Thursday, April 11, 2013

Reviews of Sparks and Embers by Laura Bickle

Five Fangs for Sparks by Laura Bickle

The urban fantasy genre has a wonderful new heroine in Anya Kalinczyk.

Laura Bickle's urban fantasy world is complete and unique. In a genre drowning under the weight of vampires, witches and werewolves Bickle's character Anya, a Lantern, is something different and refreshing. And the fire elemental Sparky the salamander- brilliant. The two of them together make a wonderful team that I really enjoy reading about.

The books display the darkness and despair that circle around the real city of Detroit while showcasing a fictional side that we don't see- the world of spirits, elementals and all sorts of darkness feeding off the despair. The backdrop is perfect. And Anya is believable- she's not hip or decked out in leather like some urban fantasy heroines or is she an all powerful creature battling the darkness alone, thought the possibilities of what she is to become are there and she is developing naturally in her role.

In the second book of this series, Sparks, Anya who is a rare psychic medium called a Lantern is trying to keep up with her day job as a Detroit fire investigator. Her newest series of cases raise some crazy questions and point to spontaneous human combustion- but what may be behind it is ghosts.

But how and why?

Turns out a local celebrity/con artist may be behind the ghosts and the spontaneous fires but how?

Anya has to put everything on the line to stop the ghost collector- all while trying to protect Sparky's recently lain eggs.

Sparks is even better than the first book Embers.

The interaction between characters is much more detailed and fleshed out, Anya's character is also fuller and richer and I loved the introduction of a new character Charon the ghostly connection between this world and the underworld. I really hope to see more of him in upcoming books.

I do question Anya's taste in men- first Drake another Lantern but also a firebug not to mention a little off his rocker, now Brian a highly intelligent tech geek who does government work- top secret work. He seems nice enough but something about his ethics and his murky aura make Anya wonder about him. I honestly don't think the two of them mesh- their whole code of ethics and thoughts on ghosts are totally different.

Sparks gives us (and Anya) some new information about Anya's past and her origins which are quite surprising and I am looking forward to seeing where that little twist takes the story in future books.

And here's the part that really got me in the book...they discuss spirits. Do they have feelings, a consciousness and does it matter if they do?

Anya feels the ghosts are still a part of humanity that they matter, Brian and another ghost hunter disagree.

I think that if humans are who we are because of our souls and the souls turn to spirits when we die how can what essentially makes us who we are not be important?

That's something to think about isn't it?

Sparks was a fantastic fiery read that I couldn't put down until it was finished. If each book in this series just keeps getting better I can't wait to read the next installment.

If you are looking for something out of the ordinary in the urban fantasy genre- this series is one to try. Not a vampire in sight, no werewolves either but you'll get lots of ghosts and elementals and Lantern or two.

Five Fangs for Ember by Laura Bickel

Embers is the first book of a sizzling series that is sure to leave you smoldering for more of Anya and Sparky.

Set in Detroit (which immediately drew me to this book since I am an hour's drive away from Motown), the book features Anya, a lantern, which is someone who can see, communicate with and devour spirits. She's part of a ghost hunting team though she doesn't really want to be since she is also an arson investigator and does not want the ghost hunting to jeopardize her job.

But now a serial arsonist is throwing her two worlds together and Anya is feeling more than a little conflicted- more like totally confused and torn as the flames threaten to consume her- along with all of Detroit, if she doesn't figure out how to stop the arsonist before Devil's Night.

Embers is the epitome of urban fantasy- this is what the genre is all about- a little hard and edgy, emotional, with a dash of romance thrown in- all tied together in a complex world peppered with supernatural creatures and phenomenon.

Sparky has to be the most unusual and one of the best sidekicks out there. I can honestly say I have never felt all cuddly about a salamander before but now after reading about Sparky, I am seeing them in a new light. Sparky is full of personality and pizazz which greatly adds to the story. A good sidekick can make or break a book sometimes and Sparky helped put this book in the keeper pile.

Embers is a great UF book filled with emotional turmoil, a character that is richly developed (but not complete which hopefully means we will get to see plenty of character growth in the upcoming books) and the world building is solid. The minor characters are great story supporters and I really look forward to reading more of this series.

One thing I really enjoyed about Embers other than the gritty story line and complex characters, is that the author got Detroit and the underlying turmoil that is currently running through many areas in Michigan. She addressed the depression, the emotion, the energy that runs through the areas around here. The economic crisis, the old and new butting heads while trying to blend together even though the odds are stacked against it. She also gets that Detroiters (and Michigan people in general) are tough. It was great reading a story set in practically in my own backyard.

Anya Kalinczyk #2
Pocket Juno Books
Mass Market Paperback, $7.99
ISBN 978-1439167687

The second book in Bickle’s series about Anya Kalinczyk is just as wonderful as the first—Anya is a compelling and likable protagonist and Bickle does an outstanding job in her portrayal of the city of Detroit; there are ruins, yes, but also hope in the ashes. Anya never takes herself too seriously and there is a scene in a baby supercenter that is absolutely not to be missed. (4 stars)

- RT Book Reviews

...a charming and inventive read.

-Elizabeth Bear, Realms of Fantasy Magazine, December 2010


Anya Kalinczyk is the rarest type of psychic medium, a Lantern, who holds down a day job as an arson investigator with the Detroit Fire Department—while working 24/7 to exterminate malicious spirits haunting a city plagued by unemployment and despair. Along with her inseparable salamander familiar, Sparky, Anya has seen, and even survived, all manner of fiery hell—but her newest case sparks suspicions of a bizarre phenomenon that no one but her eccentric team of ghost hunters might believe: spontaneous human combustion.

After fire consumes the home of elderly Jasper Bernard, Anya is stunned to discover his remains—or, more precisely, a lack of them; even the fiercest fires leave some trace of their victims—and she is sure this was no naturally occurring blaze. Soon she’s unearthed a connection to a celebrity psychic who preys on Detroit’s poor, promising miracles for money. But Hope Solomon wants more—she’s collecting spirits, and in a frantic race against time, Anya will face down an evil adversary who threatens her fragile relationship with her lover, her beloved Sparky’s freshly hatched newts, and the wandering souls of the entire city.

Pocket Juno Books
Mass Market Paperback, $7.99
ISBN: 978-1439167656

“One of the most promising debut novels I’ve read in a great while… I’d highly recommend this book to anybody who reads fantasy. It reminds me in many regards…of another exceptional first novel…Emma Bull’s seminal War for the Oaks, and there’s not much higher praise that I can give.”

—Elizabeth Bear on
“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

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.