m not going to deny that I found it irritating.  Of course people use derogatory names when they’re angry, etc, but it seemed to be the norm here and it seems to me that as a writer you’re going to alienate maybe 50% of your audience if you keep objectifying them or referring to them in such a way.

On top of this all the alphas are just simply stunning.  That’s very nice I’m sure but are there any other values that make for a leader or alpha – such as intelligence, to give but one example – or is this simply a system that revolves around desirability – it just feels a little fickle, I would have liked to know a little more of what was going on behind the eyes rather than simply being told they were dazzlingly blue or emerald green.

Then there are the exchanges between Error and his mate – and why on earth do we have this whole wolf analogy thing going on?  These exchanges were the least enjoyable part of the book for me.  The two of them came across as excessively immature and some of their inner thoughts, well, they made me cringe.  Of course, I think some readers will probably love the interactions and enjoy the slow building of sexual tension but they simply weren’t enjoyable for me and given that they make up quite a good portion of the story then this was obviously going to be problematic.

Conversely, there was some very good writing and some of the chapters really gripped me – particularly towards the end with all the warring and near death experiences – am I coming across particularly bloodthirsty in this review or what!  I particularly enjoyed , for example, the chapters when Erroh was travelling with the enemy.  They added substance and a different perspective.

At the end of the day I can’t deny this was a quick enough read, it didn’t particularly work for me per se but I think others will get different mileage from this and it certainly ends at a point that will make those readers eager to pick up the next book.

For the purposes of the competition I rate this as a 5 out of 10.

My thanks to the author for providing a copy.  The above is my own opinion.



10 Responses to “#SPFBO Review: Spark City (Spark City Cycle #1) by Robert J. Power”

  1. Greg

    I’m sorry to hear this one didn’t quite hit the mark. It has a nice cover, I love the city at night in the background. Some of the things you mention though would probably bug me too. Look intriguing though.

    • @lynnsbooks

      To be fair I imagine this will work well for some readers and it definitely had some gripping elements, not to mention a gorgeous cover.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Tammy

    I guess it would be a competition if there weren’t some books that didn’t work for you. I do love that cover, though, it’s very professionally done😁

    • @lynnsbooks

      It’s a fantastic cover tbh and it’s a shame that the book didn’t work for me. I’m sure this will have a market though.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    A very fair review. It sounded like a strong contender from the description, but sometimes the execution just doesn’t work.

  4. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    From the outside it looks as if this novel had some good core ideas that were not developed as they deserved, which is a pity – particularly where this peculiar society is concerned. I’m sorry you were disappointed…

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, it’s a shame, definitely some good ideas here and some good writing but this one just didn’t work out.
      Lynn 😀

  5. waytoofantasy

    Great review, Lynn. Sorry this wasn’t a favorite for you. I do love the cover on this one thought.

  6. sjhigbee

    It’s always tricky when a popular book simply misses you – but as ever, I think your points were well made and you were very fair. It would be very boring if we all loved the same things…

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