Note: Moth and Spark is an adult title, and does contain some adult content. I usually wouldn’t say much about the target-age, because when I review adult titles, they tend to have tons of YA crossover appeal. But anyway… just so we’re clear. ;)
Written by: Anne Leonard
Published by: Viking Adult
Release date: February 20th 2014
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, Romance
Buy: B&N, Amazon, Book Depository
Add on: Goodreads
A prince with a quest. A commoner with mysterious powers. And dragons that demand to be freed—at any cost.
Prince Corin has been chosen to free the dragons from their bondage to the Empire, but dragons aren’t big on directions. They have given him some of their power, but none of their knowledge. No one, not the dragons nor their riders, is even sure what keeps the dragons in the Empire’s control.
Tam, sensible daughter of a well-respected doctor, had no idea before she arrived in the capital that she is a Seer, gifted with visions. When the two run into each other (quite literally) in the library, sparks fly and Corin impulsively asks Tam to dinner. But it’s not all happily ever after. Never mind that the prince isn’t allowed to marry a commoner: war is coming to Caithen.
Torn between Corin’s quest to free the dragons and his duty to his country, the lovers must both figure out how to master their powers in order to save Caithen. With a little help from a village of secret wizards and a rogue dragonrider, they just might pull it off.
I’ve really been in the mood for fantasy books lately, thanks to amazing books like The Winner’s Curse and Words of Radiance; and also in part because of a few fantasy books I tried to read recently, which I either DNF’d or just didn’t like (which always puts me in a mood to read Something Better). So when the library finally put Moth and Spark on hold for me, I immediately picked it up and started reading it.
Now, when I went into this book, I was expecting neither super-amazing wordbuilding, nor a fast-paced plot. I’ve read lots of reviews of Moth and Spark since its release in February; these all seemed to agree that, more than anything else, Moth and Spark is a romance that takes place in a fantasy world, not a fantasy book that happens to have some romance. And I couldn’t agree more. But I was in the mood for that when I picked it up, which led me to feel more favorable toward it when the worldbuilding was sparse or confusing, and when the clarity of the plot seemed to be disregarded in favor of the romance.
Moth and Spark starts off quicker than I’d expected, with quite a bit of excitement before slowing down for the romance. Corin, the prince of Caithenor, is away from the palace when he’s given a sort of commandment/prophecy that he’ll be the one to free the dragons from their enslavement to the Emperor. He’s made to forget most of what happens to him, but he’s told he’ll remember when it’s time to act. I really liked Corin’s character. He’s in his mid-twenties, and is at a point in his life when he’s getting over his younger, irresponsible ways, and is learning what it will mean to be king someday. He’s still got a bit of that careless charm, sometimes, but it’s tempered with the reality of his position, which I appreciated.
When Corin returns to court, he meets Tam. Tam is a “commoner”, technically, but she’s the daughter of a renowned doctor. She’s at court at the invitation of her sister-in-law, which gets her in where she’d not otherwise be allowed. I liked that Tam is intelligent, kind, and not unbelievably “more common” than the other ladies at court. Sometimes there’s a stark contrast between characters, when a “commoner” is brought to court and doesn’t fit in with the others there. But I found Tam to be a wonderful fit. Her intelligence allows her to adapt quickly, and she becomes noticeably more adept at court protocols as the book progresses, and better at dealing with the other women there — especially the ones who don’t like her.
Tam and Corin eventually stumble into each others’ paths (literally), and from the moment they meet, they’re head over heels for each other. …Yes, this means there’s insta-love in the extreme. But I was okay with it, because the two have great chemistry, and they just seem to fit together. The thing I hate most about insta-love is when there’s no basis for the attraction, but Tam and Corin have an immediate and believable understanding with one another, they have a great rapport, and it just… worked. They’re lovely together.
For everything I liked about Moth and Spark, though, there were definitely things that I feel could’ve been improved.
Because the romance was such a huge focus, I do feel like the clarity of the plot suffered. There’s quite a bit of plot stuff happening in the background, regarding the dragons, assassinations, and the general threat of war that’s growing closer and closer to Caithenor. But there were a lot of places where all the political maneuverings and vague threats got to be a little too involved for the amount of time that was dedicated to them. I was never really clear on the details of the different threats Caithenor faced, or exactly why. But I do think that, however lacking in clarity, the feel of these threats permeated the book, which I liked, because it kept the tension up and the stakes high. Otherwise it would’ve felt like the plot wasn’t moving along at all.
Additionally… we have to talk about the dragons. The dragons make a few appearances, but nothing major until the last 30-40%, which is when the book starts to feel much more like your expected high fantasy, with lots of dragons, and swordfights, and battles — all that good stuff. And the dragons are awesome. But I felt like their potential was wasted a bit. First, their consciousness and personalities (?) weren’t explored as much as I wanted them to be. They seemed like very intelligent creatures, but I felt like the characters in the book treated them with more awe than I ever understood, if that makes sense? Additionally, the dragons have this cool power that has to do with existing a little bit outside of time; and instead of being explored, it was just sort of stuck in there, possibly just for a bit of cool trickery that the dragon riders can do because of it. I’m a sucker for time-manipulation, so this was a bit of a disappointment for me.
And finally, the worldbuilding is definitely on the lighter side… or maybe just the vague, not-quite-fleshed-out-enough side. I was glad to see that it didn’t feel like the world was terribly lacking in details, but there are areas where a lot could’ve been expanded to make things clearer, especially about the countries’ histories with the dragons, which I don’t think were ever fully explained. Also, most of the time, it felt like Moth and Spark was set in a sort of medieval era, but there are also mentions of more technological things, like a carousel, and clockwork, and steam-power. It felt unclear to me, what the world’s technological situation was, and so it was a little disorienting at times.
This is one of those books that I will readily admit, I really really enjoyed. But having said that, there are also a lot of things about it that I can’t overlook when thinking back on it — namely, the worldbuilding, and missed opportunities to develop certain aspects, like the dragons. I almost feel like a sequel could be warranted, just to further develop those things. But this book’s story stands incredibly well on its own, and I don’t think there’s one planned, which I’m okay with.
If you’re in the mood for a romance with a dash of fantasy and magic, definitely give this a shot. It’s an adult title, and I can’t say that it has much YA-crossover appeal, as the characters are older and there are definitely some non-YA scenes in there. (Maybe NA fans would go for this one more? Idk?) But if you like to venture into the adult genres sometimes, you like a little bit of fantasy, and you like a good romance (despite some insta-love), pick this one up. It might surprise you.