When I requested a review copy of Spark, I broke one of my avowed reading rules: never read a series out of order. Yet I knew that Spark would only remain on NetGalley for a few days longer, and I had read so many rave reviews of Storm, the first in Kemmerer’s Elementals series, that I knew I couldn’t let this opportunity pass me by. Requesting Spark wound up being a good move; after reading the descriptions for the first two books in the series, I have to say that Gabriel’s bad-boy-falls-for-smart-girl trope appealed to me more than his older brother’s storyline. Unfortunately, I’m not sure that I’m intrigued enough by the world Kemmerer has built to seek out the first in the series, but if I happen to come across it I’d gladly give it a go.
Kemmerer deftly works two of my favorite underused themes into her new series: control of the elements, and brotherly love. Usually, it seems like the latter is portrayed between a pair of siblings (see Rob Thurman’s Cal Leandros series, Sarah Rees Brennan’s Demon’s Lexicon series, and Supernatural). However, Kemmerer isn’t content with giving us a measly duo, so instead we’re treated to a horde of brothers (two of them twins, at that). Reviewers have been praising the dynamic Kemmerer has created among this sibling gang, and while I could see the underpinnings of something sweet, I believe this might be an example of why series are best started at the beginning. I couldn’t help but feel that the foundations of these relationships were solidly established in Storm, and that Kemmerer took it for granted a bit in Spark. Usually, I would applaud an author for foregoing the urge to rehash and repeat past
events for the sake of new readers, but when I happen to be on the other side for once, I can appreciate why authors summarize. I followed the story just fine, though I was a bit lost on some of the finer points. It also took me a while to figure out who was connected to whom familialy and romantically, though I was pretty confident on this point midway through. Still, I felt that something was missing (and no, it wasn’t a spark, although that would be conveniently ironic). While I could see that these brothers cared immensely for each other, I felt too much like a bystander to their affections without getting a sense of how their personalities really worked together.
Apart from this criticism, I quite enjoyed the story, but it never elicited enough excitement to warrant a higher rating. Gabriel was a good narrator, if a bit typical for his stereotype. I would have liked to see him interact more with his twin brother Nick, as I felt that this was one of the relationships for which so much importance lay in the backstory that I wasn’t privy to. I had a more difficult time connecting with Layne, much to my surprise and disappointment, as I usually love reading about the shy, brainy chicks (I am one myself, after all). Yet Layne just seemed a bit too self-involved, despite her air of subservience and altruism. I did like her relationship with her brother Simon and the way that this factored into her growing regard for Gabriel. Still, I couldn’t help but feel that something was missing; it was a formula I should have loved, but it never quite got to the point where I was rooting Gabriel and Layne on. I was more concerned with Gabriel’s potential conviction as the unknown arsonist, and felt that this storyline was insufficiently resolved. I suppose Kemmerer intends to explore it more in the next installment.
Overall, Kemmerer’s writing feels exactly like the type I usually gravitate toward, so I struggle to pinpoint exactly what it is that prevents me from loving this series. Perhaps I ought to give Storm a chance and see if it changes my impressions of its successor; at any rate, I think that the Elementals series is a great new addition to the young adult urban fantasy genre.