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Embers Mass Market Paperback – March 30, 2010
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“Bickle has something great in Anya. Embers has everything: demons, ghosts, dragons, love, sex, police, and murder.”
—M.L.N. Hanover, bestselling author of Darker Angels
“Gritty but never grim, Embers is a truly urban fantasy, where the soul of a city haunts every page. I can’t wait for more of Anya and the unforgettable Sparky!”
—Jeri Smith-Ready, award-winning author of Bad to the Bone and Shade
About the Author
Laura Bickle has worked in the unholy trinity of politics, criminology, and technology for several years. She and her chief muse live in the midwest, owned by four mostly-reformed feral cats. Her short fiction has appeared here and there. Sparks is her second novel.
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I like stories about ghosts and mediums. Embers puts a new spin on the familiar story by introducing a special, and rare, form of medium called a Lantern. Anya is a strong female lead with a special gift, but she is definitely not perfect. She has her faults and weaknesses. My favorite character was Sparky, Anya’s familiar. Bickle has done a great job developing her world and her characters; I frequently forgot that this was the first book in the series as it didn’t have any of that debut novel feel. I recommend this novel, and I’ll be grabbing the next in the series, Sparks, during my next book shopping spree.
Check out my blog for more indepth reviews and recommendations.
HIGH LEVEL: I enjoyed this book- think of it as an "atmospheric" read. It's almost as if you are watching the entire story unfold through fog- or smoke. It was calming, although could be slow at times. Refreshingly new take on Urban Fantasy mythology and complex conflicts- both internal and external.
PLOT: I was pleased by how well Ms. Bickle threaded the reality of modern day Detroit within her story. Made an excellent setting and completed the dark, conflicted tone. Main plot was a little thin, nothing complex- the mystery is unraveled a bit too quick. Giving the main character a day job as an arson investigator was brilliant- added to her character, the plot and the general depth of the story. The night job as a ghost hunter was unfortunately a bit tired and lack luster- it read like a colorful episode of the TV show and needs work.
MYTHOLOGY: You'll find ghosts, written to have appropriate depth, and demons that were written a bit more cliché. The truly gifted piece of magic was the different types of mediums people could be and the complexity of Anya's status as a "Lantern." Nicely thought through and I can't wait to see more in future books. The mythology was creative and engaging- the drawback, however, was that it was too vague in the greater scheme of things. I never did get a good sense of how the paranormal and the normal got along- how aware the society at large was of the creatures that went bump in the night. Exactly how did all the history that was presented fit together with the present? It felt incomplete.
CHARACTERS: Eclectic and engaging. I appreciated how well most were played around each other- though the police detectives were extremely two dimensional. The story would definitely have benefited from a bit more character development for some of the supporting roles, but the lead was nicely done- well rounded, grounded. The clever sidekick of the salamander familiar Sparky was just awesome- he had more character than almost anyone else. He really made the book and is the main reason I'm giving it 4 stars instead of 3.
BOTTOM LINE: I enjoyed it enough that I intend to continue reading the series, but wished there was a bit more to it. The main characters were likeable and the mythology clever and well written. I imagine this series is only going to get better.
RECOMMENDATIONS: (Not including the universally loved Kim Harrison's The Hollows, Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden and Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson)
- Ilona Andrew's gritty, post-apocalyptic magic vs technology world: Magic Bites (Kate Daniels, Book 1)
- Faith Hunter's more ethereal, less tangible, but still riveting series Bloodring (Rogue Mage, Book 1)
- Faith Hunter's bounty-hunter shifter series Skinwalker (Jane Yellowrock, Book 1)
- Jocelyn Drake's vampire/were/demon centric series full of grit: Nightwalker (Dark Days, Book 1)
- Caitlin Kittredge's procedural crime with a were heroine Night Life (Nocturne City, Book 1)
- Ann Aguirre's psychometric investigator in Blue Diablo: A Corine Solomon Novel
- Eileen Wilks' procedural crime featuring werewolves, etc Tempting Danger (The World of the Lupi, Book 1)
- Diana Rowland's demon summoning cop Mark of the Demon (Kara Gillian, Book 1)
- Lilith Saintcrow's two series, both darker and far more gritty Night Shift (Jill Kismet, Hunter, Book 1) and Working for the Devil (Dante Valentine, Book 1)
- Seanan McGuire's fae private eye series that starts with Rosemary and Rue (October Daye series)
Anya's story and the start of the Salamander's Tales series is an adept and complex book that manages to really hit all the satisfied-reader buttons. It doesn't read like a debut novel, nor the start of a series, and both aspects I particularly admire. Instead of the author dropping us down into the story at the beginning of important events and forcing a ton of world building and character development all at once, it's more like merging with the on ramp of a smooth and fluid story highway, and both Anya's character and the world in which she inhabits feels fully developed and realized from the very first page because of it. Anya has been trying to separate herself from the paranormal investigation group she's been a part of and the people in the group, secondary and ancillary characters in the novel, as well as Anya's place in the group, are narrated in such a way that all the tension and conflict Anya is dealing with from the very first page feels very organic. It's an exceptionally nice device to use, as it allows the reader to really dig into the character without a lot of meandering exposition. In fact, in this particular instance, it allows the crap to start hitting the fan from the get-go and sets up the main plot of the story with shocking, yet fully detailed, depth and consistency. With just a small lull towards the middle of the book, the pacing remained steady throughout, and the blend of plot progression and world detailing was particularly well done.
Anya is a solid, strong heroine, and while I can't say that she's my favorite heroine ever, she didn't annoy me as so many do in the genre. She's smart, independent, yet tragically flawed by a past that left her traumatic memories of childhood and a whole pallet of guilt, not to mention an almost pathological doubt that she's worth getting close to. Her one connection to love and close interpersonal relationships is her elemental familiar, Sparky. The adorable hellbender salamander has been her only friend since she was a little girl and he both protects and helps her in both her jobs...when he's not sticking his tongue into a light socket or taking a bite out of a computer board. He's sort of like a slightly deranged yet fiercely protective and...glowy...rottweiler. I loved everything about him. I was also thoroughly impressed and wowed by the choices Bickle made for her antagonist in Embers. This is no cardboard-cutout villain, and the time and attention to detail in his development is something I don't recall reading in recent memory. As three dimensional and damaged as Anya herself, I was happily amazed by his contribution to Anya's character development and their interactions. The secondary characters - the rest of Anya's paranormal group - were also nicely detailed...some more than others, but enough to be fully participatory in defining and explaining Anya's character and giving it more depth and connection to the world around her.
I don't have much to say that's NOT fully complimentary of this awesome debut, in fact. The only issues I had were very minor. I thought the plot bogged down a bit towards the center of the book, and I can't really say why without giving spoilers, but I'll say that there was an event that I thought was a bit too descriptive and slightly overwritten. The two major plot points that were involved in that event could've come a bit quicker, I thought, without losing the overall effect of the event. I also didn't necessarily agree with Anya's decision making at key points. There was nothing I could point to and say, "Sheesh, THAT'S stupid" - which is a relief, as I abhor lead character stupidity...especially if it's simply a plot device to get the characters or plot to a certain point developmentally. There WAS however a couple of instances where I got a little annoyed with Anya for being a bit stubborn or letting pride get in the way of the big picture. Each instance was, however, resolved satisfactorily and so it wasn't even a major distraction. The only thing that really wasn't resolved for me personally was that, even as impressed as I am with the book, I didn't have a whole lot of emotional connection to what happened to the characters - except, oddly enough, the scenes with Anya and the antagonist. For the rest, I understood what Anya was feeling on a mental level, but didn't really empathize with her on an emotional one. I don't consider that a failing in the book, however, just a fact. Without a doubt, Embers is a five star read in my opinion, and I can't wait for Sparks, the second in the Salamander Tales, due out in August, 2010. Mark your calendars!
Most recent customer reviews
Apparently Anya can see ghosts, the good and the bad ones.Read more
I absolutely love the Urban Fantasy (UF) genre, along with Paranormal Romance, it definitely gets the top spot in my heart as for my taste in reading.Read more
"Anya Kalinczyk spends her days as an arson investigator with the Detroit Fire Department, and her nights pursuing malicious spirits...Read more