“How far would you go to save your god?”
We all know the phrase “traditional fantasy told in a modern voice” by now, but rarely has an author nailed that vibe more perfectly than Louise Holland does. Spark of the Divine is a character-driven 80s-style epic fantasy adventure based on (in the author’s own words) her ‘unhinged DnD campaigns’. It’s got swords, guns, divine magic, epic battles, realm hopping, gods walking among us, found family vibes to die for, a little tease of slow-burn romance, and, can’t forget, a masked ball! Honestly, what’s not to love?!
During their latest bounty mission, a motley crew of misfits somehow stumbles into a scheme to steal the power from the gods. War is looming, the divinity of all the gods is at stake, and so these reluctant heroes are launched into a quest that will test them to their utmost limits. Whether they like it or not, it’s now up to them to conquer an evil force hell-bent on throwing the entire seven realms into chaos. Will their bonds of love and loyalty hold, or will their deepest secrets, flaws and fears be their undoing?
Now, I know this might sound a bit odd, but upon reading the first page of this book I genuinely got this magical and almost nostalgic feeling that I can only describe as ‘coming home’. There’s something about the world of Kalaraak that just felt so familiar and comforting, yet at the same time it was also still fresh and wholly unique in all the most exciting ways. I love how Holland gently eases you into this world, entrancing you with her magical prose and expertly trickling in just the right bits of organic world building at exactly the right times to continuously spark wonder.
I think it truly shows that this story is based on long-running DnD campaigns, because the world is so fully realised that it just feels like it’s teeming with life and history. Multiple races, lands, cultures, realms, and so much rich lore are all just tantalisingly waiting to be explored, and I loved sinking my teeth into it all. The various manifestations of the divine magic also had me enamoured, and I loved how themes of faith, fate, and mortality were explored through this softer magic system. Every time I thought I had seen all the glorious things there were to discover, yet another layer was peeled back and I was awe-struck all over again.
And it’s not only in the world building that you can notice how much time, love, and care has gone into the crafting of this world and story, but arguably even more so in the brilliant character work. We follow such a diverse cast of characters from all types of races, backgrounds, nationalities, and ages, which made it extremely fun to explore this world from so many different angles and perspectives. I just absolutely loved every single one of the four main POV characters, and came to care for them in a way that I totally wasn’t ready for.
They are all so wonderfully three-dimensional, with compelling personal motivations, complex backstories that are slowly revealed, and distinct and vibrant personalities that make them just jump off the page (and straight into your heart). And before you know it, you will be pathetically sobbing on the floor because Holland doesn’t pull any punches and you hadn’t realised just how emotionally invested you had become. It truly felt like I was spending time with life-long friends, which made this one of the most fun and engrossing reading experiences I have had in a long while.
The character dynamics within this motley crew are also entirely too amusing, and I loved how their clashing personalities resulted in all the most hysterical, heartwarming or gut wrenching interactions. Some of these characters constantly keep pushing each other’s buttons (looking at you, my prickly Lessie and ‘annoyingly handsome’ and suave Camden), others take everything too literal and are completely oblivious to social cues (mostly my fave mankitten Reevan, but also the stealthy smol goblin Grundle), and yet some others have endured so much together and have finally found solace in each other’s company (Mae and Valandaras, I hope to find a love like yours someday). Honestly, the snarky banter and found family vibes are just executed to perfection!
They all have to overcome incredible odds, both on an epic world-ending level as well as a deeply personal and emotional level, and I loved seeing them drag each other through it all together. The natural chemistry and undying love between this unlikely group of friends is just so palpable and believable, which is exactly why all the emotional beats hit just as hard as they are supposed to. Especially during Part 3 (of 3), Holland drags you across the entire spectrum of emotions without any remorse, leading up to an epic and beautifully bittersweet ending that just hurts SO good.
Never before have I been so happy to have just taken a complete gamble on a book. This was one of the most pleasant surprises I have had all year, and I have zero regrets about devouring this beautiful chunker in a little under 3 days.
How this is Holland’s debut is truly beyond me, but it makes me extremely excited to follow her along on what is undoubtedly going to be a very fruitful and exciting author journey. Also, I am already fully committed to starting my own Spark of the Divine fanclub and you’re more than welcome to join, highly recommend, it’s fun here ;)))
This book is perfect for fans of Michael J. Sullivan, Ryan Cahill and Brandon Sanderson, and also delivers some sweet emotional damage that I think Hobb fans will be very impressed and pleased with. If you are looking for that epic fantasy adventure that will make you remember why you fell in love with the genre in the first place, then you have to check out Spark of the Divine. It’s the comforting character-driven 80s-style fantasy of your dreams.
Thank you to the author for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. This book is scheduled for release on November 24, 2023.