MG Recommendations for Authors: Wildspark by Vashti Hardy

1024 1013 Writer and the Wolf Editorial
Notes for Authors
Title: Wildspark
Author: Vashti Hardy
Published: 2019 by Scholastic
Agent: Kate Shaw at The Shaw Agency
Author’s other titles include: Brightstorm, Crowfall, The Griffin Gate
GenreSteampunk fantasy
Audience: Middle grade
Word count: Approx 65,000 (estimate)
Main character: Prue Haywood
POV & tense: Third person limited, past tense
Structure/format: Linear timeline, straightforward narrative
Comp titles: Northern Lights
Tags: steampunk, third person, girls in STEM, technology, family, friendship, courage, strong female protagonist, high stakes, ghosts
Read this if you’re writing: A magical middle grade with high but very personal stakes
Blurb: A secretive guild of inventors have brought spirits of the dead back into the world, harnessing them in animal-like machines. Young Prue has joined as an apprentice, but she’s on a mission of her own: to bring her brother back to life. To find him, she needs to get the ghost machines to remember the people they used to be…


I loved Wildspark even more than Brightstorm – and I really loved Brightstorm! I first came across Vashti Hardy when I took the Golden Egg Academy’s year-long ‘Write Your Successful Children’s Novel‘ programme, as she went through the same programme and is still a powerful, supportive force in the GEA community. She’s a fantastic MG writer; this was such a fast, easy read and Prue is compelling and likeable right from the start without being perfect: sometimes I wanted to shake her and shout ‘Forget about Francis, Prue! Go live your life – it’s what he would have wanted!’ Twelve year olds, amirite?

The pacing feels just right – Prue and her brother’s backstory is sprinkled throughout as short flashbacks – and the stakes are high: if Prue doesn’t figure out how to bring back personifates’ memories, she’ll never see her brother again and that is just unthinkable for her. The worldbuilding in the novel is gorgeous and evocative without feeling overly detailed or dragging down the pace of the story: I have to get me some of that shimmering qwortzite! There are fascinating themes at play here about morality, life and whether progress should is more important than individual freedom. There’s a teaching resource on Hardy’s website that pulls out quotes from each character relating to these themes which is really fascinating to read from an author’s or editor’s perspective, as you can picture Hardy analysing these themes in her manuscript and deciding how each character would contribute.



  • Prue wants to: bring back her brother’s spirit and memory
  • Because: she can’t accept he’s gone forever
  • But: the Guild forbids the process Prue is attempting because if she succeeds, it could spell the end of society as she knows it


On top of the standard questions to ask when analysing a novel, here are some specific things to look out for while reading this book. Warning: this list may contain spoilers so don’t read the questions until you’ve read the novel if you want to be surprised!

  • What’s the novel’s midpoint where the characters reach a point of no return and the story’s direction takes a turn? I’d say this is the moment Prue tests out her memory machine on Luella: she knows she can’t give up now!
  • What is Prue’s character arc? What does she learn or discover by the end of the story that helps her overcome her flaw or mistaken belief?
  • What is the central theme of the book? To spot this, look at how Prue changes and why, and how this is represented through other characters and plot threads.
  • How has Hardy drawn the supporting characters so that they feel fully developed with their own goals and concerns? Do Edwin, Agapantha and Cora feel like the heroes of their own stories?
  • What about Cora’s arc? Does it feel satisfying? (I have my own thoughts on this but don’t want to give away any spoilers, so I’d love to hear from you once you’ve read the book!)

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Siobhan O'Brien Holmes

Siobhan O'Brien Holmes is a developmental editor working with middle grade and YA authors. She specialises in speculative and genre fiction, particularly horror, fantasy, mystery, sci-fi and anything with a dash of magic or macabre. She is a member of the SfEP, EFA, ACES, British Fantasy Society, Horror Writers Association and SCBWI. She has an MA in Novel Writing and an MA in Children's Literature.

All stories by: Siobhan O'Brien Holmes