Review: Sparks of Light

Sparks of Light (Into the Dim #2)
Janet B. Taylor
Published August 1, 2017 by Houghton Mifflin

Sparks of Light is the sequel to Into the Dim, a book about a secret society of time travelers. I really enjoyed Into the Dim, and Sparks of Light is a worthy sequel.

Our heroine, Hope Walton, is recovering from her terrible experiences in 12th century London. She’s found a home with her mother’s family in the Scottish Highlands, and Sparks of Lightshe’s taken her place in the Viators, the group of time travelers. He mother and baby sister are safely back in the 21st century, although her mother is suffering from PTSD from the trauma she experiences while stuck in the 12th century. Hope’s love interest Bran shows up to alert the Viators that his mother, the Viator’s evil nemesis Celia, is plotting to get her hands on a device from 1895 that could give her enormous time-traveling power, something the Viators want to prevent.

The book gets into the action very quickly, and Hope and friends are soon on their way back to 1895 in New York City, at the height of the Gilded Age. Hope poses as a wealthy heiress and stays at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where she meets such real-life socialites as Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt and the inventor Nikola Tesla. The author has clearly done her research, and I really enjoyed her descriptions of 1895 New York, where the Viators see everything from dire poverty to unimaginable splendor.

Things quickly go wrong, and some of the party are trapped in a mental institution. This part of the book is particularly harrowing. Mental health care in the late 19th century is not for the faint of heart, and the “treatments” are horrible. Some of the patients are genuinely ill, but many of them seem to be perfectly healthy people who have been shut away for being “inconvenient.” Mental health care in the 21st century still has a long way to go, but it’s light years ahead of the supposedly scientific treatments of the late 19th century. As awful as the hospital is, it’s a private hospital with some semblance of luxury. I can only imagine how awful a public hospital would have been at this time. The book really makes it clear that being a woman at this time was pretty awful (and it’s also not a good time for the one POC member of the team, Doug, who experiences some virulent racism).

I did have a few issues with the book. A new character is introduced, Gabriella. She’s an old friend of Bran’s, and although Bran show nothing beyond friendly feelings for her, Hope is instantly insanely jealous of her. Gabriella shows up at the beginning and the end of the book, and she’s really underdeveloped. Also, Hope is still mad at her mother for keeping so many secrets from her during her childhood, but this isn’t really explored. I would have liked to see a scene where Hope and her mother has things out. The villain from the first book, Celia, is spoken of often, but she never appears on the page, and we meet some new villains instead. The new villains only show up near the end, and we don’t know much about them, so they felt a little weak compared with Celia in the first book. But these are all minor complaints, and I imagine these issues might be resolved in the next book.

Overall, I really enjoyed Sparks of Light, and it made me feel very happy that I wasn’t a woman living in 1895.

I received an ARC from Amazon Vine.

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