Review courtesy of All Things Urban FantasySPARKS
is many things: a funny tale of a girl and her salamander, an ode to the city of Detroit, a startlingly unique romance, and a gritty, noir mystery. These first qualities worked much better for me than the last. I found the villain tepid and uninteresting when juxtaposed with Anya’s dark past, an impending newt hatching, or the romantic antics of the Detroit Museum of Arts ghost population. This flaw ultimately made me unmotivated to finish the book, despite the aspects that I enjoyed.
As in Bickle’s previous book, I thought the relationships in SPARKS were nuanced and well written. In Embers Anya has a brief fling with a man she knows to be an arsonist. Drake Ferrer was a bit too creepy for me to understand Anya’s attraction to him (think Batman if Bruce Wayne had chosen the dark side), though I applauded Bickle’s willingness to deviate from the normal proscribed relationships a heroine can explore. Similarly, in SPARKS
, I found myself more impressed with the unusual realism of Anya’s relationship with Brian than with Brian himself. Anya is allowed to have both positive and negative feelings for Brian, and as a reader, I never felt that great sex was meant to signal Anya finding her soul-mate. In breaking common romance cliches, Bickle writes a more noteworthy relationship. Not since Charlaine Harris or Kim Harrison have I found an author who so deftly keeps you wondering about a romantic “happily ever after.”
There are some shades of HEA in this book, just not where you might expect it. Anya may date Brian, but the true love of her life is her salamander. Sparky was a bright spot in Embers, and he truly shines in SPARKS. His hi-jinx are utter entertainment, leavened with real-world consequences. As odd as it might sound, the large, invisible salamander was portrayed with both realism and charm. Bickle takes every child’s imaginary friend and gives it depth by adding the joys (and difficulties) of owning a real pet. The scenes with Sparky are what I laughed at and read out to my husband.
Despite all of the individual aspects of this book that I admired, I still found their combination to be missing some essential spark. I am interested in reading more about Anya in the future, but will look for the next book at the library.
Sexual Content: Brief sensuality and a non-graphic sex scene.