Gin Oshwald is tired of being a screw up. He knows as much about mechanics as his sister and it isn’t his fault that he has a “spark” that causes electrical malfunctions. Fixing vehicles is in his blood, but when, after another mishap, his sister fires him from the family garage, Gin finds himself out of options.
Captain Lian Hartford is due to start a multi-month diplomatic mission as soon as he can get a replacement mechanic. Temina Oshwald is supposed to be the best and Lian ventures planet-side to seek her out, despite hating to leave his ship, Bethany. Lian finds Gin and, not realizing he has the wrong sibling, brings the eager recruit onboard. Between an increasingly tense diplomatic situation, the threat of terrorism, and a mystery regarding Gin’s past, Lian and Gin struggle to carve out some kind of relationship. But if a rebel faction has their way, the crew of the Bethany may not survive to complete their mission.
Spark in the Stars is one of those books that has a lot to offer, but tends to fall short on some of the things that matter most. The blurb caught my attention right away and the first third of the book is pretty engaging. Gin seems like an accident-prone mechanic desperate for a chance to prove himself. He comes off as excessively naive — to the point I was rolling my eyes sometimes — but despite this, his natural sweetness and eagerness to embrace the world are rather endearing. Lian is a little harder to know and his character didn’t feel quite as solid as Gin. Despite this, he is portrayed as a man dedicated to his ship and crew and he’s easy to champion as he struggles to keep everything from falling apart.
When it comes to romance, Spark in the Stars, trips up. At first, the relationship between Gin and Lian seems poised to evolve slowly and realistically. And then, almost out of nowhere, they’re talking about being in love and possibly even marriage. No more than a month has passed. It borders on insta-love because so little of the relationship seems to occur on page. We’re told they meet regularly as Lian helps Gin learn about his “spark,” but the concept of romance just appears. It doesn’t feel very natural and it’s hard to appreciate their couplehood because it is dropped in our laps rather than being allowed to develop in a more relaxed fashion.
The overall plot to Spark in the Stars does have a essence of originality about it that I appreciated, but after the first third of the book, the action develops awkwardly and too quickly. Gone is the smooth storyline and instead a rather uneven and choppy plot replaces it. We just don’t get much foundation for what occurs on page and things feel hastily established. I don’t know if this is expected to be the start of a series. If so, that might explain some of the unanswered questions, but if it’s supposed to be a standalone then there are some really important plot points that get short shrift.
I enjoyed at least the basics of what Spark in the Stars offered, including a sweet pair of main characters and initially strong start. The plot gets shakier as things move too quickly and the romance between Gin and Lian is ridiculously quick to progress. That said, I think sci-fi fans will appreciate the some of the more original aspects of Spark in the Stars.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.