The Vanishing Spark of Dusk
by Sara Baysinger
Publication Date: January 8, 2018
Format: ARC E-Book, 366 Pages
Genres: Young Adult - Sci-Fi - Romance
Find it On: Amazon - Goodreads
My Rating: ★★★★☆
When Lark is stolen from Earth to be a slave on the planet Tavdora, she’s determined to find her way back home to her family, no matter the cost. Placed in the household of a notorious slave trader, Lark quickly learns her best assets are her eyes and ears. And if she’s brave enough, her voice.
Kalen is the Tavdorian son of a slave trader and in line to inherit his father’s business. But his growing feelings for Lark, the new house slave who dares to speak of freedom, compel him to reveal his new plan for the slave ships returning to Earth—escape. Together, they just might spark a change that flares across the universe.
About the Author:
Sara Baysinger grew up in the heart of the Andes Mountains in Ecuador where she spent her childhood exploring uncharted lands and reading all things magical. She now lives among the endless cornfields of Indiana with her husband and two young children. Sara enjoys writing and reading anything out of the ordinary, and has a bad habit of zoning out at the most inopportune moments. She is currently considering seeking medical attention for her potentially life-threatening coffee addiction.
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I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.
This is the fourth book I've received for review from Sara and let me tell you, it's always a pleasure to pick up her work!
The Vanishing Spark of Dusk did a 180 from her other series, a dystopian, and dove into hard core Sci-Fi. The main character, Lark, is a human stolen from Earth by a race of aliens who have systematically enslaved humanity. Lark's home in what was Indiana is one of the last known strongholds of "free" humans on Earth. Headstrong, desperate for freedom, and determined to see her terminally ill mother again, Lark does whatever it takes to escape her captors - even if her life of "enslavement" doesn't seem all that terrible.
Jumping in from that synopsis, I do think it's important to note that this story walks a very fine line of apologism. Is a person from a culture built upon slavery ever forgivable, even if they themselves fight for abolition? If they are improving the lives of individual slaves, fighting to change the system, or even literally freeing people, can they ever be truly absolved while they are still benefitting from the system they oppose? That's a real deep moral can of worms, and I'm not entirely sure I share the opinions this book presents, but I'm proceeding with this review without getting deeper into that analysis.
I love the characters. Lark is an engaging protagonist because she's brave, outspoken, etc., all the things you'd expect from a strong female protagonist. But more than these traits, the most important thing about her is her compassion and hope. It is these strengths of character that get her from point a to b in the story, and they're such essential human qualities that it's really easy to relate to her as a reader.
Kalen's a little harder to talk about without getting into my disclaimer above, but he's well-writen, for sure. The fine line he treads between his role as the son of a merchant empire and his own moral standards makes for interesting plot and character development. The cool thing about him is that I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop somehow, but instead of him doing something awful, or him falling into a trope I was dreading, he would surprise me with true actual dedication to being a good person. By the end of the book, I was much more understanding of Lark's feelings towards him than I thought I would be.
Honestly, the coolest part of this book is its handling of sexuality. When you start venturing into other worlds with alien cultures, I always roll my eyes at how many human prejudices are built into completely foreign cultures. Kalen's culture is largely polyamorous, but it's not disgustingly sexualized. Like, I didn't feel like I was reading some weird pseudo-erotica, as much as sex was mentioned. Also! Consent. Was. Important. A+++ to you, Sara, for creating such a great world with that built in. There was also queer rep in some supporting characters, so extra kudos.
The plot itself unfolded much in the way I expected, and honestly, sometimes things came too easily to Lark. I would have personally enjoyed feeling more danger for her situation (she gains favor and privileges in her new situation real fast, with very minimal resistance, or even fear on her end). But the reason this was so binge-worthy was the characters. For such a dark topic, it was amazing how so many characters would surprise you with their humanity. What a refreshing twist for this genre!
Diversity Score: Multi-racial main relationship (+2), Supporting gay character (+1) = 3