Friday, June 22, 2012


Sparks is the stunning sequel to Laura Bickle's Embers, an urban fantasy duology (which I hope will turn into a full-on series).  By day, Anya Kalinczyk is an arson investigator for the Detroit Fire Department; by night, she investigates the paranormal with the Detroit Area Ghost Researchers.  Anya is somewhat reluctant to associate herself with the DAGR, partly because she's unsure whether she would still have a job if word got out, but also because she struggles with her role in the group:  disposal.  If DAGR were the Ghostbusters, Anya would be their Proton Pack.

Anya is a Lantern - a kind of medium who has a special connection with the element of fire and control of sorts over its destructive powers.  As a medium, she can see and interact with ghosts, but as a Lantern, she also has the ability to destroy them by essentially sucking them into herself like some kind of heartburn-inducing ectoplasm smoothie.  It isn't something she enjoys doing.  You can imagine this Lantern business can get pretty dangerous, but that ain't nothin' but a thang when you've also got the companionship and protection of an elemental familiar; Sparky, Anya's salamander, has been with her ever since she can remember.  He might be mischievous like a puppy who enjoys making "short" (heh) work of various electrical devices, but he's also a fierce and loyal guardian.

In Sparks, the DFD is confronted with a series of puzzling cases of what appears to be spontaneous combustion.  What's especially troubling about these cases is that Anya can sense old magick at each of the scenes; she suspects they are linked to Hope Solomon, who heads a shady organization in the city called "Miracles for the Masses."  Trying to get enough evidence that isn't paranormal in nature could be a problem, however, and the body count is rising.

I really, REALLY loved Embers, so I was stoked (hehe) to read Sparks finally.  Bickle absolutely did not disappoint; these have been by far my favorite urban fantasy books, and like I said before, I really hope there will be more of Anya to come.  I love her - she's not some leather-clad sexpot, she is a totally normal (well, except for the Lantern thing) but kick-ass lady.  She is someone I could see myself having beers with.  I also adore her friend (and fellow DAGR member) Katie; Katie is a witch who runs a bakery.  I want Katie to be my best friend.  And roommate.  One thing I love about Katie is that she isn't some gothy stereotype like the girls in The Craft.  She makes me think more of the Owens women in Practical Magic.  There is real magick in the reality Bickle creates for us, but Katie's approach is very natural and believable, and it seems to me that Bickle has really done her research to get the details right.  

And okay, I know in my review of Embers I said that I wanted to see some more of Drake somehow, but HELLO Charon.  If he is what I have to look forward to when my spirit departs the mortal coil, then any fears I would have about death are gone.  In fact, I will be eagerly awaiting his arrival.

Sparks has every bit as much page-turning intrigue as its predecessor; it's gritty and gripping.  There's still a romantic element between Anya and Brian, but things get a little complicated on that front (without being melodramatic or plot-dominating).  And just as with the end of Embers, there is another sweet boss fight at the end of this one.

If you're looking for something other than the usual vampire/werewolf fare in the genre, you need to check this out.  Bickle has something special and original in Anya Kalinczyk.



Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster

Series info:  What came before this book?  What's next?
Anya Kalinczyk
- Embers (Book 1)
* Sparks (Book 2)

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Better World Books


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