Two Minute Review: Ember by Kristen Callihan

Friday, February 10, 2012
Title: Ember
Genre: historical fiction, supernatural fiction, romance novel-ish
Series: Darkest London # 0.5
Pages: 92 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: February 2012
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 3.5/5

After a fire consumes the Ellis family fortune, the beautiful and resourceful Miranda finds herself faced with an impossible dilemma: enter a life of petty crime or watch her family succumb to poverty. But once her fiancĂ© learns of her descent into danger—and of the strange, new powers she's discovered—saving her family may come at the high price of her heart.

When Lord Benjamin Archer's one chance for redemption is destroyed by corrupt London antiquarian Hector Ellis, he vows to take what Ellis values most—his daughter Miranda. Forced to hide his face behind masks, Archer travels the world hoping to escape the curse that plagues him so that he can finally claim his prize.

But once Archer returns home to London, will it be revenge he seeks? Or will the flame-haired beauty ignite new, undeniable desires?

After very much impressing me with her first novel - and first in the series - Firelight, I picked up Ember expecting a short, uncomplicated but thoroughly entertaining glimpse into the lives of Miranda and Archer before the events of book one.  For once, I got exactly what I had hoped for - Ms. Callihan does not disappoint. This novella does cut it a bit close to the short-side; the page count (for the ARC at least) is 92 but the last twenty pages are extras and about the full-length novel. The extras are quite  fun and if I hadn't already devoured read Firelight, after this my appetite would be thoroughly primed and ready. But for the use of 72 pages devoted to Pan and 'the Bloody Baron', I was once again entranced and intrigued by these two well-rounded and interesting characters. 

Readers will get to see the events in the warehouse that doom Miranda's family - the prologue is a bit vague initially about who she was with at the time (Martin? Billy Finger?), but the bulk of the novella is centered in 1879, two years after the disastrous fire and after Miranda and Archer meet for the first time. Miranda's powers are actually used in the novella - something I wasn't expecting after how long it took to get to that point in Firelight - but are not the focus of the story here. With Ember, the reader gets to experience the fear of Miranda scrounging out a living thieving in London, observe Archer search for any type of cure he can find in Egypt.

The additional plotline about Martin was rather nicely handled. The relationship between him and Miranda ended rather quickly during the first book, so I appreciated the look into the actual relationship as it existed. This plotline also stirs up a lot of sympathy for Miranda's lot in life - something I didn't really feel for her while reading Firelight. I liked her certainly - Ember only reinforces that impression - but the events herein are very good at engendering sympathy for the Londoner fallen on hard times. Archer is, of course, as dashing and alluring as ever but the opportunity to see him in Egypt/New York allows for additional facets to his personality to be fleshed out more.

Fans of Firelight will want to grab Ember as a tasty little morsel to hold them over until the August release of book number two, Moonglow. Best of all? It's a steal at only $.99 for Nook.

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