Embersby Laura Bickle
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
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.
A sizzling debut from a red-hot new author . . .
—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
- Pocket Books
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- SIMON & SCHUSTER
- NOOK Book
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- 2 MB
Read an Excerpt
It always burned, even in the dark, cold hours of the morning when nearly everything slept.
Anya stood on the doorstep of the haunted house, hands jammed into her pockets, stifling a yawn. She’d taken a cab, not wanting her license plates to be seen and recorded in the vicinity. The cab had peeled away, red lights receding down the gray street. The two-story brown brick house before her looked like every other house on the block, windows and doors ribboned in iron bars. Cables from the beat-up panel van parked curbside snaked under the front door, but no light shined inside. Empty plastic bags drifted over the cracked sidewalk until trapped by a low iron fence.
She poked the doorbell. Inside, she heard the echo of the chime, the responding scrape of movement. Anya wiped her feet on the doormat duct-taped to the painted stoop, waiting.
A lamp clicked on inside the house, and the door opened a crack. “Thanks for coming,” the masculine voice behind the door said.
“It’s not like I could say no.”
That was the truth; it was not as if she could turn down what they asked, even if she wanted to. She held back a larger truth that scalded her throat: And I wish you would stop calling. I wish you would stop asking me to do this.
Anya stepped over the cords into the circle of yellow light cast by a lamp with a barrel-shaped shade in the living room. The shade’s wire skeleton cast dark spokes on the ceiling, illuminating a water stain that had been carefully painted over. But the water had still seeped through, yellowing the popcorn ceiling. A wooden console television sat dark and silent as a giant bug in the corner, rabbit-ear antennae turned north and east, listening for a dead signal. A shabby plaid couch dominated the room, covered with out-of-place pieces of tech equipment: electromagnetic field readers, digital voice recorders, compact video cameras. Laptop computers were propped up on TV-tray tables, casting rectangles of blue light on the walls.
Anya’s gaze drifted to the video cameras, then shied away. “I don’t want to be recorded.”
Jules, the leader of the Detroit Area Ghost Researchers, leaned against the wall, nursing a cup of coffee. No one would ever suspect Jules to be so deeply interested in the paranormal that he would lead a group of ghost hunters. He was the epitome of an ordinary guy: early forties, slight paunch covered by a blue polo shirt, well-worn jeans. A tattoo of a cross peeked out underneath his sleeve. Exhaustion creased the mahogany face underneath the Detroit Tigers baseball cap. Judging by the amount of equipment and the rolled-up sleeping bags in the corners, DAGR had spent a number of nights here.
Anya perched on the edge of the couch and rubbed her amber-colored eyes. “What’s the story?”
Jules took a swig of his coffee, creamer clinging to his dark moustache. “We first took the case two weeks ago. . . the little old lady that lives in the house was convinced that her dead husband was coming back to haunt her. She described lights turning off of their own accord, dark shapes in the mirrors.”
“Did she come to you or did you find her?”
“I found her.” Jules worked as gas meter reader in his day job. He had a knack for easy conversation, and people instinctively trusted him. Anya suspected he might have some latent psychic talent in getting a feel for places and people. He had an affinity for most people, anyway. Jules seemed wary of Anya. She didn’t think he liked her much or thought very highly of her methods. But she got the job done when Jules couldn’t.
“She’s got a basement meter and was afraid to go down there all by herself. Neighbor lady who used to do her laundry won’t do it anymore. . . said a lightbulb exploded while she was loading the washer.” Jules took a sip of his coffee.
“What evidence have you found?” Anya asked.
Brian, DAGR’s tech specialist, peered over one of his computer screens and took off a pair of headphones. “Come see.”
Anya sat beside him on the sagging couch, which smelled like lavender. Brian scrolled through some digital video; she assumed it had come from a fixed-camera shot of the basement stairs. A flashlight beam washed down the steps, green in the contrasting false color tones of night-vision footage. The glow from the screen highlighted the planes and angles of Brian’s face. Anya noted the circles under his blue eyes and his mussed brown hair. She thought she smelled the mint of the caffeinated shower soap he favored still clinging to him.
Anya never asked where Brian got all his techno-toys. She knew that most of DAGR’s clients had little money and that donations were few and far between. DAGR was more likely to be paid with an apple pie than cash. She suspected that Brian borrowed much of it from his day job at the university. Apparently, the eggheads in the IT department never seemed to notice that things kept disappearing into Brian’s van.
The footage paused, fell dark green once more. In the well of jade darkness under the stairs, something moved. The shape of a hand clawed up over one of the upper steps, then receded.
“Weird,” Anya breathed, resting her heart-shaped face in her hand. “What else have you got?”
“This.” Brian handed her his headphones, still warm from his ears. Anya fitted them over her head, listened to a static hum of low-level white noise that barely vibrated an on-screen noise meter.
“Wait for it.”
There. A hiss shivered the line on the meter. Then a voice—reedy and snarling—ripped the volume line to the top of the meter: “Mine.”
Anya frowned. “Can I hear it again?”
Brian backed the tape up. Static hummed, something hissed, and the voice repeated: “Mine.”
Anya pulled the headphones off, disentangling them from her sleep-tousled chestnut hair. Her hair caught on the copper salamander torque she wore around her neck, and she gently unsnarled it. The salamander gripped its tail in its front feet, the tail sinuously curling down to disappear between Anya’s breasts. The metal, as always, felt warm to the touch. “Did you guys provoke it?”
“Of course. We told it that it was ugly and that its transvestite mama dresses it funny.” The youngest member of the group, Max, grinned at her, megawatt smile splitting his brown face. He’d been exiled to the floor, hands wound in his warm-up jacket, his sneakers and long legs tucked under one of Brian’s TV tables.
Jules smacked him on the back of the head. “Max got too mouthy with it. Started in on the ‘your mama’ jokes while I was reading the Scriptures to it.”
Max ducked. He was still on probation and was very close to getting booted from the group. Anya hoped the kid would stay, that he would eventually fill the spot on DAGR’s roster from which she was trying to extricate herself. Though no one could do exactly what she could do, it would be good for them to have someone new to focus on.
“So. . . what is it, exactly?” Anya asked, redirecting the conversation from Max’s punishment to the matter at hand.
“We don’t think it’s the old lady’s husband.” Katie’s hushed voice came from the darkened kitchen as she pushed Ciro’s wheelchair across the wrinkled olive-colored carpet. Katie was DAGR’s witch. She was dressed in jeans and a patchwork blouse, her blond hair curled over her back, tied with black velvet ribbons. A silver pentacle hung just below her throat, gleaming in the dim light. “It feels like an impostor, something toying with her.”
Ciro folded his gnarled ebony hands over the blanket in his lap. The light from Brian’s computers washed over his small-framed glasses, and he smiled at Anya. “Hello, Anya.”
“Hi, Ciro.” Anya crossed to the old man and gave him a hug. He felt more fragile than the last time she’d seen him. It had to be a serious event for Ciro to be here. . . he was the group’s on-call demonologist. And he was the one who had brought them all together, over Jules’s objections. Ciro understood, more than anyone else, what it cost Anya to be here with them.
Anya put her hand on Ciro’s thin shoulder. “Is it a demon, then?”
Ciro shook his head. “I don’t think so. I think it’s one pissed-off malevolent spirit that’s moved in. The woman’s grief opened the door. . . but it’s a tough bastard.”
“You tried to drive it out already?”
Katie nodded. “Salt, bells. . . we even brought in a priest. It’s rooted here and we can’t dig it out.” From the corner of her eye, Anya watched Jules frown at Katie. He didn’t think much of Katie’s methods, either. Jules preferred to put the fear of God—or at least his version of it—into ghosts to scare them out the windows, but that seemed to be working less and less. Anya observed the carbon stains worked into Katie’s fingernails. The witch had been trying hard, but all her spells and incantations had also failed to drive it away. This had been happening more and more often in recent months: recalcitrant, restless spirits that just wouldn’t let go. Once a spirit had chosen to hang on, after all efforts to convince it otherwise, there was no choice but to remove it by force.
“The old lady wants it gone?” Anya asked, just to be certain. There was always the possibility that the old woman’s attachment prevented it from leaving. Perhaps, in her loneliness, she’d taken in a spiritual boarder. Anya understood how isolation could cause a person to unwittingly do things contrary to one’s best interests. An empty, silent house left a lot of room for ruminations, for regrets. And, sometimes, sinister things could move into those spaces.
“She wants it out. She wants to sell the house and move to Florida.” Ciro smiled. “I’m jealous.”
“Will you do it?” Jules’s expression was pinched. “Will you get rid of it?”
Get rid of it. . . that sounded so tidy. So clean. Like taking out the garbage. Ciro glanced sidelong at her, the only one with an inkling of what this cost her over and over again.
“Okay.” Anya shrugged off her coat. “Take me to it.”
Anya’s step creaked on the basement stairs. Her boots crunched on the eggshell fragments of broken glass. . . the remains of the overhead lightbulb, she guessed. She smelled the cinnamon tang of Katie’s crushed magick rotting in the dark. Behind her, the basement door closed off the dim light from the kitchen, leaving Anya in darkness.
Anya clicked on her flashlight, then swept it down the stairs. Shadows shrank, pulling back behind the washer and dryer. She smelled moldering potatoes and onions, dampness on the dirt floor. . . and pickles. Her brow wrinkled. Dozens of canning jars were arranged on a wooden shelf, most of them shattered, some cracked and still drizzling glass and vinegar to the now-filthy concrete floor. A waste of perfectly good pickles, Anya thought, stomach grumbling.
Overhead, a flexible dryer duct threaded through the unfinished ceiling. Boxes of Christmas decorations lined the walls. Old dresses, carefully encased in plastic bags, were neatly hung from lengths of overhead pipe. A scarred workbench, which must have belonged to the old man, stood in the corner, its tools stilled. This place was the vault of the old woman’s memories; no wonder the malevolent spirit had found a home here, in all the dust and emotion of years. Fertile ground for a wandering spirit.
“Another witch?” Something giggled from beneath the stairs.
“No, not another witch.” Anya’s salamander torque burned her neck, causing prickling sweat. The heat uncurled away from the torque around her throat, spiraled down her arm, and leaped lightly to the steps. A fire spirit, a salamander, was unleashed from the necklace. He shimmered with semitransparent amber light, large as a Rottweiler. Sparky took the shape of the massive speckled salamanders found in mountain streams, the monsters that folks called hellbenders. His size and shape were as mutable as flame. The hellbender was one of his favorite forms, although Sparky modified even that shape to suit his needs or fancy. Head as large as a shovel, body as thick as a tree, Sparky’s tail sizzled around Anya’s knee, his tongue flicking into the darkness. Sparky was invisible to most people, although Katie could sense him and Brian could read the temperature changes he invoked on his instruments. But Sparky was not invisible to the thing under the stairs.
The spirit hissed. “Elemental.”
“This is your last chance,” Anya said. “Get out now. Or I will destroy you.”
The spirit snarled: “Mine.”
Anya sighed. Just once, she wanted one to go out easy. One spirit that hadn’t been aggravated and goaded beyond all reason, one spirit to just go away when she told it to. Nice and quiet, for a change.
She strode down the steps, Sparky flowing before her. Under the steps, the spirit thumped against the risers as she walked, trying to intimidate her. Anya ignored it, descending with an even stride. She would not give it the satisfaction of rattling her.
A board splintered, then broke. Anya stumbled, tripping over the shards of wood. Sparky flung himself across the foot of the stairs, breaking her fall. Her flashlight bounced down the stairs, went dark, and rolled away in the darkness. She landed in a tangle of hot salamander skin and her own boots on the cold concrete floor, unhurt in the glass and pickle juice, but irritated. The only light remaining was Sparky’s glow, dimmer and more diffuse than the flashlight.
The thing under the stairs snickered.
The doorknob at the top of the stairs rattled, but wouldn’t open. The sound of something heavy striking the door echoed like a gunshot. Jules’s voice filtered down through the door. “Anya? You okay?”
“I’m fine,” she answered, picking herself off the floor and brushing glass from her hands and jeans. “Leave us be.”
Sparky orbited around her, a curling mass of light. He hissed, a sound that rippled the loose, mottled skin on his body. Fernlike gills on the sides of his head fanned out, primitive and fearsome. He cast enough light for her to see by, a soft gold light of distant fire.
The basement spirit was stronger than she’d thought. She imagined the owner of the house facing this thing alone, and bristled at its arrogance. Power like that could have crippled or killed the old woman.
As for what it had done to the pickles. . . blasphemy.
Anya rounded the corner to peer under the stairs and her breath snagged in her throat. The knot of darkness under the steps radiated cold, smacking her as if she’d just opened a door and stepped outside into winter. Her warm breath steamed as she exhaled, and she put her hands on her hips, staring at the old-fashioned soda pop machine underneath the stairs. It was scarred and dented, painted with a picture of a perky woman in sunglasses and a head scarf holding a glass bottle. Flowing white script exhorted customers to “Drink up!” The coin slot stated that pop was ten cents. This forgotten antique would have been worth a fortune at auction, but it also made a very nice home for a malevolent spirit.
Anya kicked the picture of the smiling woman. “You. Get the hell out of there.” She was tired, smelled like pickles, and was beginning to get pissed. She had an early shift in the morning and should be safely in dreamland, not beating up on a pop machine.
The machine spat out a glass soda bottle. It exploded against the floor like a small grenade. Anya jumped back. Cold, sticky fluid splashed over her boot.
Within the machine, she could hear more glass bottles ratcheting into position. Sparky shoved her behind the workbench as a volley of glass shattered against the cinder-block wall and the raw wood surface of the bench. Bolts and screws clattered off the table in a metallic rain, plinking as they dripped to the floor. Sparky’s head peeped over a drill press, tail lashing.
Anya growled, “Enough of these tantrums.”
When the machine clicked empty, Anya and Sparky leaped from behind the workbench to charge the machine. The machine rattled, rocking back and forth. From the corner of her eye, Anya could see that it wasn’t plugged in—the cord lay coiled on the floor. Sparky snapped at the cord that slithered to life, curling across the cement.
Anya slapped her left hand to the cold surface of the machine, pressed her right to her heart. She felt a familiar heat swell in her chest, felt it burn in her throat. She breathed it in, allowing it to rise and suffuse her, feeling it crackle in her hands as the unearthly glow washed over her. Her amber aura expanded, winged out like a cloak, and a hole opened above her heart. The flame inside her roared, reaching for the pathetic, pickle-smashing ghost.
She could feel the cold spirit in the soda machine, cool and slippery as liquid. Ghost-fire flickered at her fingertips and she could feel the small, petulant shape of the spirit in the dark. Anya drew the ghost into her chest with an inhalation, feeling it icy against her throat. Like swallowing an ice cube whole, she felt it stick, melt, and glide down into her empty chest. Devouring it, she allowed the fire in her heart to immolate it, burning it to ash.
She stepped back, breathing deep. Her body steamed in the chill, and she smelled burnt things. Her incandescing aura settled around her like a second skin, then dwindled. Sparky, victorious over the limp electrical cord on the floor, slithered to Anya’s side. He faded to a fine golden mist, curling up over her arm and solidifying around her neck once again. Shivering, Anya was grateful for his warmth.
Anya was the rarest type of medium: a Lantern. Spirits were inexorably drawn to her, moths to the flame. That was common enough among most types of mediums. Ordinary mediums could allow spirits to wear their skins at will; to use their voices, their hands; to surrender their bodies to another spirit. Anya shuddered to imagine allowing a spirit that kind of control.
But Lanterns were unusual. She had never met another Lantern. She only knew the term from her conversations with Ciro. It was not a role she relished playing. Katie had said that Anya had the blessing of fire upon her. Like a human bug zapper, she took spirits into her inner elemental light and devoured them, incinerating them. She hated the cold touch of spirits in her throat; they tasted hard and metallic, like water with too much iron. After devouring one, it seemed that days would pass before she could feel truly warm again.
“Couldn’t go easy, could you?” Anya bent to retrieve her flashlight, then viciously kicked the winking woman on the soda machine. Her boot left a scuff mark on the woman’s chin.
The front of the machine sprang open like a refrigerator door, startling her. Skin prickling, she shined her flashlight into the metal void, swallowing hard.
At first, she thought it was a doll stuffed inside the machine, curled in the fetal position. But she was not to be that lucky tonight. Blood pounded in her ears. Closer inspection showed the desiccated corpse of a child, dry as a milkweed husk. Tattered lace at the hem of a dress moved, disturbed by Anya’s breath. Plastic barrettes clasped braids in the child’s black hair. Leather sneakers the size of Anya’s hand were curled up against the wall of the machine. The girl had clearly been here for decades, missing and forgotten. Perhaps a game of hide-and-seek gone wrong. Perhaps a homicide. There was no way to know now.
Anya wiped her fingerprints from the front of the door with her sleeve, watching her arm shake. She didn’t want the police to know she’d been here. It would raise too many questions. DAGR would have to notify the police. They had better cover for her, not reveal that she had been here. She worried about what the shock of this discovery would do to the old pickle woman who was afraid to do her laundry in the basement. . . assuming she was innocent of putting the girl in the pop machine.
Dimly, she still heard pounding on the door above. Finally it splintered away, and footsteps thundered down the broken stairs.
“Watch the step!” she called, too late. Max jammed his foot in the breach and fell half through the stairs. Jules tried to reel him in, reaming him out for going first.
Anya stared at her feet. She reeked of pickles. Her hands were sticky with decades-old cola, and her hair was peppered with glass.
And now a dead child. Not a good night.
She stared, blinking at the ceiling, vowing to stop answering DAGR’s calls. DAGR’s calls always led to strange truths, and she was tired of digging for them.
© 2010 Laura Mailloux
Meet 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 may be the lone she-wolf here but I'm not really sure how I feel about this book. I had no trouble finishing the entire novel and yes, it was interesting and different but on the other hand, it was missing a sought of "piazzas" and had an air of predictability about it. This book didn't thrill me or excite me; there isn't anything that the author did wrong per se, it was just ok. I will recommend this book to fellow dark urban fantasy readers, just because it's something different and it's not a horrible novel. However, it's still debatable whether or not I will be reading the next book Sparks due out 8/31/10. Although, I will be checking out the novel Dark Oracle under the author's pseudonym name Alayna Williams.
Embers is a gripping, fast-paced Urban Fantasy that takes you into the world and life of Anya Kalinczyk. Anya hunts evil spirits at night, when most sane people are safe in their beds. Along with a group of similarly skilled individuals Anya helps to eradicate malicious spirits, along with her salamander familiar, Sparky. The main conflict in this story is that there is a firebug on the loose that is determined to burn Detroit to the ground to attract some ancient entity. Anya must find a way to stop him before it is too late. Laura Bickle has a written a phenomenal story that makes you feel like you are apart of the action. You feel the heat from the flames, the sweat dripping down your brow, and the rush of Anya’s power. The grittiness and darkness to this story make it real. It is not about happily-ever-after’s, it is about facing the creatures that go bump in the night so everyone else can have their fairytale ending. It is about the warriors who stand on the front line, but are rarely appreciated. Anya is a fierce heroine that can kick some serious ass, whether it is physically or metaphysically. Her supporting characters all play their part and really add another layer to the enigma that is Anya. This is a fantastic book, and definitely not the last of Anya Kalinczyk. I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I’ve never heard of a Lantern before. Sure, I’ve heard of psychic mediums, but a Lantern is new. Apparently Anya can see ghosts, the good and the bad ones. Her moonlighting job with DAGR puts her in contact with all kinds of ghost. As a Lantern, she draws in, or consumes the ghost, banishing them forever. She assumes they just cease to be. As an arson investigator during the day, she’s investigating a serial arsonist and comes to realize the case also has ties to her night job. She’ll have to set aside her differences with the leader of DAGR and work as a team to catch this guy. The authors description of Detroit is so close to the way many big cities are now. Rife with crime and disillusion, people are without hope. That would make these cities prime hangouts for the darkness of the otherside. Dragons, demons, evil spirits, and lots of ghost busting made this book one adventure after another. The DAGR team is a mixed bag of characters, with a witch, a go to guy, the leader, and a tech wizard. Anya’s romantic history with Brian is one reason she tried to distance herself from the group. She worries about the growing hollow in her chest and it’s hunger for more spirits. She says it’s her “scariness” is why they aren’t a couple. That and her invisible familiar, Sparky. Brian couldn’t care less,. He just wants Anya. Anya is my favorite character, as she should be, being the star. She’s emotionally compromised, carrying around a boat load of guilt, and dealing with her oft times out of control Sparky. I also really liked Katie, the witch. By day she runs her bakery shop, specializing in wedding cakes and pastries. One scene cracked me up. She is working on the topping, a bride and groom, and the bride puts her through hell until she gets the figures just so, but not before Katie givess the bridezilla her just desserts. Katie smirked, ” I did make her butt a bit bigger for revenge though.” I think I like Katie, a lot. Then there’s Sparky. Anya’s mother gave him to her when she was little. When he’s not nosing around or working with Anya, he sleeps coiled around her neck. To anyone else, he is a pretty necklace. No one else can see him, not even her paranormal friends. But they can tell when he’s around. Electronics go haywire, often causing fires. Sparky is a Firedrake, also called a hell bender, a fire elemental salamander. Where Anya goes, he goes, and he comes in handy. When he’s not a necklace, he’s a walking breathing small dragon, with lots of powers. Picture him as a frilly eared komodo with iridescent skin. Problem is, he’s like an overgrown puppy with a mind of his own, always getting in trouble. If Anya doesn’t watch him closely, he gets into all kinds of mischief. Like this scene. She looked down to see the salamander creeping across the tile floor, stalking a microscope perched on a table. Anya stepped on his tail, pinning him to the floor. Sparky glared at her in irritation, straining forward with his legs churning in futile slow motion against the tile… Sparky switched directions, circling around to get a better look at an unattended slide projector that had attracted his attention. Anya adjusted her stance to remain on his tail, trying to look nonchalant – not like she had to pee. There were lots of funny scenes with Sparky and some really sweet ones too. But keep in mind, he’s also her protector and has many weapons. As the clock winds down to Devil’s Night, Anya and the group are desperate to stop
This is the first book in the Anya Kalinczyk Series and before this book tour this book wasn't really on my radar. I may have seen it in passing, but it never really registered for me. Well it's registered now, that's for sure. The book opens with Anya Kalinczyk showing up at a haunted house, where she is helping a group called Detriot Area Ghost Researchers with ghost busting. Normally Anya is a Lieutenant and Arson Investigator for the Detroit Fire Department. But Anya is also as a Lantern, a very rare type of medium. She not only can see and speak with ghosts, she can also consume them. It is because of her ability to get rid of any ghost and most demons that Anya works with DAGR. Anya also has a fire elemental familiar, a salamander known as Sparky, that she has had since she was a child. Most people can't see him or even sense him, and typically he sleeps in a copper torque that Anya wears around her neck. Sparky can interact with ghosts and animals, especially playful cats. Sparky loves to play with electronics, and drawing power off them and shorting them out. Being an elemental, Sparky isn't really housetrained and he can be really rough on tvs, cell phones and electrical sockets. He is totally cute and such a great part of the story. I really enjoyed this book. It wasn't like anything I have read in a while. I will admit that I wasn't sold on the idea of a story set in Detroit. I mean, Detriot? Being a southerner, it didn't seem that interesting. But Ms. Bickle did a great job of really showing us the city. Architecture and Art. History and Tradition. It came alive and made me realize I didn't really know much about it at all. The city was almost a secondary character in the book, especially when Anya gave her impassioned speech on why it should be spared. With the great world building and fantastic characters, I am giving this book 4 stars on Goodreads.
I received a complimentary copy of this book as a part of a book tour in exchange for a fair and honest review. I rated it 4.5 out of 5 stars. A woman with power she doesn't fully understand, a city on the brink of disaster and a ragtag assortment of paranormal investigators all play a part in Laura Bickle's Embers, the first book in her Anya Kalinczyk series. A fan of paranormal novels for over 4 years, Ms. Bickle's story reminded me why I love this genre so much - the intricate world building with a flawed, strong heroine determined to rise above the challenge to save someone other than herself. While the story moves a little slowly in the first few chapters; the pace, action and mythology slowly take shape and race towards the end, with the characters taking me along for a wild roller coaster ride to the finish. Detroit Arson investigator by day, paranormal investigator by night, Anya Kalinczyk's power as a "lantern" has always kept her separate. Given a salamander (or Firedrake) named "Sparky" as a familiar by her mother, Anya has chosen only to pursue malignant, evil ghosts while leaving the benign and harmless ones alone. When a series of fires erupts across the city, Anya finds her daytime job and her nighttime vocation crossing paths - it seems she's not the only "lantern" in town and the other one wants to sacrifice her city to awaken Sirrush, a sleeping dragon god. As Anya investigates the new fires and tries to distance herself from the paranormal, she finds herself caught between two colliding worlds. Ms. Bickle did an excellent job portraying Anya's current emotional state - she's used to being alone and it's difficult for her to trust others - while at the same time slowly giving us Anya's history so we could travel along on the road with her. Anya's fear and sense of self guilt have always played a part in keeping her distant even from those who could help. The secondary characters, from Anya's ghost hunting associates to her co-workers all play an important part in this book. From Ciro, Katie and Brian, her ghost hunting associates who love her and are determined to help her grow both in her powers and a person, to Captain Marsh, her boss at work who values her input as an employee. While there are two villains in this story, there's only one i wanted to see come to a violent end. One of the villains, whose name I won't divulge because I don't want to give spoilers, is a sympathetic character who I felt truly sorry for at the end. Will Anya be able to save Detroit from what's coming this Hell Night? And will she finally be able to let her friends in? You'll need to read Embers to find out. Ms. Bickle did an excellent job creating a unique world with unique mythology and I can't wait to visit it again. I'm really looking forward to reading Sparks next.
Embers is the first book in the Anya Kalinczyk series, which is based in Detroit! Hometown love! I tried very hard to not let the familiarity of the places in the books mess with my opinion, and I think I did pretty well. I liked this book overall. There were some parts that were a little slow for me, and some of the Detroit references got to be a bit much for me – but once the action was going, it was an easy coast to the end. Anya is a fire investigator for the Detroit Fire Department. She’s also a supernatural being, a Lantern to be exact. She can see ghosts, and sort of…devour them. The way she says it, she takes them into herself, and incinerates them within. And on top of all that, she uses her supernatural skills working for the DAGR (Detroit Area Ghost Rescuers). That’s one busy lady. There is a serial arsonist in Detroit, and as it turns out, the fires might have a supernatural connection. Enter Drake Ferrer. I don’t like him. He isn’t the sexy villain, except that he does have some sort of appeal. I just can’t put my finger on it. Anya is drawn to him because he is a Lantern like she is, only more powerful. Not to mention that he is the only other one she knows of. But she is the arson investigator, and well, he’s the bad guy. With Drake I kind of felt like he was not the evil guy in black, but more the bad guy in heavy shades of gray. I didn’t really warm up to him like I do most leading men, but he definitely had his moments. Anya on the other hand… I liked her, but she just has problem on top of problem on top of problem – and none of them were getting solved. That was a bit frustrating for me, but it definitely lent to the clicking tock feel towards the climax. I found myself feeling sorry for her, and a bit frightened at the predicament she had gotten into. She’s got the fires and Drake, her work with the DFD and DAGR, and then a demon possession on top of it all. And next, Sparky. I loved him! Sparky is Anya’s familiar, but not like a familiar that we are used to. Sparky is a fire elemental, in the form of a salamander. He is frisky and playful, and he has quite the personality. When he isn’t needed, he can transform and reside in her necklace (which was handed down from her mother). I guess that part is kind of hard to explain, but in a magical world anything is possible. But you definitely get to see a mischievous side to him, and it brought a bit of fun and grins to the story. There are plenty of characters in this book that I liked, but I didn’t really feel like I got to know much about them. We get to know some of the ghosts more than the actual living humans. The city is as much a character as anyone in this book. I definitely think this is a book I would recommend to anyone interested in the fiery side of the supernatural, ghosts. And if you are local to the area, you will definitely love it!
"...Holy hellbenders (hee; if you've read this already, you'll see what I did there) - there are not enough words to describe how much I adored this book. Embers has a little bit of everything I really love in a story: it's an urban fantasy, but in the scenes where Anya is on the clock as an investigator, we get elements of a good crime novel. The mythology in this book is excellent, and besides our Lantern, there are other supernatural beings as well: ghosts, demons, and elementals (Anya's familiar, the salamander Sparky, is one). There's a bit of romance woven into Embers as well (and a hint of a love triangle), though that really isn't the focus of the book. And Drake Ferrer? I would love to see more of him somehow. Rowr..." For full review, please visit me (Les Livres) on Blogger! jaimeliredeslivres dot blogspot dot com
Anya is a Lantern. Basically she can see ghosts, absorb them, and destroy them. Her general philosophy is that she ignores the ghosts unless she has to remove their presence. She is also protected by an elemental, Sparky a salamander that resides in a torc around her neck. She helps out the local ghost hunter team, DAGR, and works with the Detroit Fire Department as an investigator. We start the story with seemingly random fires being set but a strange symbol being carved in the ground by the fire. Anya is sent in to investigate and learns that another Lantern is setting the fires to awaken a giant dragon to clean up the filth of Detroit and start over new. But Anya has a lot of problems of her own. Because of her past, she has as hard time getting close to others. This is apparent when she is asked to help DAGR with a haunting and she keeps trying to get out of it. The same is true for her love interest, Brian, a member of DAGR. When she gets into trouble with a demon she does everything possible to ignore the situation or handle it herself instead of asking for help from DAGR. I admit that I started this book a while ago and just came back to it. The story was pretty good. I just have a couple of things that I was not impressed with. I was not thrilled with the main bad guy. He wants to torch Detroit because he was attacked, but there is nothing there beyond that. I also admit that Anya irritated me. She just keeps locking people out, I understand with her past why she does this but it gets really annoying to the point where I was about to root for the demon to win. Don't get me wrong, this is a good book and I will get Sparks to see what happens next. The minor character flaws could be because it is the first book in the series. I do want to see what happens next.
Anya is an arson investigator in Detroit who has just discovered a ritual symbol and a countdown on the floor of a burned warehouse. She's also a Lantern, charged with elemental fire magic and a devourer of wandering spirits (a gift she reluctantly puts to use in her off time work as a ghost hunter). Her private and professional lives are about to collide when she finds out her firebug might be a Lantern too. Embers is different in a number of ways. Detroit and its decay play a very important role in the tale. Anya herself isn't just a detective, she has an official role in the law enforcement of the city. Also the villain in this book is one of the most human, sympathetic bad guys to be found in urban fantasy. Embers also simultaneously deals with traditional occult; demons, ghosts, paganism, as well as more exotic, fantasy occult; Lanterns, elementals, Ishtar. Plus it has one of the cutest, best sidekicks ever, a salamander (fire elemental) named Sparky. Recommended as part of paranormal romance and urban fantasy collections, public and private. Contains: sex, Language, violence