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I Belong

Review: Dark Alchemy by Laura Bickle

Dark AlchemyTitle: Dark Alchemy

Author: Laura Bickle

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Series: Dark Alchemy (Book #1)

Publication Date: April 28th, 2015

Format: Paperback, 384 Pages

ISBN-10: 006240492X (HarperCollins)

ISBN-13: 978-0062404923 (HarperCollins)

Reviewed by: Steph


Geologist Petra Dee arrives in Wyoming looking for clues to her father’s disappearance years before. What she finds instead is Temperance, a dying Western town with a gold rush past and a meth-infested present. But under the town’s dust and quiet, an old power is shifting. When bodies start turning up – desiccated and twisted skeletons that Petra can’t scientifically explain – her investigations land her in the middle of a covert war between the town’s most powerful interests. Petra’s father wasn’t the only one searching for the alchemical secrets of Temperance, and those still looking are now ready to kill. Armed with nothing but shaky alliances, a pair of antique guns, and a relic she doesn’t understand, the only thing Petra knows for sure is that she and her coyote sidekick are going to have to move fast, or die next.

Quick & Dirty: A woman comes to a small town looking for her father but ends up finding much more than she bargained for in this enthralling first book in Laura Bickle’s new series.

Opening Sentence: The raven saw it first.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

After experiencing a trauma on her last job, geologist Petra has come to the town of Temperance to search for her missing father. Little does she know this trip will open her eyes to the supernatural. Shortly after arriving in town, Petra saves a man, Gabe, from a vicious beating, only to discover the next day that he looks as if nothing had happened. She’s also come under the scrutiny of the local drug lord, known as the Alchemist. He believes she has something that belongs to him, and he won’t rest until it’s in his possession. Has Petra escaped one trauma only to become the victim of another? Will she find her father? Only time will tell . . .

I had read a book by Laura Bickle a long time ago and remember enjoying it, but for one reason or another, I never picked up the second book. So I was hesitantly positive about the prospect of reading this book. Can I just tell you, from the moment the book started, I was completely hooked! It starts off with some very creepy goings-on, and that just immediately caught my attention, and I wanted to know more about what was going on in this town. The pace of the book was really good, and my interest never really waned.

While I wouldn’t necessarily classify this book as horror, the creep factor is certainly high, as is the gore factor at times. If you’re a little faint of heart, this might not be the right book for you. As someone who loves Stephen King though, this was right up my alley! Laura Bickle definitely knows how to ratchet tension up and leave you on the edge of your seat.

As for our main character, I absolutely loved Petra. She’s strong, smart, and doesn’t need a man to get her out of tough situations. She doesn’t do stupid things, which is one of my biggest pet peeves about some heroines. In a word, Petra’s awesome. Plus she has a coyote sidekick named Sig. What’s not to love?

The one problem with the book though hinges on the romance. It kind of feels shoehorned in and isn’t necessary to the plot at all. Part of the problem is while we get to see some events from Gabe’s point of view, we don’t see enough to really give a good feel for his character, which makes it hard to connect to him. I liked the guy fine, but I really wasn’t invested in him as a character. Plus, the romance seemed to just pop up out of nowhere, and it left  me feeling like I’d missed an important chapter where more development was given to their feelings for each other.

All in all though, I think this was a great first book in a series, full of creepiness, tension, and well-paced action. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will definitely be checking out the next book!

Notable Scene:

She paused in climbing to her feet, squinting at something pale and splintered below the pines. Her GPR cart had rolled away into the soft bed of pine needles. The shape beyond it looked like a piece of the petrified forest. Had the ridge eroded on this slope enough to reveal another, older incarnation of the forest?

Her curiosity piqued, Petra crawled forward on her hands and knees. Pinesap stuck dried needles to her palms.

Sig growled. Petra looked back at him. His fur bristled, and he crouched close to the ground.

“You need to get over the squirrels. Really.”

But Sig wasn’t looking up. He was looking past her, at the petrified specimens. His nose flared and shivered.

Petra reached into her pack for a pick. Was Sig sensing a snake . . . or . . . God forbid, a larger predator? A bear?

A thin, reedy moan echoed from the foot of the pine.

Petra scrambled back, heart hammering. She dropped the pick and reached for the bear spray.

The moan sounded again. It didn’t sound like a bear. It sounded . . . human.

Petra crept toward the sound, expecting to find an injured hiker. The pine needles were soft underfoot, muffling her steps. Sig slunk before her. But he didn’t go beyond the tree. He stopped at the jagged piece of petrified wood, whimpered, circled it.

Petra peered at what she’d assumed to be a centuries-old tree. Something dead and silent. She pressed her hand to her mouth. “Oh, my God . . .”

It wasn’t a tree. This thing was horribly, horribly alive. Bones were warped and twisted, calcified around what was unmistakably a human face. She saw no evidence of eyes in the sockets, but she did see teeth in a jagged, frozen jaw. A thin, wordless keening flexed the ribs.

Her hands scrabbled in the pine needles for her pick. “Hang on. I’ll get you out of there.” She swung awkwardly with the pick, splintering away pieces of petrified material and summoning blood in the jagged surface. The thing shrieked.

Petra recoiled. This wasn’t someone encased in a prison of petrified wood – the prison was the person.

A prison of bone.

Dark Alchemy Series:

1. Dark Alchemy

2. Mercury Retrograde


FTC Advisory: Harper Voyager Impulse/HarperCollins provided me with a copy of Dark Alchemy. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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One Response to “Review: Dark Alchemy by Laura Bickle

  1. SamanthaNo Gravatar

    I am a huge fan of this series so I am glad to see that you enjoyed this one. I loved the second book even more than this one and am now impatiently waiting for book 3. It is just such a different series than what is out there. Great review!

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