When Lark is stolen from Earth to be a slave on the planet Tavdora, she’s determined to find her way back home to her family, no matter the cost. Placed in the household of a notorious slave trader, Lark quickly learns her best assets are her eyes and ears. And if she’s brave enough, her voice.
Kalen is the Tavdorian son of a slave trader and in line to inherit his father’s business. But his growing feelings for Lark, the new house slave who dares to speak of freedom, compel him to reveal his new plan for the slave ships returning to Earth—escape. Together, they just might spark a change that flares across the universe.
|Publisher:||Entangled Publishing, LLC|
|File size:||2 MB|
|Age Range:||12 Years|
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In my seventeen years I have never seen a Tavdorian. And for every year I have left to breathe on this planet Earth that is my home, I hope to never meet one.
An orange August sun sinks beyond the fields as I haul my basket of corn down the road. Long shadows stretch across the farm, making it appear arcane. With grass crawling on the cracked pavement and tall winding weeds filling what used to be a gutter, I'm surprised this place hasn't disintegrated out of existence like the rest of the old world.
Out in the fields, the others in our community begin heading back to the house, carrying their own baskets. This is the last harvest of the season. Summer's ending. Winter's beginning. Another year gone by and another ahead, and I can't help but wonder whether the Human race will ever be free from Tavdorians.
A warm breeze rushes in, and I inhale the scent of dirt still wet from a summer storm. The smell of home. But it does little to take away my apprehension. The wind is foreboding, strange and restless, an omen. Something dangerous is coming.
Or maybe it was the airships flying overhead this morning that make me feel like chaos is about to hit the tide.
A bead of sweat rolls down my spine as I mount the steps to the farmhouse and set my basket down beside Rika.
She grins as she shoves her crutches aside to make room for me.
"Last basket for the day," I say.
"Finally. I don't think my hands can take another hour of shucking corn." At eleven years old, Rika is the closest thing I have to a little sister. Wisps of red hair frame her pale face. "Do you think those airships came to set us free?"
"Only Tavdorians fly that kind of ship, Rika." My voice comes out in a cautious whisper. "What makes you think a parasite would even care for our freedom?"
"I ain't never seen one fly that close before. Maybe — maybe Terrence is riding on it and come to free us."
"Terrence is gone." I try, but fail, to mask the bitterness in my voice. "He's never coming back."
I squint upward and wonder if the ships will fly back over soon — and see us this time. We get plenty of air traffic around here. The ships are usually tiny specks in the sky, flying too high for their pilots to spot our farm. But this one flew close enough for me to make out the cluster of five diamond-shaped stars painted on the belly of the ship. And thank those lucky stars it flew right past us. We're one of the few remaining free communities on Earth. Finding us would be like finding a rare treasure. According to Johnson, Human natives are worth twice as much to the Tavdorians as Humans born as slaves. We're fresh. Wild. Unmarked and untamed.
"Maybe those Tavdorians came to fight for our people," Rika whispers.
I tear my gaze from the sky. "Tavdorians don't think like us," I say, repeating everything I've heard growing up. I chuck the corn husks onto the discarded pile and pick up the last unpeeled ear. "They're a whole different kind of cruel. Just ask Johnson. If one of those parasites ever sympathized with Humans ..." My sentence ends in a short laugh, though there's nothing funny about such a foolish thought. "I understand your hope, Rika. I've been where you are. Dreaming impossible dreams." I swallow against the tightness in my throat. "But that's all they are. Dreams. After hundreds of years of slavery, the parasites won't suddenly take pity on our people."
"You ain't never even met a Tavdorian, Lark." Her face turns a deeper shade of red, and she shreds a stubborn leaf off the corn. "Just because the ones we've heard about are meaner than an infected dog doesn't mean they're all evil. You can't judge 'em all based on stories you heard from one bitter runaway like Johnson."
Rika — always looking for the good in even the worst of species. Sometimes I wonder how such purity could exist in so cruel a universe, and why the most virtuous heart could be the one born with a disadvantage.
She's right not to judge. But that doesn't stop me from cowering in these forests of Midwestern America, where I'll be happy passing out of existence without ever catching a glimpse of the parasites.
According to Johnson, they look kind of like Humans. But he says they're exceptionally tall and lithely built, with strange pointed ears and eyes the color of crazy. Whatever that means. They use Human labor to excavate the land and send resources to their home planet, Tavdora. And from what I've heard from travelers, and Johnson, and every other person who's been around the parasites, they don't have a single grain of humanity.
"Ya'll didn't think you'd get outta workin' that easily, did ya?"
All bleak emotions evolve into butterflies at the sound of Josiah's deep voice. He's walking our way, a basket full of un-shucked corn in his arms. His shirt is off, revealing an athletic build the color of tree sap, and his hair is a sweaty haystack of a mess from working in the fields. He drops another basket between me and Rika.
"Jo-si-uuuh!" Rika whines. "We just finished our basket!"
He grins. "Oh, c'mon, sis. Help me with mine and I'll get ya another rabbit foot."
She rolls her eyes. "If you kill another innocent rabbit, I'm going to carve your fingernails out in your sleep," she vows, but she begins helping anyway.
Not ready to head inside yet, I pick up another ear and begin shucking as well. I've known Josiah my whole life, and more intimately now than ever. This past year was a devastating time when the feelings between us took form. My brother, Terrence, left and shortly after, Mom got chronically ill. I guess Josiah became an escape. The frequent nights we found solace in each other's company kept the harsh realities at bay.
"What are you two goin' on about?" he asks.
"The ship," Rika pipes up. "Do you think they saw us?"
"Hard to tell. If they did, they didn't show any interest in landing."
"Maybe they thought Tavdorian farmers lived here," I say.
"Tavdorian farmers?" Josiah laughs. "Ya think they ever do manual labor? They use our people to do all the hard work, suck up our resources for their use." He chucks my chin gently. "We don't call 'em parasites for nothin', lil' Larkita."
My cheeks warm at the nickname only Josiah uses for me. He leans in for a quick peck on the lips, and Rika mumbles something about Mother of Mars sparing her.
"Mila thinks they landed in Alno's plantation," he says, pulling away.
The warmth in my stomach condenses into a cold, hard potato at the mention of Mila. With flowing obsidian hair and dark slanted eyes, she's the prettiest girl in our community.
Me? I'm pale. Scrawny as a stray cat. I have ... freckles. Even my hair is dull auburn. Why can't it be a bolder shade of red, like Rika's? Like autumn leaves. Like fire.
Sighing, I pick up another ear, then peel back the leaves cocooning the corn. I may be plain, compared to Mila, and I may be quiet, compared to most. But when Josiah talks to me, I feel like I'm the only person around. He burns in my mind like stars in the night sky —
A blood-chilling scream pierces the air. Terror flickers through me as I glance down the road. My heart stops.
Then it beats. Once. Twice.
Two women are racing toward our house. One appears to be limping. Pepper starts barking wildly and bolts toward them. Rising to my feet, I start to follow.
"Lark, stop!" Josiah shouts.
I slow down as he passes me. The limping woman falls to her knees and starts weeping when Josiah reaches them. I hold my breath and try to hear what the woman is saying, but from this distance all I can make out is mumbling and an uncontrollable sobbing that shreds my heart.
They must be travelers headed to the fabled mountains of Colorado. There's a legendary tribe there, a camp slowly growing into an army that plans to take on the Tavdorians, according to rumors. Terrence took off to join that tribe. I never understood why he would rather risk getting killed than grow old here, safe, with his family. Especially when no one knows if the Colorado tribe even exists.
The strangers say something, and Josiah shakes his head. But they keep talking, weeping, begging. Finally, Josiah swoops the woman up in his arms, and they make their way toward the house. Blood coats the woman's right leg, seeping out of a wound in her calf, and I'm suddenly breathing twice as fast.
"Eck blethian ..." she says between gasps. "Eck blethian ... eck blethian ..."
And then I'm not breathing at all. Because if she's speaking Tavdorian, if the words coming out of her mouth are the native tongue of those foul parasites, then these are no travelers.
They're runaways. Slaves.
"They can't stay here," Rika whispers to me, grabbing her crutches. "If the parasites find out —"
"Rika," Josiah says, "go find Johnson so he can give us a thorough translation. And get Daniel, too." He jerks his chin at me. "Can you tend the wound until Daniel comes?"
"Of course." I follow Josiah inside.
"Eck blethian," the woman says again. They're coming.
My blood runs cold, because we're not supposed to help runaways. We're not supposed to even speak with runaways.
I hurry down the hall to the room Daniel uses as a clinic. Josiah lays the woman on the bed, and blood seeps onto the white sheets. Crimson. Oozing. Unstoppable. I grab a sanitary cloth and place it over her wound, applying pressure. Johnson enters a moment later, sweat gathering in his thick black beard, and begins asking questions in Tavdorian.
As a past runaway, Johnson is fluent in the Tavdorian language. He taught us younger people to read, write, and speak it, too, in case we ever have a run-in with the dominant species. The best way to keep uprisings at bay is to take all forms of literacy away, or so the Tavdorian saying goes. Once you learn how to read, you can't unlearn it. Knowledge is one of the few things Tavdorians can't take from us.
I listen carefully to the runaways while cleaning the wound.
"Eck blethian," the woman says again.
"Who's coming?" Johnson asks in Tavdorian.
"Slave traders," the younger girl says, also speaking in Tavdorian. She couldn't be any older than me, with scrawny arms and legs. "They're already here. We managed to cross the river before the guards caught us, but thank the gods they didn't cross."
I open the cabinet and grab the medi-kit, then turn back to the mother's leg and carefully examine her wound. This is unlike any injury I've ever seen, like a marble-sized ball of fire went into her leg and out the other side, cauterizing the edges but tearing into the muscle and blood vessels. The woman winces, then immediately relaxes as I pour in the numbing solution.
"How many are with you?" Johnson asks.
"Just us two."
Josiah switches to English. "We have a pact with the plantation, Johnson. If the parasites are following these runaways, and they find us hiding them ..."
Daniel steps into the room just as I finish cleaning, his graying hair matted to his forehead. He checks the wound, then takes over tending it.
"Good job, Lark." Daniel's soothing voice always sets me at ease. He takes the gauze and begins binding, the veins mapped across the back of his hands rippling as he works. I continue tending the woman, offering water mixed with herbs to ease the pain and help her sleep.
"The parasites are following them," Johnson tells Daniel, catching him up to speed. "We should send the runaways back and pray to Elohim the Tavdorians don't blame us for helping them. Otherwise we'll all end up as slaves on that plantation, too."
"Don't you remember being a runaway, Johnson?" Daniel asks in a placid voice, not looking up from the wound. "We took you in without question."
"That was from a different plantation," Johnson mutters. "And it's because I've met the Tavdorians that I know the dangers we put ourselves in by helping these runaways. The parasites will have our hides!" He looks at the girl and switches back to the Tavdorian language. "You must leave."
"Please." Her voice breaks. "Feed and hide us today, and we will leave tomorrow. We just need time for my mother to heal. One day, my lords, and we will not ask for an hour more."
"One day won't heal her leg," Daniel says after Johnson's translation. "It'll be a good while before she's able to walk without limping. They won't get very far before she starts bleeding again." He shakes his head and glances at Johnson as he ties off the gauze. "We'll feed them. Give them a warm bed until she's ready to travel again. I've never sent needy people away, and I'm not gonna start now."
"You're a fool," Johnson mutters.
I help Daniel clean up the supplies, then scrub the blood off my trembling hands, wondering why that bullet wound was cauterized, and what will happen to us now that we're helping the runaways who clearly pissed off our enemies.
The girl looks at her mother's bandaged wound as though for the first time, then furrows her brows and glances around the room. "What is this place?"
"It's a camp," Johnson says. "We haven't been touched by the Tavdorians."
She stares at him. "You mean ... you're free?"
"Oh," the girl says. "Well, y-you should move on. The Tavdorians are expanding their territory. They will find you. And they will enslave you."
Chills. They're creeping across my skin and down my spine and into my soul. Because she sounds so certain.
"We have a peace treaty with your plantation," Johnson says. "Or we did, before you came and messed it all up. As long as we send in a portion of our resources, they leave us alone."
"You think they care about Humans?" The girl gives a hollow laugh. "They're letting you stay free because natives are worth more than slaves. The moment Master Alno needs more money, you will be the first ones he seeks out." She shakes her head, stares into space with a haunted look in her eyes. "He already owns you."
I peek at Johnson. His eyes are wide with obvious fear, his hands balling into fists at his side, his Adam's apple sliding up and down his throat. He believes every word the girl is saying. Should I?
"People are going to start panicking," Daniel says. "Johnson, gather everyone for a meeting."
Johnson and Josiah leave the room, and I help Daniel finish cleaning the supplies.
"Will she be okay?" the girl asks in Tavdorian, her eyes haunted by a terror too deep for me to fathom. I glance at Daniel, but then remember he can't speak the language like I can. He never bothered learning.
"She's getting better," I say.
"I shouldn't have left. I should have taken my chances on Tavdora. That's why we ran away, because Master Alno wanted to give me to the slaver, and now look what I've done."
Is that what those airships were this morning? Slave traders? Icy fear makes my muscles stiffen, and I have to shove it down, reassure myself that we've been free from the parasites this long and we'll continue to remain secure.
Releasing a shuddering breath, I place my hand over the mother's forehead.
"She will get better," I whisper. "The important thing is you're together. And you're safe."
"We'll never be safe." She pulls her knees to her chest, and I notice the scratches on her legs, probably from running through the forest. "We might have slipped by the guards this morning, but they'll find us. And when they do ... we will be killed." She wipes a drop of sweat off her forehead with her wrist. Her face is pale and her hands tremble.
"May I check your temperature?" I ask. She looks at me like a frightened rabbit, but then nods. I place my hand on her forehead. It's hot as a steaming kettle. "I'll fix something up real quick to help your fever." I turn to leave, then pause, look back at the girl, open my mouth to ask a thousand different questions, and struggle to pick just one.
"What are the Tavdorians like?" is the question that rolls off my tongue. After that discussion with Rika this morning, I desperately need to know. "Can they be reasoned with?"
"No," she whispers, her eyes wide. "Don't be fooled by how much they look like us. They're violent creatures with no compassion, no mercy, no humanity." She pulls her hair off her shoulder, revealing scabbed welts above the neckline of her shirt. Whip markings. "See? I've been sick the past few weeks. Got these for working too slow." She lets her long hair fall back down over her shoulder. "They enjoy torturing Humans. Why? I have no idea. All I know is, if you haven't met a Tavdorian yet, you want to keep it that way."
Her words shake my spirit. They make a disturbing sensation uncoil in the pit of my stomach and wrap around my lungs until it's too hard to breathe. I don't like thinking about slavery and how most Humans have absolutely no rights of their own, how they're oppressed beneath these merciless parasites. So I turn to get her tea. But before walking out, I catch a glimpse of a triangle tattooed on the girl's upper arm. My breath hitches, and I step out.
There are Tavdorians.
They turn Humans into slaves. Mark them like property.
All this is well-known fact. But somehow, seeing the runaways' emaciated bodies with my own eyes and hearing the desperation in the girl's voice makes it all real.
And more terrifying. A living nightmare.
Excerpted from "The Vanishing Spark of Dusk"
Copyright © 2018 Sara Baysinger.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part I: The Spark,
Part II: The Flare,
Part III: The Fire,
Part IV: The Ashes,
About the Author,
Discover more Entangled Teen books ...,
The Lying Planet,
Garden of Thorns,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
~I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.”~ My Synopsis: In a world where being human is terrifying and aliens haunt their nightmares, Lark tries to keep her head down in a safe area and etch out a meager life. That is until her world is turned upside down and she finds herself a slave on the home planet of the aliens that haunt her every waking moment- perhaps her sleeping ones too. Kalen is the son of a notorious slave trader and is compelled to the strange human who openly speaks of escape- of freedom! Together they might have a chance to change things and to end the torment of all the human race. The Breakdown: I enjoy reading new and exciting books that are outside of my comfort zone. I normally stray away from Alien/Human romances but this time I was pleasantly surprised! I was immediately drawn into the world and found a fondness for Lark. The fear of being enslaved to the Tavdorians is a daily occurrence and I could feel the tension in the book. The imagery was very different than other alien books that I have read, and I did enjoy getting emerged into a beautiful new world that was Tavdora. To being exposed to realities that are not entirely different than our own here on Earth today. Everyone fears the unknown and the hate for a group of people or one individual can sway an entire populous of peoples. I like that the author touched on the taboo of different races and cultures to open the eyes of outsiders so that they might see that there can be is good and evil in every race, species, and populous in any culture. The Characters That Make This Book Delectable: The people of this book were well thought out and their personas were foremost in the author’s mind at all times. There is no question of where any of their loyalties lie and who is on what side of the decided demarcation of inner planetary species! I really loved how lark came out of her shell and decided to step and be a beacon of hope where there was none. I like how she always seemed to blunder her way through the story. After all, she is not a true heroine and never has been trained to be that. No, Lark is a survivor and as long as there is hope, and determination left in her body she will do what is necessary to make it home! Falling in love was just a side note and I grew to like her budding relationship with Kalen. I also could see where Kalon was coming from and how he also wanted to escape the world that his culture had built. With the high expectations that his father put on him and the ever-growing admiration of the slave girl lark, he was completely torn between what was expected of him and what his heart called for. He did a great job of being added to my ever-growing list of Book Boyfriends and I liked how everything with his character played out. The rest of the cast really didn’t leave an impression on me though I did wonder what happened to the stay and was heartbroken over the loss of one so young and unworldly. It is tragic to die so young and this lingered ever in my mind as the book progressed, as it did with Lark. As I believe that the author intended it to be, so it could drive the plot forward and get Lark to reach her full potential. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a bit of love triumphs over evil and likes a happy ending. Though the book seems to be standalone, I believe that there is potential for the author to revisit the world she created and build upon other
The world building for this was amazing! Once again, Sara has created beautiful, dynamic characters, and then thrown them into tragically difficult circumstances, thus creating a riveting story that begs to not be put down. It started with betrayal, ended with hope and healing, and took the reader on a wild ride in between. If suspense, slow-burn romance, and justice are your thing, you need to read this book. I wasn't expecting the LGBTQ representation, but Sara artfully incorporated them in a way that I feel comfortable sharing Spark with all my friends, with all their mixed backgrounds. Well-written. Gripping. Satisfactory. An excellent book for any library.
4.5 Stars! To me, this story was more NA than YA. Although age wasn't mentioned, there was some mature content and the main characters appeared to be living and making life choices of someone in their 20's. Granted this is sci-fi and maybe the ages of the characters were meant to be irrelevant. Even so, as an adult reader, I enjoyed this book tremendously and wouldn’t hesitate to read more like it. The Vanishing Spark of Dusk was intense, romantic, gut-wrenching, and eerily reminiscent of a not-so-long-ago past. I enjoy sci-fi/alien/romance stories and this one was all that and so much more. It was somewhat of an allegorical re-telling of America’s own history with slavery. The effect on me was visceral as I read about the subordinate and inhumane treatment of alien slaves. Much like how I have felt when reading or watching movies about American slavery or Native American displacement. That along with the suspense of attempted escapes, threat of capture, or impending punishments; I often felt on edge and had to put the book down for moments of respite. To be fair, it never stopped me from picking it back up and continuing on and my imagination and fears were always much worse than what actually occurred. As for the romance, I was hooked. With so many obstacles in the way of Lark and Kalen’s forbidden romance, it was thrilling to watch them dance around their attraction and tentatively throw caution aside. Overall, this was a wonderful story that ends with a satisfying conclusion, but with definite hints of a continuing series. If so, I’m on board for reading more of this world. (This is my voluntary and unbiased review of an advanced copy of The Vanishing Spark of Dusk via Entangled Teen and Netgalley)
I've read a lot of books published by EntangledTeen over the course of 2017. Some I liked. Some I loved. As it turns out, however, I saved the greatest for last - The Vanishing Spark of Dusk by Sara Baysinger. Honestly, I think this may just be EntangledTeen's best book yet. I'll be honest here: it took me a while to warm up to Lark. In the beginning she's timid and spineless. She refuses to speak up for herself, and, instead, she consistently obsesses over her failings, wishing she could be brave but never acting on it. There's one pivotal moment in the first few chapters where she overhears some of the other girls talking trash about her, and I was so angry for her - the girls were incredibly out of line - but Lark does nothing. She just sits on the sidelines, convincing herself that they couldn't possibly be talking about her. I was disappointed in her - I wanted nothing more for her to stand up for herself and speak loud and proud - but it gave me hope that she'd learn to be brave. Over the course of the book, Lark grows and prospers. She learns how to speak up for herself and others. She stands up for what she believes in no mater the consequences. She makes great friends and even starts up a romance. Most importantly, she becomes a vital part of her new community, finding a purpose and a home in a seemingly hopeless place. It was a rough journey - sometimes she would go too far with her actions or not think them through enough - but it was such an incredibly worthwhile one to witness. By the end, I was proud of her - I may of even shed a tear. She had come so far. On the other hand, I loved Kalen, Lark's love interest, from the start. Ladies and gentlemen, Kalen is prime book boyfriend material. My heart was swooning - full-out swooning! He's the perfect mix of sweet and spicy, and I loved how he always stuck up for Lark. When Kalen's first introduced, it's hard to tell if he's a good guy or a bad guy; however, soon it becomes clear as day: Kalen has a heart of gold. Like Lark, he also deals with his own challenges. He's torn between embracing the path his father has chosen for the company (slave-traders) or fighting against it, and I felt that the development regarding this was good. I felt for Kalen - it's hard to disappoint family but at the same time it's important to stand up for what you believe in, especially when it involves something as wrong as slave trading. The world building in The Vanishing Spark of Dusk was also fantastic. I thought Sara did such a wonderful job of creating the world of the Tavdorian. It was so easy to picture their planet, and better yet, I loved the level of detail and spice she gave to it - it wasn't the standard fantasy space world by any means. I do wish she would have given some more details into how the Tavdorians overtook Earth. I was curious as to when it all began, how did the government fall, etc. Additionally, the plot in The Vanishing Spark is full of action and romance. There's so much at play here - rebel groups, evil men, space journeys, and a divided family. I couldn't flip the pages fast enough! I just wanted to know everything! The romance was steamy. Lark and Kalen had such a great dynamic - I loved how they constantly would push at each other's buttons. Plus their ending was so adorable. Lush, intricate, and thrilling, The Vanishing Spark of Dusk reminds me just how wonderful YA fantasy can be,.
Due to content, this should be for older teens or NA. I found the beginning of this story to be a little slow, and skipped ahead until she made it on the alien planet. This was equal parts rebellion, romance, and sci-fi story and they all worked together well.
4.5 stars Oh, this book! I came expecting one thing and got quite another! Some of it might have left me slightly uncomfortable (Lark has quite the potty mouth), but others were just overwhelming in how beautiful they were. So many different topics were hit in this story that are so relevant to the issue of race, gender, and self-sacrifice. Lark and Kalen's story was one of the most powerful things that hit home. Though some parts were quite steamy, their relationship is simply beautiful. I won't go into detail of exactly how (because major spoilers), but the author did an fantastic job of showing how incredible real love is. One thing that really stood out to me was the realism. Lark is taken to another planet, but some of the things that she says or happens really blew me away. It made her very much a character I could sympathize with. Not only that, the world of Tavdora was very engaging and felt like I was really there. Overall, this book was very good, despite if I didn't feel comfortable with everything. I would recommend to mature teens for certain content, but this message is for anyone. It's a gut-puncher as well as blooming romance that speaks to the heart. *(I received an ARC via NetGalley. All thoughts expressed are my own.)*
4 stars — Wow. Again, why don’t I read more science fiction?? I would have missed out on this gem if I wasn’t determined to stretch myself this year! OK, before I get going on my review, I just wanted to note that I would call this book mature YA rather than just normal YA. While I have no problems with all sorts of content, I do notice that people get up in arms about this issue, so I figured I would note it. The book does not go into any explicit detail about the actual act, but it’s not completely fade to black. I could see how some might think it skirts the line without crossing, kwim? Consider yourself warned, and hopefully you will still choose to decide for yourself because I highly recommend it! Obligation fulfilled. I absolutely loved the universe that Ms. Baysinger created…it was heartbreaking and gutwrenching yes, but it was also so beautifully detailed that I felt like I could really imagine Tavdoria and the experiences of both Humans and aliens alike. And the journey that Lark goes on is one with a remarkable amount of growth. But it was still believable growth, even as she changed dramatically from who she was on Earth to who she became on Tavdoria…mostly believable because her circumstances completely changed, and so I feel like she adapted in a realistic way. I was a bit skeptical at first, b/c she was so timid and almost a doormat on Earth, and it seemed like she did a complete about face. But having her freedom taken away, and experiencing the other traumas she did (betrayal, Rika), I can see how it would have a profound effect on her. I really did empathize with Lark, and I could see a lot myself in her. I LOVED how her empathy was one of her greatest strengths. And it came into play so often! I could vibe with most of what she felt in this story, I could see myself reacting similarly. Though sometimes her boldness made me cringe, b/c I am probably more like the Lark of Earth in that I don’t like attention. Kalen was a really intriguing hero…I felt so bad for him a lot of the time. He struggled so much with what he felt inside, what his mother taught him, and what he believed was true about Tavdorian society. I thought it was interesting to have our hero be kind of questionable, almost an anti-hero; to be in such a position of power but be so indoctrinated and easily influenced by his family, that even as he felt slavery was wrong, he still believed that nothing he could do would make a difference. I really did love him though, even though he was such a flawed hero. I truly did believe him right from the start about his feelings for Lark, I could feel how genuine he was. As a result I felt for him as he was constantly second guessed and doubted. Honestly, the longer Lark didn’t trust him, the more I wondered if I was wrong all along. And truthfully, I felt like that was drawn out a bit long for me. It’s funny that in the end he wasn’t 100% with the cause, but more just wanted Lark and whatever was safe for her. It was an interesting character arc for him. I enjoyed their romance too…it added just that little bit extra to the story, and I had lots of instances of tummy butterflies. It was sweet, and poignant, and it made me want to smack them sometimes. So all good things. Interesting secondary characters in this one as well, quite an extensive cast in fact. Some that I LOVED, some that I decidedly did NOT. Number one on the love list was definitely the Renegade Tavdorians,
"The Vanishing Spark of Dusk" is a fantastic sci-fi/fantasy/romance that is suitable for older teens in the YA category or NA readers (due to content, in my opinion). We follow Lark, who is a "native" human- one of the few humans left free on Earth. Most humans have been enslaved by the Tavdorians, either to work on plantations on Earth or as slaves on the other planets they have conquered and enslaved. Although native slaves are worth twice as much as other slaves, Lark's community has a deal with the Tavdorian plantation owner next to them- they keep to themselves and he leaves them be. Everything is about to change when two runaways escape into Lark's community and they give them asylum. Lark lives with her mother and the rest of the community in relative harmony- and blissful ignorance. Her brother left a few years before to join an army in Colorado to fight slavery- because what is being free if others are enslaved? Lark didn't really understand. She is happy with her boyfriend Josiah- until she learns that he hasn't been truthful with her during their relationship and betrays her, leading to the death of her friend. Sold into slavery, she is protected by a Tavdorian she met briefly while free- Kalen. Lark fights to secure her freedom and avenge her friend's death, but she soon learns it is futile to fight in this manner. Never losing her spirit, Lark becomes the slave for Kalen whose family owns an importing company- whose largest import has become slaves. The book is broken into a few parts, and I felt that each part could have been fleshed out into a book. Although the ending had good closure, it was still open enough that there could be a sequel. While I absolutely devoured this book (so good I couldn't put it down!), I actually might have liked to see it broken into more books so I could learn even more about these worlds and Lark. We only get a flavor of her life as a free person at the beginning before moving on to her life as a slave. The pace after that first part does slow down a bit, but there is still a lot of content to unwrap and think about. That being said, it was all easy to follow and I never got lost in the plot or the new worlds created here. There were a lot of views on slavery espoused by different characters in the book, echoing some of the views held by humans in the past, and this could potentially spark some good discussions. Lark's situation was a bit ideal in some ways, but she still received some small tastes of the harsher sides of slavery. As for the romance, I really enjoyed the slow build of Kalen and Lark's relationship. I think it really helped that they met (very beginning of the book) while she was still free, and so there wasn't a stark power differential from the get-go that brings in some questions about validity. The focus of the book is really on Lark, so while we get to know Kalen decently well, we really get into Lark's mind. Lark was easy to like and empathize with, the ideal character for the story, and I liked reading her perspective. Speaking of romance, there are some really steamy scenes, including eventually a sex scene (with some detail) that might make this appropriate for older teens. Overall, this is a really fantastic sci-fi/romance, and I absolutely enjoyed every second of it- I would love to read more from this author! I highly recommend to sci-fi/fantasy lovers- this book is sure to be a hit! Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher through netgalley. All