Embers by Laura Bickle

Laura Bickle

The Premise: Anya Kalinczyk is a Lantern, a special type of Elemental with an affinity for fire and the ability to consume spirits. Her day job is as an arson investigator for the Detroit Fire Department, but on occasion Anya gets a call from DAGR (the Detroit Area Ghost Researchers) and uses her abilities to help people with their ghost problems.  Detroit is a place of unrest. Low employment and crime drives more people out of the city every day while ghosts seem to overrun it. Keeping up with a rash of arson as well as with driving out malicious spirits is wearying work, and other than her fire salamander sidekick, Anya is very alone. Now, a serial arsonist is leaving mysterious symbols with his work, and the spirits have begun to talk of something big coming. Something big and associated with fire, and with Anya’s special abilities, she may be the only one able to stop it.
My Thoughts: I’ve been interested in Embers for a very long time, but it’s been one of those books that I’d planned to read if I ever ran into a copy and it took a while for that to happen. When I finally had a copy in my hands, I fell easily into its pages. Anya’s life is a fascinating one. An ex-firefighter, Anya now spends her days in the charred hulks of buildings investigating whether or not a fire was actually arson. Every so often she gets a call from DAGR, a ragtag group of mediums and ghost hunters when there is a particularly stubborn spirit that needs removing. By her side is Sparky, a fire salamander that only she can see (who stole the show every page he was on).
Unfortunately for Anya, her life is a weary one, especially lately. The calls for DAGR are becoming more frequent as their usual methods aren’t working like they used to. Every spirit she consumes takes it’s toll on her, but this isn’t something DAGR’s leader Jules seems to grasp. And while Sparky is a lovable and rambunctious supernatural pet, Anya is isolated from human connection. Her abilities and Sparky aren’t things Anya can exactly explain to a your Everyday Joe, and letting people near her always seems to end in someone getting hurt. The closest thing she has to a friend is Katie, the DAGR witch (and baker by day) that Anya sees only occasionally, and then there is Brian, a sweet and geeky guy who Anya always pushes away.
Sparky is the only constant companion Anya has ever had, but her loneliness is just one facet that makes Anya human. She’s not your kick-ass urban fantasy heroine, she’s just a tired woman trying to make things right. Right now, making things right looks like finding and stopping the supernatural arsonist terrorizing Detroit. But with Anya lonely and tired, she is also vulnerable, and the lines get a little blurry. I felt like Anya wandered into a gray area in a way that I found surprising and yet so-human, and this was a strong point of the book – the meeting of opposing sides that were fascinated with each other. I don’t think I can recall the last time I read a book with such a sympathetic bad guy. I liked it! The only wish I had was that Brian, Anya’s possible romantic interest, could have had as much character development as the arsonist.
Overall: In the end, I was pretty satisfied with this urban fantasy. The investigation parts were straightforward but Anya and her opponent had a deliciously conflicting relationship that upped my enjoyment. It’s obvious too that Anya has a lot to learn about who she is as a Lantern and that she needs to drop her walls when it comes DAGR, so I expect more character development and world building to come. This is a promising start to a series and I can’t wait to see what’s next.
I have also been informed that the author has an alter-ego: Alayna Williams. More books for me to check out.
Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository
Other reviews:
Tez Says (a bit spoilery) – positive
Scooper Speaks – positive
Angieville – “exactly what I was hoping it would be”

6 thoughts on “Embers by Laura Bickle

  1. It is rare for me to passionately hate a book, but this book was one…I just hated it and found the motivation of the main character … it just didn’t work for me. And it stuck with me even though I skipped to the end after reading half of it. Ugh.

    • Wow, hated this one! You probably hated the bits I alluded to where Anya goes over to the gray side? I found that part very interesting, but I get really disliking her for it. Once a character loses you, I don’t think a book really recovers.

  2. That was part of it for sure. She had all these great people in her life and I wouldn’t call it the ‘gray’ side–but yeah. She knows she’s in trouble and has the demon thing, but instead of taking care of it, she just flounders. That seemed to go against her original personality where she was out to get the job done and that disparity from her beginning sense of duty to going to the gray side…just didn’t work for me at all. It is one thing for a character to make a mistake, but it seemed more like turning her back on who she was. You are right. Once the character lost me, I felt like I was wasting my time. I skipped partway, still hated it and then checked the ending and boy was I glad I didn’t waste more time on it!

    • I didn’t have the impression she was going against her original personality, probably because I focused more on her isolation than her job and what that implied, but I think I can see what you mean. It’s funny how we can both read the same book but have such different reactions.

      ******* SPOILERY BITS ********
      I was calling it the gray side because she was doing things that weren’t exactly like going over to the dark side completely, but she sure was dipping her toe in. I think she was also influenced by the demon that she didn’t exactly vanquish earlier on. So she was being pulled over. That was my take.
      ******** END SPOILERY BITS ****

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