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I Belong

Review: The Alchemy of Forever by Avery Williams

Title: The Alchemy of Forever

Author: Avery Williams

Genre: YA Fantasy

Series: Incarnation (Book 1)

Publication Date: January 3, 2012

Format: Hardcover, 256 Pages

ISBN-10: 1442443162 (Simon & Schuster)

ISBN-13:  9781442443167 (Simon & Schuster)

Reviewed by: Emmy


Seraphina has been alive since the Middle Ages, when her boyfriend, Cyrus, managed to perfect a method of alchemy that lets them swap bodies with any human being. Sera ran away from Cyrus years ago, when she realized that what they were doing–taking the lives of innocent people–was wrong. She doesn’t want to die, so she finds young people who are on the brink of death, and inhabits their bodies.

Quick & Dirty: With an extraordinarily intricate plot and a strong, complicated heroine, readers won’t be able to tear themselves away from this captivating read.

Opening Sentence: I feel as though I’ve been waiting for the masquerade ball for my entire life.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Sera has spent the last 600 years living with Cyrus, the apothecary’s son turned alchemist. As they jump from body to body Sera’s love has died a little bit at a time, and Cyrus has become more controlling and abusive. Her next incarnation needs to happen soon, because her body’s dying. While Cyrus plans a party to choose her next victim, Sera plans her suicide. Before she left, Sera stole from Cyrus, intending to destroy his two dearest possessions in one blow.

But Sera doesn’t die. Everything works perfectly until Sera tries to save a girl and ends up jumping into her body.  She hasn’t been a teenager for centuries and has to dupe this girl’s family and friends until she can find another way to die. Cyrus will stop at nothing to find her, avoiding him by being Kailey is all Sera can think to do. But the longer she hides in this body, the more she comes to love Kailey’s friends and family. The longer she hides, the closer Cyrus comes to finding her.

It takes Sera some effort to absorb the modern teen culture. I was very impressed that Sera, despite being a murderer, she was such a sympathetic and strong character. There was so much remorse over what she had done and her belief that it’s finally her time to die, which is so strong that as a reader it was hard not to wish her dead as well. Sera has a hard time fitting into Kailey’s life at first, taking subtle hints from everyone else as to how she should behave.  Kailey, you quickly learn, was an inattentive student, a popular girl, and an artist. She wasn’t the greatest friend either, apparently, deeming some friends as too embarrassing to be seen with in public.

Instead of trying to turn into Kailey, Sera finds reasons to make Kailey more like herself–friendly, compassionate, and smart–while her friends notice, they don’t think much of it. Things get tricky though, when Noah–one of the boys Kailey refused to be seen in public with–and Sera form a stronger relationship, one that easily becomes more than friendly.

But there are things about Kailey that Sera doesn’t know.  What was she doing down in Jack London when she was supposed to be at an art gallery in Berkeley? There’s something Kailey never told anyone about, something Sera is going to have to figure out.  Kailey’s friends are referencing events and people she doesn’t know. How long can she keep this up when she can’t even draw–much less finish the fantastical painting in Kailey’s bedroom.

This book is filled with tension, mostly because it feels like everyone in the novel knows more about what Kailey should be doing than Sera does. Williams makes her readers worry about how Kailey would’ve behaved versus what Sera is doing. Williams also does a great job of establishing Sera as an authority.  Part of that comes with her being so old and experienced, but part of it has to do with Williams writing Sera as such a relatable heroine–and who ever thought they could relate to anyone who was 600 years old?  Sera knows Cyrus is coming after her and is convinced someone might catch on to Kailey’s less-than-usual demeanor, which fills the reader with a sense of impending doom.

Notable Scene:

I’m staring out the window, lost in thought, when a boy approaches our table.  He’s older, probably late twenties, and has jet-black hair and a nose ring. “Hey, Kailey,” he says.  I narrow my eyes.  He’s clearly too old to be in high school and smells like leather, cigarettes, and bear.  I wonder how she knows him.

“Hey,” I say hesitantly.

“Haven’t seen you around much lately. Thought you were coming out on Saturday.” He’s looking at me intently, and not in an entirely friendly way. There’s something about him that I don’t like.

“I’ve been really busy,” I say stiffly.  I want him to leave.

Out of the corner of my eye I see Leyla coming out of the bathroom. “So I should really get back to my studying,” I say.

He follows my gaze and nods. “I get it. Well, hopefully you make it back down to the club one of these days.  I miss dancing with you.” He winks at me and walks away. My skin crawls.

The Incarnation Series:

1. The Alchemy of Forever

FTC Advisory: Simon & Schuster provided me with a copy of The Alchemy of Forever.  No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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