Thursday, April 15, 2010

Book Review: Embers

Title: Embers
Series: Anya Kalinczyk Book 1
Author(s): Laura Bickle
Genre:  Urban Fantasy
Publisher/Year: Pocket Books/2010
-Webpage: Salamander's Tales
-Blog: Salamander's Tales or lbickle @ LJ
-Challenges Fulfilled: 1st in Series Challenge

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:  Originally I had no intention of reading Embers.  I'm a little burned out from Urban Fantasies, at least starting new series, and had resolved to take a break.  Best laid plans and such found me buying Embers and then reading it in relatively quick order.

The tone of the novel was much darker than I expected, exploring several deeper emotions such as lust, guilt and personal responsibility in slightly uncomfortable ways (for me at least).  Anya is a conflicted young woman with deeply rooted guilt issues and a problem with forming personal connections, not particularly uncommon in today's UF heroines, but Bickle takes it a step forward with Anya's growing fear that one unwary step will burn her life down.  Uncertain about the exact nature of her power as a Lantern (spirits are attracted to her like a moth to flame and she has the power to devour them, burning them to nothingness), Anya fights her nature.  Meeting the firebug with an oddly do-gooder mentality, confirms her worst fears, but also opens her up to exploring who and what she could be.

The cast surrounding Anya, both supernatural and otherwise, all have distinct personalities.  Sparky, her 'hellbender' elemental protectors; Brian, tech geek who cares for her; Katie, organic baker by day, witch by night; Ciro, demonologist and one tough old man; Jules, group leader and fond of slapping Mike upside the head; Mike, the newbie on the crew with a whole lot of enthusiasm and then Captain Marsh, her boss at the Fire department.  The firebug, who becomes more important for a variety of reasons as the story goes on, was oddly appealing.  He was doing bad things, but I couldn't tell if he was a sociopath, warped from his experiences or genuinely believed he was doing the right thing for the city.

I had a growing fear, as the way to stop Sirrush from rising became more and more clear, about what would happen in the end.  And it came true.  And despite everything that had happened I got misty-eyed and sad.  It seemed appropriate, but still.

Book 2, Sparks, is due out at the end of August though there isn't a whole lot out about what it will be about and the end of Embers gives nothing away to give us clues.  I am however looking forward to it and have great anticipation for Laura Bickle's alter-ego, Alayna Williams's debut UF Dark Oracle due out in June!

Discussion Questions
So if you had the chance would you have a pet elemental, even with the inconvenience of broken microwaves?

I would.  Sparky was a great protector and friend, even if he was a bit...excessive in that protection.  I wouldn't mind having one.  I do get awfully cold often...

What did you think about the relationship between, Brian, Anya and Drake?

I didn't understand the Anya/Brian thing, at least not from her end at first.  He seemed very...ordinary.  Then as I read deeper I grew to understand that part of what appealed to her was his ordinariness--he didn't expect anything more from her that any he would any other girl he met and wanted to date.  Drake and Anya made more sense, on a primal level.  She finally found someone who understood, warped as that knowledge was, who and what she was.  What she did.  And despite all things he wasn't a...horrific guy.  I wouldn't even label him a sociopath.  He truly believed that what he was doing would help everyone.

Did the book make you want to visit Detroit or steer clear?

I don't have a particular want to visit Detroit.  This did nothing to change that.

A big part of Embers surrounds paranormal activity and the whole Scooby style system....What do you think of shows like Ghost Hunter, Paranormal State and the such? 

I infinitely prefer Scooby-Doo to Ghost Hunters or Paranormal State.  I'm not much for those shows since I don't think if there was paranormal activity its right to be broadcasting it to the masses.  And if there isn't, then they are hoaxing a whole lot of people for profit and gain.  Though movies like Ghostbusters are interesting.

Do you believe in the paranormal world around us or chalk it up to complete fantasy and make believe?

I want to believe in the paranormal world, but as I don't have much experience beyond the stories of friends and things that may or may not have happened when I was child (I had a very overactive imagination) I'm skeptical.