Thursday, June 17, 2010

Another Review! Laura Bickle's EMBERS

EMBERS puts the urban back in urban fantasy. Anya Kalinczyk is unusual for an urban fantasy protagonist in that she has a regular job. Well, non-fantastical anyway. She's an arson investigator for the Detroit Fire Department, and subject to bureaucratic tropes, office politics and municipal cutbacks. She's also a Lantern, a medium psychically linked to fire and able to consume and extinguish malicious spirits.

Anya is strong, competent and dedicated. She's also vulnerable and terribly alone. Her elemental familiar, Sparky, is a salamander. He watches over her in his own charming way, but is also one of the reasons she has avoided intimacy with humans.

In the course of investigating strange arsons and working with a crew of ghost hunters, throughout a troubled and depressed Motor City, Anya discovers that something wicked her way comes. In the days leading up to Devil's Night, the fires are just a harbinger of possible greater destruction, which Anya races to uncover, facing increasingly difficult obstacles.

Anya is a complex character, drawn to things she cannot have, and pushed into performing acts she does not like because of her power. The city is described in excellent detail, becoming a character itself, and the supporting cast is strong.

The book is a little uneven, and the end felt almost hasty. But, overall, a good, grown-up urban fantasy. Unusually, I was at times more intrigued by the mundane aspects of Anya's occupation than the fantastical aspects of the world the author built. But in a good way. RECOMMENDED.

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