A Spark Unseen

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
A Spark Unseen Book Poster Image
Exciting sequel has romance, adventure, court intrigue.

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Kids say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

History buffs will get a detailed, scandalous, and somewhat-fact-based account of the era of Napoleon III in Paris and the political forces involved. Author Sharon Cameron has written that it's often an intriguing bit of historic lore that gets her started on a story, and many readers may be bitten by the same bug.

Positive Messages

Bravery, loyalty, steadfast love, resourcefulness, and perseverance often come into play.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Katharine is unswervingly devoted to her probably autistic Uncle Tully and goes to great lengths to keep him safe. Though wealthy herself, she has little patience with the snobbery and class prejudices of her time. Several of the supporting characters show strong loyalty, devotion, and courage.


One character is under constant threat of kidnapping for most of the story. Good and evil characters meet violent deaths (a throat is cut, someone's head is fatally bashed in), and others suffer injuries dealing with assaults and disasters. Many descriptions of dead bodies and bones in the catacombs of Paris. Murderous representatives of various governments will stop at nothing to get their way.


There's plenty of romantic longing as well as flirtation with charming but questionable Frenchmen. The reader witnesses nothing racier than much intense kissing, but Napoleon III's pre-imperial penchant for fathering illegitimate children is important to the story. In one incident, female characters caring for an incapacitated male character have to bathe him.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adult characters sometimes drink alcohol. A character is drugged to keep him quiet.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Spark Unseen, the sequel to Sharon Cameron's romantic steampunk thriller The Dark Unwinding, is an exciting page-turner, finding many of the same intriguing characters in ongoing period adventures. Violence abounds: Two people are killed in a foiled kidnapping attempt before the first chapter ends, and a beloved character or two add to the body count as the story continues. Good and evil characters meet violent deaths (a throat is cut, someone's head is fatally bashed in), and others suffer injuries dealing with assaults and disasters. Many descriptions of dead bodies and bones in the catacombs of Paris. One character is frequently drugged to keep him quiet; another is poisoning his stepmother. An amorous emperor's illegitimate children come back to haunt him.

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Kid, 12 years old January 4, 2015

On of the best books I have ever read

I haven't finished the book yet but so far it's amazing and I can't put it down!

What's the story?

Two years after the events of The Dark Unwinding, Katharine Tulman and her maid Mary are awakened in the night by an abduction attempt on her uncle; in the mayhem, at least two people are killed. She soon learns that Uncle Tully, a brilliant inventor who suffers from something like autism, is the target of government agencies that want to steal his inventions for military purposes. Katharine and Mary flee to France in hopes of finding Katharine's lost love, Lane Moreau, who's always been Uncle Tully's best protector. They're quickly caught up in the foibles of Parisian society and the darker intrigue lurking at the court of Napoleon III.

Is it any good?

A SPARK UNSEEN forsakes most of the spooky steampunk of The Dark Unwinding for historical intrigue at the mid-19th-century French court. Often terrified and conflicted, Katharine is an appealing heroine, facing romantic uncertainty, mortal danger, and the silly customs of high society with courage. There may well be a few happy coincidences -- even too many convenient meetings and out-of-left-field revelations for some readers -- but the fast-moving, roller-coaster plot keeps the pages turning from one thrilling adventure and dire peril to the next.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why social class seems to be such an issue in 19th-century Europe. How does it affect characters in this story? Has anything changed today?

  • Do you know other stories about government agents trying to seize scientific innovations and turn them into weapons? Why do you think this is such a popular plot in fiction?

  • What do you know about 19th-century France, especially the era of Napoleon III? What else was going on during this period? Does this story make you want to learn more?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and historical novels

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