Sunday, September 05, 2010
Review - Embers by Laura Bickle
by Laura Bickle
Anya Kalinczyk spends her days working for the Detroit Fire Department as an arson investigator. When a series of mysterious fires erupt, just weeks before Detroit's infamous Devil's Night, and she finds a horned viper symbol at east site, she fears the fires may have a paranormal connection. Anya is uniquely qualified to recognize the supernatural. She's the most rare kind of medium, a Lantern, and has a fire elemental as a familiar.
Even though Anya wants to keep her 'normal' self separate from her 'paranormal' self, she spends a lot of time working with a group of ghost hunters known as DAGR. Working with them wouldn't be so bad but the leader, Jules, prefers to deal with recalcitrant spirits through spiritual means. It's only when none of his or other members of the group can cause the spirits to leave that he grudgingly turns to Anya. As a Lantern, she has the ability to 'consume' ghosts. But using her power as a Lantern takes its toll on her both physically and emotionally.
As does trying to maintain distance from the group's tech wizard, Brian, who wants more from her than she can willingly give. She fears her ability as a Lantern and her fire elemental, Sparky, would destroy any relationship she could manage to have. As the fires become more dangerous and costly in terms of human life, Anya realizes the fire itself isn't the arsonist's primary goal. With the initial clue, the horned viper, as her main lead she fears the fires may lead to a cataclysmic awakening of an ancient evil.
Embers is one of the absolute best urban fantasies that I've read. Having spent most of my youth in Detroit, one of the first things that struck me was the author's knowledge of the city and its surroundings. Ms Bickle has done a phenomenal job of capturing the feel of the Detroit urban area.
But setting alone does not a story make. Ms Bickle has written a book that captures the loneliness and near despair of a woman who wants a more normal life. Unfortunately, her talent as a Lantern and her familiar, Sparky, makes that nearly impossible. However, Anya isn't a 'poor me' sort of character. She honestly loves Sparky who, I admit, is a fascinating and lovable creature who reminds me of a cross between a big doofus dog and a quirky, independent feline. The plot is fresh and masterfully intertwined with the setting. I will remind readers of Star-Crossed Romance that Embers is not a typical romance with the plot actually depending on the romantic elements. However, the romantic elements do play a fundamentally important role for characterization and, to a lesser extent, to the plot.
I highly recommend Embers for anyone who enjoys urban fantasy or paranormal stories.
Ms Bickle has a sequel, Sparks, that just became available. I'd already pre-purchased my copy of Sparks and was delighted when it arrived the other day. I can't wait to start reading it. If you don't already own Embers, you might want to get both books at the same time.