Book Review: Spark and the League of Ursus

Spark and the League of Ursus by Robert Repino
Spark and the League of Ursus
by Robert Repino

2 out of 5 stars

Spark is a teddy bear, sworn to protect her owner from the monsters that attack in the night. But when a truly powerful monster threatens the children of the house, it will take a special league of bears to fight off the monster.

This book was darker and scarier than I expected. The monster is really freaky, with scales, insect claws, pincers, horns, spider legs, and the head of a human. The monster wears a creepy medallion around its neck with a human head on it that comes to life. Even with all the gross descriptions of this monster, I can’t quite picture it in my head. It’s like half-human, half scorpion. Ugh.
At the beginning of the book, the monster has already kidnapped children. Much of the book is about the adults and children going in search parties to look for the missing kids, and putting up Missing Child posters around the town. It’s heart-wrenching to see them grieving and anxious, barely sleeping and barely eating and fighting among themselves because the tension is so high. This is not a happy book.

I liked the writing style, but had problems with the way this story was organized. The pacing is awkward. There are a LOT of flashbacks and memories. And there are plot holes all over the place.

There are a lot of plot explanations, where a character explains to another character how something works, but we the reader are never told HOW that character got that information. They just magically know what is happening and explain it out of thin air. How could they possibly know that? Very frustrating.

The plot is full of convenient happenstances. Spark spends the entire book being so super careful that no humans could possibly see her moving around the house, and then at the end, Spark decides to just run past a group of humans and hope they don’t notice. They see something blurry go past, but aren’t sure what it was. Really? And they don’t see her because…?? Because she ran so fast? How very convenient that suddenly humans are stupid and don’t have eyes, even though Spark spent the entire book lumbering around like a slow clumsy teddy bear with no hint that she was secretly faster than the human eye.

There are multiple instances like this where the plot does not make sense, or contradicts previously established facts. I lost count of the times that something impossible happened which did not fit with the magic system that had been established, or that might have fit in this world but it was not explained how it fit. A lot of the story doesn’t make sense.

There is very little resolution at the end. The immediate threat is resolved when the teddy bears succeed in scaring off the monster, and the missing children are found. But the monster isn’t defeated. The monster is still around, and the bears are just waiting for the next attack. The monster also has an extensive backstory about how it was cursed, and it was hinted that the bears could find a way to lift the curse and save the monster and maybe make him good, but that storyline was never explored any further. I wonder if this will end up being a series, and the monster’s story will be resolved later on.

I liked the characters, but I didn’t really connect with them. All the elements of a good character were there for each of them, backstory, depth, personality, special interests, and relationships with the other characters. Then each character just sat there, moving through the story like robots. There was very little development or meaningful growth.

I think that a child reading this book would probably not notice the many plot holes or stale characters. There is enough of a good story and good characters there to keep your interest in the book. However, a child young enough to not notice the problems in the story, would also be young enough to get scared by the dark elements in the story.
The kidnapping feels much too real and frightening, and the descriptions of the monster are truly disgusting. I found it disturbing. A child young enough to be interested in a book about teddy bears would certainly find it terrifying.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review. All the opinions stated here are my own true thoughts, and are not influenced by anyone.

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