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Beneath the Sugar Sky
Seanan McGuire
Crooked Kingdom: A Sequel to Six of Crows
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Spark - Brigid Kemmerer Gabriel Merrick has always been the bad one. Fire, his element, is beyond his control and though he tries, he can never seem to get it right. He uses sports as an outlet for his excess energy and frustrations, but now his new math teacher is threatening his right to play sports. Then someone starts setting fires and everyone blames him…but he’s not doing it. Everyone refuses to believe him, except a quiet girl in his math class who keeps throwing him off balance.

Gabriel has to be my favorite of the Merrick brothers. Cocky and badass, with a fierce loyalty to his brothers…mmm…just the way I like ‘em. His brothers have it easy compared to him. Their elements help them, bending to their will, but all fire wants is destruction, whether it is what Gabriel wants or not. It demands it and he can do nothing to stop it, only succeeding in slowing it down a little sometimes. One of the things I was looking forward to in this book was seeing a bit more of Gabriel and Nick’s twin bond and I was a little disappointed there. Towards the beginning the two get into an epically large fight and don’t speak to each other for most of the novel. But for those who wanted that, the scene at the end where they makeup is totally worth it. It’s so emotional and perfect and unexpected that it had me in tears. His relationship with Michael also got to me a bit. The two are so alike that it’s easy to see why they fight all the time, but hard to imagine why Gabriel can’t see the similarities.

Then there is the girl, Layne. Quiet and geeky, she isn’t who you would expect Gabriel to fall for. She doesn’t party, doesn’t drink, and has the biggest overprotected father I’ve ever read about. Her relationship with her deaf brother was especially fun to read. I’m fascinated by sign language, so naturally it caught my interest. She’s always been attracted to Gabriel, so when she notices that he is majorly struggling in math, she offers to help and a very reluctant Gabriel agrees. The attraction between them was instantly obvious, even though Layne was too self-conscious to even consider that he could truly be attracted to her.

I loved almost everything about this novel, but my favorite part has to be the sibling dynamic. Typically, I’m all about the romance, but here, I just love the way the brothers interact. Especially Michael’s relationship to his brothers, trying to both be a brother and a father and failing more often than not. The moments when him and Gabriel do finally see eye to eye are beyond touching. Speaking of romance, though, there is plenty of that here. Thankfully, this installment is love triangle free and you get plenty of Gabriel/Layne action.

This is one of the very few sequels that I ended up enjoying more than the original. Storm was great, but Spark somehow manages to be better. I cannot wait to read more of this series and more by Brigid Kemmerer in general.