Debut Review: Embers by Laura Bickle

by Laura Bickle
Juno Books – $7.99

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Review by Deborah Blake

Anya Kalinczyk is an arson investigator with the Detroit Fire Department. She is also a Lantern, a type of psychic medium so rare that as far as she knows, she is the only one. When not at her day job, she works with DAGR, the Detroit Area Ghost Researchers, an eccentric bunch of ghost hunters. Anya’s rare talent allows her to absorb malicious spirits into her own core, thus extinguishing them forever; a mixed blessing, and a last resort.

An unusual increase in malevolent spirit activity and a series of mysterious fires send Anya on the trail of a supernatural arsonist—who just may be a Lantern like her. Both attracted to and repulsed by this dangerous adversary, Anya jeopardizes her friendships and her budding relationship with one of the DAGR members to try and handle the crisis on her own. Using only her salamander familiar and her own uncertain gift, she battles demons both real and emotional, slowly getting in further and further over her head.

In the end, she must reach out for help or risk losing not just her life but the city she has fought so hard to defend. On Devil’s Night, her foe will attempt to summon an ancient entity to consume Detroit and all those in it, unless Anya can find the strength to stop him.

EMBERS is a strong debut; well written and peopled by diverse and intriguing characters. Anya is a tortured soul—in more ways than one—and often her own worst enemy. As a reader, you sympathize with her friends’ frustration as she pushes away those who would help her, insisting on doing everything by herself. But once you learn her history, it becomes clear that Anya is damaged; and this story is as much about her own redemption as it is about her fight to keep her beloved city safe.

The unexpected beauty of the fiery entity, the playful malignance of the demon that inhabits Anya, and the flashes of humanity demonstrated by her enemy all enrich this book. My only complaint (and it is a small one) is that Bickle occasionally displays some of the writing flaws of a beginning author; words repeated too often or too closely, and once a contradiction that temporarily threw me out of the story. But overall, this is a winner, and I look forward to reading Anya’s further adventures. And her familiar Sparky is one of my new favorite paranormal creatures.

Deborah Blake is an award-winning author with five books on modern Witchcraft. Two of these are coming out this year: EVERYDAY WITCH A TO Z SPELLBOOK (Llewellyn, July) and WITCHCRAFT ON A SHOESTRING (Llewellyn, September). She also writes Urban Fantasy and is represented by Elaine Spencer of The Knight Agency. Deborah gives a number of highly successful online writing workshops and has a loop, THE CREATIVITY CAULDRON, for paranormal authors. Her website is

13 Thoughts to “Debut Review: Embers by Laura Bickle”

  1. Tia Nevitt

    I usually stay far away from novels that features demon possession, unless it’s a specifically Christian novel, in which case the possessions would probably be similar to the possessions in the New Testament. Demons seem to be popular in urban fantasy today, which is one of the reasons I’m not a fan of the genre.

    I’m sure you can empathize, because you’ve written to me of your frustration with books that treat your beliefs lightly.

    One thing I should look into is Christian Urban Fantasy. Since Christian novels tend to have subgenres of every conceivable genre, I’m sure there are some out there. A kick-ass believer who can expel demons–I could get into that!

  2. Actually, I thought of you as I was reading this novel. I think the demon possession here is very much in line with your beliefs. There is no question as to the evil of the demon (really, really evil). And some of Anya’s ghost hunting companions use Christian approaches in a believable and respectful way. You might like this one. Do you want me to send you the review copy?

    1. Tia Nevitt

      That’s very sweet of you to offer! If you really think I would like it, then yes, I’d give it a chance on your recommendation. However, the next urban fantasy I want to read is Jennifer Estep’s Web of Lies, so it may be a month or so before I’d get to it.

  3. This sounds interesting in spite of the arson. Unfortunately, I had trouble getting thru a book the last time I fel that way. I really don’t like thinking about destructive crimes like murder and arson. {half-smile}

    I might still look into it at the library. {Smile}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

  4. I’m so excited and thrilled that you enjoyed EMBERS, Deborah! I’m very glad for the feedback. The sequel, SPARKS, is coming in September. If you like, I could send you a review copy..?

  5. Anne,
    I find such things disturbing as well, but if handled well (and with a happy ending), I can deal with them.

    1. Thanks for understanding. Since it worked for you when you have a similar problem, I will look it over if I run into it. {Smile}

      Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

  6. Laura,
    I did enjoy it very much. If you want to email me, I would be happy to share the one “issue” I found. I don’t know if it is anything you can change before the book goes to a second printing (which I’m sure it will). And maybe I read it wrong…not unheard of!
    I would love to have a review copy of the sequel. I’m really looking forward to it. when does it come out?

  7. Tia Nevitt

    Thanks for stopping by, Laura! Deb thinks I’ll like your novel so I guess I’ll be giving it a try as well!

  8. Anne,
    I understand completely! I love urban fantasy (and write it), but much of what is out there is just too dark and gritty for me.

    I can deal with murder and arson okay–but rape and serial killers…ugh. We all have things that we are just not comfortable reading about. That’s why they have to publish so many books!

    1. Serial killers are just a worse form of murder as far as I’m concerned. Rape… For me that’s one that depends on how it’s presented. Sometimes it works better than others for me. {Smile}

      I’m very glad that folks do like a variety of books. I think that makes both life and bookstores a lot more interesting. {SMILE}

      Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

  9. I hope that you enjoy it, Tia! If you’d like me to send you a copy, please let me know. 🙂

    Deborah, I’d be very grateful to know about the issue you found. I will keep my fingers crossed that I have the chance to fix it in another printing. I sent you an e-mail through your website. Thank you so much!

  10. Laura,
    No problem! I look forward to talking writing with you 🙂

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