EMBERS
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 www.deborahblakehps.com.