Review: Between the Spark and the Burn by April Genevieve Tucholke
Release date: August 14th, 2014
Publisher: Dial (Penguin)
Series: Yes, #2 in the Between
Source: Print ARC from the publisher
Length: 320 pages
Rating: Chilling, haunting, and atmospheric. Not perfect, but damn if I didn't love it even more than the first. Also, NEELY.
The conclusion to Between the Devil and The Deep Blue Sea, this gothic thriller romance with shades of Stephen King and Daphne du Maurier is a must-read for fans of Beautiful Creatures and Anna Dressed in Blood.
Freddie once told me that the Devil created all the fear in the world.
But then, the Devil once told me that it's easier to forgive someone for scaring you than for making you cry.
The problem with River West Redding was that he'd done both to me.
The crooked-smiling liar River West Redding, who drove into Violet's life one summer day and shook her world to pieces, is gone. Violet and Neely, River's other brother, are left to worry—until they catch a two a.m. radio program about strange events in a distant mountain town. They take off in search of River but are always a step behind, finding instead frenzied towns, witch hunts, and a wind-whipped island with the thrum of something strange and dangerous just under the surface. It isn't long before Violet begins to wonder if Neely, the one Redding brother she thought trustworthy, has been hiding a secret of his own . . .
My review of book one, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
This review contains spoilers for book one
I really loved book one in this series, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, even though part of my brain new that I shouldn't have. Just like Violet, the protagonist, I felt glowed up by the prose and the creepy atmosphere and the haunting, chilling quality of the storytelling. I was charmed and repulsed by smooth-talking, magic-doing, lying liar River in equal measure. And the sequel was just the same experience for me in that the writing is still magnificent, the settings are still Gothic and chilling, and I was completely spellbound by it yet again. However, it was also a very different experience, because Violet is a very different protagonist.
She's starting to see more clearly, and it could NOT be more welcome.
When we last left Violet White, she'd had her heart broken by magic-doing, lying liar River West Redding, who'd breezed into her small town, stirred up eighteen metric tons of shit, and then breezed out. But not before his two borthers showed up--Neely, safe and awesome and non-magic-doing, and Brodie, crazy as a cat on fire, who decided he need to murder and torture pretty much every character in the book.
In this ook, Violet decides she's going to track down River. River is a confusing mess of a character, and Violet is confused about how she feels about him. He promised he'd stop using the "glow", his persuasive magic, and get sane again, since overuse of the glow can completely turn your mind: case in point, Brodie, who thought it was fun to glow Violet into slitting her own wrists in the last book. THAT WAS SUPER FUN.
So yeah, Violet and co. follow clues to find what might be River and might be Brodie. Their road trip takes them from the creepiest god damn town in the Appalachians EVER (nightmares forever, I swear) to a coastal North Carolinian village to the mountains of Colorado. They meet new characters, struggle with new feelings, and face the glow-related traumas of their past. And they get freaked out a lot, because this book is really freaking freaky.
|Okay, maybe you're not as big a wimp as I am, but I was CREEPED OUT.|
I want to eat this prose with a spoon. The whole book is saturated with this timeless, otherworldly quality, because I don't know what planet Violet lives on, but it's certainly not the one I do. Her world is Gothic, vivid, and full of rich imagery. It exists out of time. it's the kind of place with towns that aren't on the map with red-haired forest boys and little girls who spill pig's blood on gravestones. It has island villagers with captain's daughters who live alone and frenzied townfolk who worship sea gods and snowbound miner's towns full of gossip and kindly inn owners. You don't so much have to suspend your disbelief to enjoy Violet's Gothic horror world, but you definitely have to allow your brain to access some kind of sleepy, creepy parallel dimension, and it's a dimension that won't work for everyone. I, however, can't get enough.
This is one of those rare books that, for me, is all about the setting and the atmosphere and less about the characters. I'm generally a character reader, so that's totally out of character (hee) for me. That's not to say I don't like some of the characters in this book, because I do. NEELY. Neeeeeeeeeeely. He was my favorite character in the first book, being the one Redding brother that isn't full of glow and lies and burn, but in BtSatB he reached a whole 'nother level of incredimazing. He's such a stark contrast to his magic-crazed, untrustworthy brothers. He's so much more real, and he laughs things off and drinks tons of coffee and I just LOVE HIM, OKAY? HE'S THE BEST.
Violet's change (and her awakening from her glowed up state last summer) is also the best. There's this one thing she does with a piece of driftwood and the way she swings it into a certain male character's jaw that made me cheer outloud. She's still the same eccentric, quiet girl, but she has a newly curious and independent streak that I couldn't get enough of. She starts to fight the glow, in regards to both Brodie, of whom she's obviously terrified, and River, who confuses the hell out of her.
This is a fast read that is low on actual plot and high on imagery and feeling. Violet's shifting feelings for Neely (her Neelings, if you will) were my favorite things to read about, but they've also both got their own issues to deal with. This is mostly a road trip book, with Violet and a small group of people traveling around with minimal interference from actual adults. If you want a high-octane plot with lots of action, this is not that. I had some small quibbles with the overall shape of the plot, but I still enjoyed it. And it does have some new and interesting characters, most notably Finch, the aforementioned forest boy.
Oh, and then there's a horrifically creepy and tragical twist right at the end and it's awful and terrible and arrrrrgh. Also, I can't believe this is the last book. It feels very open-ended, and yet I was satisfied with the ending. And yet I could easily, easily have more. My feelings (and my Neelings) are so very conflicted.
I shouldn't love this series. By my own internal Gillian rules, I shouldn't, but I do. And I thought Between the Spark and the Burn "solved" a lot of the issues I had with the first book, so to speak, and I ended up loving it even more than the first.