Review: Embers by Laura Bickle

Filed in Laura Bickle , Review , The Latin Lover Posted on June 12, 2011 @ 3:00 pm 6 comments

Format read: paperback
Number of pages: 368 pages
Release Date: 30 March 2010
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Series: Book #1 in the Anya Kalinczyk series
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author’s Website, Amazon, Kindle store


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.

My Thoughts: Embers is the first book in the gritty and dark Anya Kalinczyk urban fantasy series, and despite it being Laura Bickle’s debut novel she had me entranced in the story from the very first pages. 
Anya Kalinczyk is an arson investigator and I was amazed at all the details that Laura Bickle included in the story of the different procedures, clues fire investigators examine. I kept thinking that either Laura Bickle knew what she was writing about due to her own professional experience or if not, then I was in awe of the amount and depth of her research. She kept all the information and explanations interesting and not too complicated for people unfamiliar with this field, yet gave enough knowledge and detail to give a solid base for the reader to understand the workings of fire and arsonists.

I think that until Embers I’ve only read light UF, and though the darkness of Anya’s world was unfamiliar I was spellbound from the start. Despite the gritty, gloomy atmosphere of the story Laura Bickle manages to create a complex and real universe: her characterisation is spot on with layered, threedimensional, larger than lifecharacters who step off the pages; thanks to the detailed descriptions the setting of Detroit appears before the eyes of the reader (even though I have never been there) and the mystery and chase are exciting enough to induce nailbiting and heart-pounding in every reader.

Besides the very interesting character of Anya, I enjoyed that the supporting characters were just as well developed even if they got much less “screen time”. And of course there is Sparky, the fire elemental salamander, loyal friend and protector of Anya. *sighs* Sparky is the most wonderful fictional pet I have ever come across. He is sweet, loyal, fierce, adorable and funny, I couldn’t imagine Embers without him!

And talking about characters I have to stop and mention the two male main characters: Brian and Drake. Brian is the geeky good boy next door. He is warmhearted and shy, while Drake is the irresistible dark and handsome bad boy hero exuding that thrilling vibe of danger and wildness. You couldn’t find two men more different than these two and yet the reader can completely understand how Anya is pulled towards both of them and what is the attraction of each one of them. I can only applaud Laura Bickle for not patronizing the reader by giving a black and white cardboard villain but making such layered characters towards whom the reader can’t help but feel ambivalent.

Laura Bickle has a way with words. Her story flows naturally and she plays the tension throughout the novel as a master conductor directs its orchestra: brilliantly. Besides the constant darkness of the plot, she eases the strain with sparkling humour which makes an appearance when least expected. Anya’s sarcastic dry humour and Sparky’s wonderful cuteness lighten the mood a bit and ensure not to let the story cross over into bleak territory.

The ending was beautiful and poignant. With the final emotional climax I couldn’t help my throat closing up and I felt my heart constrict. It was such a powerful ending that I not only got goosebumps but felt hot and cold at the same time.

Verdict: Laura Bickle’s rich and poetic writing with her detailed descriptions and witty humour will keep you spellbound all through the story. Embers is a wonderfully vivid and emotionally deep urban fantasy novel, and Laura Bickle proves that she is an author not only to watch but to put on your auto-buy list!

Embers most certainly deserves all of the 5 bookies I am giving it!

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

About Stella

Stella is a proud bookaholic and a self-taught multilinguist in training. Besides reading, her other great passions are travelling and baking. When she is not globetrotting she lives in sunny Budapest, where she loves to spend her free time preparing (and feasting on) delicious cookies or devouring equally yummy books. Her favourite genres are urban fantasy and romance and she couldn't live without her daily dose of sunshine. Besides being the Latin Lover on BLI Stella also blogs about books and a bookish life on Ex Libris.

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Join the Discussion
  • Sullivan McPig June 12, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    Great review!
    I love this series and hope there will be many more books, but so far it's just the two sadly enough.
    And if you haven't tried the Oracle books Laura writes as Alayna Williams yet: Go read them, they're awesome!!

  • Alisha (MyNeedToRead) June 12, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    Dag nabbit, this book has been sitting on the shelf Looks like it's time to pick it up and read it, already!!! :o) Thank you for the very encouraging review…sound like this will be a good one to crack open.

  • Mel June 13, 2011 at 2:43 am

    Embers has been one of my favourite reads so far this year – I have to agree with everything you said! The question I keep asking myself is why haven't I read the next books Sparks yet? I have it but I want the time to sit down and enjoy it fully and alas life hasn't given me that so far this year…still holiday coming up! 🙂

  • draconismoi June 14, 2011 at 12:45 am

    Embers was so fabulous I am hesitant to read Sparks. You know how it goes….new UF series, starts off with a bang, then inevitably peters out in the second….

    At least that is what I am afraid will happen. Hence the wait to read the sequel.

    cass at feministdracona dot net

  • Stella (Ex Libris) June 14, 2011 at 3:01 am

    @Sullivan McPig: Thank you Sully! 😀 And yes, I know also read and reviewed Dark Oracle here: and still have Sparks and Rogue Oracle on my shelves. Laura/Alayna's writing is amazing!

    @Alisha: You should pick up Embers, it is wonderful. Was a complete surprise for me at first how dark and different it was from the other UF novels I've read before, but Laura's poetic and evocative writing kept me captive from the beginning!

    @Mel: I know! I still have Sparks on my shelves and will have to get around to read it! Have you read the other UF series penned by Laura's alter ego: Alayna Williams? Her Oracle series is just as wonderful as the one she writes as Laura Bickle!

    @draconismoi: Having read Laura's second novel (Dark Oracle) I have every confidence that if she wrote two such brilliant novels, she has enough creativity and talent to write a 4th and 5th 🙂 Have faith and can't wait to hear how you like Sparks! (I still have to read it too ;-p)

  • Laura Bickle June 15, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    I'm so pleased that you enjoyed EMBERS! I'm over the moon, and thanks to everyone who commented! 🙂

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