Review: Embers by Laura Bickle

 

Title: Embers

Author: Laura Bickle

Publisher: Pocket

ISBN: 978-1439167656

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Truth burns.Unemployment, despair, anger—visible and invisible unrest feed the undercurrent of Detroit’s unease. A city increasingly invaded by phantoms now faces a malevolent force that further stokes fear and chaos throughout the city.Anya Kalinczyk spends her days as an arson investigator with the Detroit Fire Department, and her nights pursuing malicious spirits with a team of eccentric ghost hunters. Anya—who is the rarest type of psychic medium, a Lantern—suspects a supernatural arsonist is setting blazes to summon a fiery ancient entity that will leave the city in cinders. By Devil’s Night, the spell will be complete, unless Anya—with the help of her salamander familiar and the paranormal investigating team—can stop it.Anya’s accustomed to danger and believes herself inured to loneliness and loss. But this time she’s risking everything: her city, her soul, and a man who sees and accepts her for everything she is. Keeping all three safe will be the biggest challenge she’s ever faced.

Review:

I haven’t heard much about this book, but when I was given the opportunity to read it, I jumped at the chance.  The story takes place in my backyard, and I have recently started reading urban fantasies.  Plus, the protagonist’s occupation as an arson investigator for the Detroit Fire Department seemed interesting to me.  Mainly, though, I wanted to see Detroit through someone else’s eyes.  What I ended up liked best about the story were the characters, especially Anya’s familiar, a fire elemental named Sparky. 

Anya is investigating a string of arsons, and the pressure is on to catch the firebug before someone gets hurt.  She is baffled by fires, because she can’t figure out how they have been started.  She’s at a total loss until a talkative ghost and a mysterious symbol give her a few leads.  As she delves deeper into the case, she finds herself in a race against the clock, because on Devil’s Night, someone very powerful has one goal in mind – to awaken Sirrush, a nightmare beast that will burn the city to the ground.

My description is kind of weak, and there is so much more going on here than indicated in the blurb above.  I don’t want to give away any spoilers, though, so I’ll keep the plot details vague.  Instead, let me share the reasons why I couldn’t put this book down.

First and foremost, I felt an instant connection with Anya.  She has a creepy power, and she has had to keep it a secret from almost everyone.  She is a Lantern, and she can consume ghosts.  Only a few people are aware of her ability, and most of them are members of a group of paranormal researchers.  Anya helps them when they get in over their heads, even though she would prefer not to.  She’s not fond of the idea of them studying her, and she feels uncomfortable eating ghosts.  She has spent most of her life trying to ignore them, because,  face it – people give you funny looks when they see you talking to something they can’t see.  Go figure.

Anya is both tough and vulnerable, and I liked her immensely.  She makes mistakes, she’s human, and sometimes she doesn’t learn from errors in judgment.  She has flaws, and I liked that about her.  They get her into trouble.  They make it hard for her to trust people.  They make it impossible for her to accept love, and keep her at arm’s length from almost everyone.  The only emotional connection that she really has is with Sparky, the fire elemental that has always protected her.  And guess what? Nobody else can see him, and he totally takes advantage of that.

I loved Sparky.  He is like an unruly dog.  He leaves a trail of damaged electronics in his wake, because he can’t stop himself from tasting them.  He licks the life right out of them.  New microwave? So tasty!  Now it’s a blackened husk.  I don’t want to think about what he would do to my iPad or my laptop, or any of my other beloved gadgets.  As Anya’s circumstances became ever more grave, I actually started to fret about Sparky.  Like any good guardian, he would give his life in her defense.  So as I became more attached to both characters, I began to stress out.  Would something awful happen to Sparky?  This is the reason I avoid stories about dogs.  I just can’t handle the fear that something bad will happen to them!

If you enjoy urban fantasies, I highly recommend giving Embers a read.  It is suspenseful, the characters, even the villain, are engaging, and the pacing is fast and furious.  I wish there had been more details given about the world-building and the magic, instead of it just being there.  The final confrontation with the bad guy was also a bit of a let down and was just too tidy.  The run-up to the finale was a blast, though, and I am looking forward to reading more by Laura Bickle.

Grade: B+ leaning towards an A-

Review copy provided Bewitching Book Tours