Review: Wildspark

Author: Vashti Hardy
Cover Illustration: George Ermos
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication: 2nd May

I was utterly spellbound by this absolute marvel of a book, full of jaw-dropping discoveries and unexpected twists, led by the most wonderfully realised cast of human and personifate characters.  The story is crafted beautifully by a masterful storyteller, whose imagination and world-building are breath-taking.

Prue Haywood is a talented engineer who lives on her small farm, building and repairing mechanimals.  She is overwhelmed by grief at the devastating loss of her older brother Francis.  But what if she could find a way to bring her adored brother back? 

A seemingly chance encounter with Craftsman Primrose from the Imperial Personifate Guild of Medlock offers her just that.  Prue makes a spur of the moment decision to leave her small farm and travel to the City of Medlock where she accepts an apprenticeship with Craftsman Primrose under the guise of Frances.

Once apprenticed, she is determined to use her superb engineering talent to bring her brother back into her life.  How?  The Guild have perfected the ability to bring people back from the dead and place them in the bodies of animal personifates, but they have no memories of their previous lives.  Can Prue bring her brother back with his memories intact? 

It is not long before Prue and her friends, Agapantha and Edwin (who is the first personificate apprentice) make some startling discoveries which lead them on an action-packed adventure to save the City of Medlock – but who is the enemy?  What terrors lurk in the depths of the forest?  The tension is palpable as the plot twists thicken, the threat increases, loyalties are questioned, and heart-breaking decisions have to be made. 

Prue is just the most amazingly inspirational young girl.  She is not only ingenious, curious and determined but also courageous, kind-hearted and principled, no matter the cost.  She is also a fantastic STEM role model, who is determined to make a difference in the world. 

The work of the Guild also deserves mention as it raises fascinating moral questions which centre around the exercise of free will, the entitlement to knowledge and the right to equality for all.  These are political and philosophical points which are addressed by a variety of characters, at different levels of society within the story, and are arguments I really enjoyed following as an underlying thread in the narrative.  As a reader, willingly ensconced in the City of Medlock, it made me question and challenge and really engage with the issues alongside the citizens of Medlock. 

Wildspark really is the most deeply immersive story which transported me on a journey as thrilling and awe-inspiring as I imagine a ride on the Gigantrak would be!  I didn’t want the journey to end, and I hope I get to adventure with Prue and her friends again.

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