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Debut novel Embers sizzles but fails to impress

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Embers by Laura Bickle
Laura Bickle

Laura Bickle delivers a surprisingly diverse debut novel in Embers. A vague statement to be sure but true as there are some truly wonderful and refreshing elements of this book but they get overshadowed by some bad plot lines and unrealistic character interactions. To put it simply everyone will enjoy some aspect of this book whether it is the arson investigation, Sparky the Fire Salamander, or the author’s articulation of Detroit and the paranormal. However it is ones ability to take everything at face value that will really decide how much you enjoy the novel.

Anya Kalincyzk makes a living working for the Detroit Fire Department as an arson investigator. Anya however has a secret that few know, she is a Lantern a rare gifted medium with the ability to devour demons and ghosts alike. This ability has led her to joining forces with the Detroit Area Ghost Researchers (DAGR) in their pursuit of resolving all matters supernatural including ghost hauntings and demonic possessions. Little does she know that the boundary between her two worlds is about to collapse as a serial arsonist is on the prowl and the fires he unleashes can not be explained by mere physical means.

The two main elements in this novel that really grabbed my attention was the overall writing of the Novel and Sparky, Anya’s elemental Fire Salamander. In this novel you get a real sense of Detroit as a city in decline. Laura’s choice of language in describing the various locations makes you fully envision the slowly decaying metropolitan and highlights those areas were people still care about both their homes and city. However I must say that I enjoyed Sparky and his relationship with Anya the most in this novel. Sparky acts as Anya’s protector and you can feel the deep love that they have for each other. His random acts of curiosity and protectiveness brought a smile to my face every time reminding me again and again of the antics own dogs get into.

Anya, although being the main protagonist, came off to me a little flat as I felt there were certain characteristics about her that didn’t quite fit together. During the plot Anya is fighting with herself as she is still coming to grasps with what she is and who she wants to be. During this struggle she has kept herself apart from most relationships. In the story Sparky is used as a scape goat for her behavior but to me it felt disjointed. She repeatedly says she has feeling for Brian (a member of DAGR) however all of her actions and thoughts run flat when they are together with no heat or passion. The other romantic interest she has is passionate but has no basis for attraction within the personality of the character leaving the reader to not help but to think seriously?. Instead of being a well rounded character with flaws like any believable person, Anya instead came off as childish and weak.

However weak the portrayal of Anya the plot of Embers was the biggest disappointment of the novel. The plot started of fresh and full of mystery and action with Anya actively investigating the arsons but quickly fell apart. For me the turning part began as soon as Anya became possessed. Although it was obvious what had occurred DAGR and Anya herself had no clue what had happened, and to top it off Katie the groups witch didn’t notice anything although she supposedly was going to correct her spiritual alignment after the job.

The possession in and off itself seemed generic and a rip off of most other plot lines but the main issue was that Anya’s character already was not seamless. The addition of this new element controlling her actions and clouding her thoughts was unneeded and seemed to be a smoke screen to keep the reader from focusing on the underlying story. I can’t say to much about the conclusion for fear of spoiling the story but lets just say it seemed rushed and was a let down to what could have been an amazing novel.

As you can probably tell I am quiet torn in my opinion of this book. Part of me wants to tell you to skip it and go read the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews that contains both engaging characters and plots. I would be amiss however by not saying that although the novel wasn’t exceptional or even great there are some story elements that could lead to great future installments. There you have it, read at your own risk! I will however be reading Sparks after its release, it may not be right when it comes out but it will happen. I find myself irresistibly wanting to read more about Sparky.

If you enjoyed this book you may also like:

Hard Magic by Laura Anne Gilman Mind Games by Carolyn Crane Death Blows - Book 2 of The Bloodhound Files by D D Barant
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