I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Sparkers by Eleanor Glewwe
Narrator: Phoebe Strole
Length: 8 Hours 38 Minutes
Published by Penguin on September 30th 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy & Magic, Social Issues, Prejudice & Racism, Performing Arts, Music
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In the city of Ashara, magicians rule all.
Marah Levi is a promising violinist who excels at school and can read more languages than most librarians. Even so, she has little hope of a bright future: she is a sparker, a member of the oppressed lower class in a society run by magicians.
Then a mysterious disease hits the city of Ashara, turning its victims’ eyes dark before ultimately killing them. As Marah watches those whom she loves most fall ill, she finds an unlikely friend in Azariah, a wealthy magician boy. Together they pursue a cure in secret, but more people are dying every day, and time is running out. Then Marah and Azariah make a shocking discovery that turns inside-out everything they thought they knew about magic and about Ashara, their home.
Set in an imaginative world rich with language, lore, and music, this gripping adventure plunges the reader into the heart of a magical government where sparks of dissent may be even more deadly than the dark eyes.
Why Did I Listen To This Audiobook?
I am a completionist and so the very first immediate reason that I listened to Sparkers by Eleanor Glewwe is that it was the last remaining audiobook on the iBooks app on my phone. So, I had to finish it to clear out the app. I seriously cannot be the only person out there with this weird habit of having to complete things. Aside from that very surface reason, I thought that Sparkers initially sounded interesting because it is about a land ruled by magic and there is social stratification that goes on as well. I love stories with this as an element.
What’s The Story Here?
Friends, Sparkers by Eleanor Glewwe is severely underrated. I honestly have not seen any reviews for it. Granted, this book came out September 2014 and I run in YA circles and not so much middle grade. Sparkers is soooo good though. It is a smart, political read with things that I love – namely social stratification and the ramifications of it.
Sparkers is about this girl named Marah Levy. Marah is wicked smart – she knows more languages than most librarians. She also is gifted with music. However, she is a halani meaning that she is a member of the underclass. She lives with her mother and brother, Caleb. Her father died years ago. Marah is at market one day, when she helps a young girl out. The young girl turns out to be a kasiri, meaning she is a member of the upper magician class. So, she invites Marah over for dinner. There, Marah meets Azariah, Sarah’s brother. The two form a friendship based on translating old books.
Unfortunately for Marah, there is this sickness going around causing people to die, called the Dark Eyes. Marah’s brother Caleb catches it as does Sarah and her friend, Lailah. FYI – my spelling of character names may be off because I listened to the book as opposed to read a physical copy. Anyways, Marah teams up with Azariah to translate this old book and find the cure. What happens is that she sparks change and begins to question why the kasiri are in charge.
Sparkersis about social justice. It is about taking risks and speaking up for what is right. I loved that this book had heavy, painful moments. I love that this book really made me think. This book absolutely does not underestimate its reader and instead trusts that children will be able to empathize with Marah and her situation, as well as with the halani.
How’s Marah As A Main Character?
Marah is full of bravery and courage. She’s also studious and smart. I loved her interactions with her family – particularly her brother Caleb, as well. One thing that stuck out to me about Marah is that she was willing to cross the social hierarchy and befriend Sarah, saving her at risk to herself. The whole story is driven by this act of kindness – which come to think of it, I think drives many other stories in real life. I absolutely enjoyed Marah’s character and just, how kind and courageous she was.
How’s The World Building?
I thought that the world building in Eleanor Glewwe’s Sparkers was very well done. I thought she put a lot of care and thought into molding the society and the almost caste system. She does a superb job working in social justice in a way that makes it digestible for youths. I thought the bits with the magic – how the kasiri are able to work magical spells whereas the helani have an intuition foresight worked out well too. I even liked how those with more powerful magic lorded that over those who did not have it. To me, this kind of reflects real life, what with the haves and the have nots – even in a magical setting.
How Is The Narration?
I am so glad I listened to this audiobook. Sparkers is a hidden gem. Phoebe Strole’s narration certainly played a role in my enjoyment of Eleanor Glewwe’s words. Strole has a voice that is perfect for this book. She sounds like a young girl and is able to do different character voices and accents. She also infuses with narration but is never over the top. Speaking of which, the production is top notch. The sound quality is crisp and clear and it is easy to understand all that Strole is saying while narrating Sparkers. In all, I recommend you give this book a shot via audio. It is an underrated read that is well worth your time.
Sum It Up With A GIF:
I felt like a gif about inequality was in poor taste, so here is one about magic – one of the bigger themes of the book.
Other Reviews of Sparkers by Eleanor Glewwe:
The Discriminating Fangirl – “I was enchanted by the worldbuilding”
Cherry Blossoms & Maple Syrup – “a great debut middle grade novel”
Lisa Is Busy Nerding – “It was a total win for me!”
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