Author: Matt Doyle
Publisher: Matt Doyle Media.com

Disclosure:  A free copy of this book was furnished by the publisher for review, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.

“Wick”, The Spark Form Chronicles Book 1, begins a thousand years in the future as five finalists of the Spark Forming two-day tournament, for all Earth and its Colonies, are entering the E(E)SFC Sports Arena.  They are preparing for the latest battles in this televised combination of digital cards, computer graphics, and intense personal rivalry with each other and with Carnival, an Artificial Intelligence added by Emblem, the high-tech entity that creates the whole game and its electronic world.  Each describes him- or herself in short chapters of one to three pages that reveals both the arena and the player’s true goal.

John Forrester is the defending champ.  He’s familiar with the process, and tries to improve his chances this year.

“See, this is a race.  It’s an obstacle course too.  At my end I have to go through the checking in process, the everyday interactions with staff and colleagues, all the little things that make up a normal day but slow you down when you’re trying to get somewhere.  It’s a challenge for me, because while I probably could speed a lot of things up, I can sometimes get carried away with verbal detours and quirky small talk and end up letting things drag on far longer than I intend, much like this train of thought right here. Yup, time may fly when you’re having fun, but it’s not as quick as Carnival when she has an open run.”

Meera Thorne, a nervous newcomer, doesn’t like the flashy makeup and costume that she has to wear.

“I’ve got a yellow mesh tank top too.  I really wanted a plain black vest but the wardrobe department wouldn’t let me have it.  They said that this one will match my hair and eyes, but my eyes are more of a muddy gold than yellow and my hair’s black.  Or it was anyway.  After they’d finished making it choppy. They bleached the tips.  I kinda wish they’d left it as it was.  Or if they really had to dye it, then I’d rather they’d done the whole thing.”

Lana De La Cruz is okay with her sexy and flamboyant costume.  She’s also cool with Latin racial stereotyping.

“I shake my head and look back to the mirror, admiring how good my show gear looks again.  All those hours in the office gym really paid off.  I blow my reflection a quick kiss, then turn with a wink, glancing back just long enough to confirm that I look as good from behind as I do from the front before skipping out of the room and heading toward the main entrance.”

There are four others.  Plus Carnival, who may be just an exotic computer AI creation of Emblem –

“Her long, rabbit-like ears run long enough to sway at hip level, their grey and blue stripes making them look like a pair of vintage knee high socks.  Peering out from between them is her tail.  It’s mostly grey like the rest of her body, but with a thick blue tip and is easily as long as the ears but fuller furred and far more wolf than rabbit.  From this angle, she kinda looks like a giant stuffed toy.”

or may be fully sentient.  Scratch that; she’s definitely sentient.  And she’s not the only one.  At least one of the apparently-human contestants is also an Emblem creation, and doesn’t even know it.

The last half of “Wick” consists of the first day of the Spark Forming tournament battles as seen by each of the players, and their own sparring with each other.  It becomes evident that in addition to each player having his or her own agenda, so does either Emblem as a manipulative super-entity, or Carnival as an aware individual.  In other words, “Wick” ends on a cliffhanger.

“Wick” is good Young Adult science fiction.  “Carnival”, The Spark Form Chronicles Book 2, which presents the second day of the tournament and concludes the duology, was published in March 2016.

This reviewer was sent a trade paperback copy of “Wick”, but both “Wick” and “Carnival” are available as Kindle e-books only.

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