Title: A Conspiracy of Alchemists
Author: Liesel Schwarz
Genre: Steampunk/Urban Fantasy
Series: Chronicles of Light and Shadow (Book 1)
Publication Date: March 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
ISBN-10: 0345545079 (Del Rey)
ISBN-13: 978-0345545077 (Del Rey)
Reviewed by: Anjelica
LEAVE IT TO CHANCE.
Eleanor “Elle” Chance, that is—a high-flying dirigible pilot with a taste for adventure and the heroine of this edgy new series that transforms elements of urban fantasy, steampunk, and paranormal romance into pure storytelling gold.
It is 1903, and the world is divided between light and shadow. On the side of light is a wondrous science that has transformed everyday life by harnessing magical energies to ingenious new technologies. But each advance of science has come at the expense of shadow—the traditional realm of the supernatural.
Now two ancient powers are preparing to strike back. Blood-sucking immortal Nightwalkers and their spellcasting Alchemist allies have a plan to cover the whole world in shadow. All they require is the sacrifice of a certain young woman whose past conceals a dangerous secret.
But when they come after Elle, they get more than they bargained for. This enterprising young woman, the daughter of a scientific genius, has reserves of bravery and determination that even she scarcely suspects. Now she is about to meet her match in more ways than one: a handsome yet infuriating Warlock named Hugh Marsh, whose agenda is as suspect as his charms are annoyingly irresistible.
Quick & Dirty: Elle’s hidden gift is all that can keep the world in balance and running from her destiny could prove more dangerous than embarrassing who she really is.
Opening Sentence: This was the place where people came to give their souls to fairies.
Schwarz has created an amazing universe in this book. The world is divided into Light and Shadow. Everything in the Light believes only in science and solid fact while the Shadow is made up of all the magic of the world. They exist in balance, one never overpowering the other until a greedy old alchemist named Abercrombie decides to destroy this harmony and tip the world in favor of the Shadow.
I enjoyed Abercrombie as the villain quite a bit. As an alchemist, he is bound as a servant to a Nightwalker named Aleix. In the beginning it appears these two are partners, Abercrombie doing the work Aleix couldn’t while the sun was up. It didn’t take long, however, to notice that this partnership wasn’t going to end well for one of the two gentlemen. Neither of them was given much of a back story outside of the history of their two species. Basically, Abercrombie was sick of being as powerful as he was and still being a servant. His motives were simple and straightforward. Get the girl and the key and destroy the creatures that believe themselves to be above him.
Now the girl is Miss Elle Chance. To start, she is one of the only female pilots of her day but by the end she must face a destiny that will decide the fate of the world forever. She has an incredible amount of confidence in herself and refuses to fill the role society dictates for her. I immediately like this woman even if she comes off a bit, Mary-Sue to begin with. I mean she’s beautiful, a gifted pilot, smart, strong-willed, destined for a greatness she doesn’t yet know of; basically she is perfect. That little fact is quite annoying to me because I like to see characters with flaws that they have to work through for the greater good. Elle’s greatest pitfall is her pride and narrow minded views. I enjoyed Elle’s wit and spirit so much that I was able to overlook everything else.
Elle is a pilot for freight planes and her one most loyal and trusted patron is Patrice. He often gives her assignments since not many other men would trust their freight with a woman flying the plane. Patrice comes off as a kind and jolly man but I have read enough books and watched enough movies that as soon as Elle told Mr. Marsh that she trusted Patrice without a doubt, I knew he was going to do something stupid.
Mr. Marsh is probably my favorite character. He is a warlock on a mission and he tries so desperately to keep Elle out of it that he often comes off as rude and a bit sexist. I love the banter between Elle and Marsh, especially as it becomes more and more obvious that the two have a thing for each other. Marsh’s character comes off nearly as perfect as Elle’s because he is quite rich, handsome, powerful, but his perfection seems more appropriate due to the fact that he’s a warlock. He has seen a great deal of the world and understands things Elle shouldn’t or couldn’t.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. The characters were well developed and the plot was interesting enough. The one thing I had a problem with is not something everyone will find as a fault. Since I read mostly young adult novels, I have become a bit accustomed to having plots move quickly from point to point to point so that if there is a lull in the action, that part of a journey is merely summarized in a paragraph or two. Schwarz left no moment untold, no day unspoken for. We followed the characters basically minute by minute from dusk till dawn. While this is a sign of a well thought out and developed story, it made it very difficult for me to get through. By the end of this adventure, I was very thankful to be done which isn’t usually the case. While this book wasn’t really my cup of tea, I’m sure that a fanbase will form behind it and the series will be very much enjoyed.
They can all manage by themselves. The voices were right. The world would manage without her. But before it did, she would have to rid the world of these evil men and whatever it was that they were planning. She was not about to let them succeed, even if it was to be the last thing she did. Suddenly an awesome sense of power filled her and when she spoke her voice had a resonance that was not her own. “Alchemist, you will not take from me what you have no permission to take. By the power that my mothers before me command, all you do shall be returned to you three-fold.” A sudden gust of air whirled around the cell. A few of the cloaked figures shifted slightly and looked at one another. Abercrombie started laughing. “How magnificent you are. You look like a goddess in that dress, with your hair all around you. But alas, ,I must call a halt to matters now. Enough of the brave games. The moon is rising and we have important business to attend to.” He reached over and touched his fingers to the center of Elle’s forehead. Hot alchemy flashed against her skin. She resisted for an instant, but her feeble barriers didn’t hold. Suddenly she was far away from her own body. She watched her knees buckle under her. Hands caught her and lifted her up onto the flower-adorned litter they had ready and waiting outside the door. A wreath of flowers was pushed into her hair. She was borne away in time to the deep-toned death chant of the Alchemists. Then everything went black.
The Chronicles of Light and Shadow Series:
2. A Clockwork Heart (August 13, 2013)
FTC Advisory: Del Rey/Random House provided me with a copy of A Conspiracy of Alchemists. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
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