Thursday, April 18, 2013

Book Review: A Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz


LEAVE IT TO CHANCE.  Eleanor “Elle” Chance, that is—the intrepid heroine of this edgy new series that transforms elements of urban fantasy, historical adventure, and paranormal romance into pure storytelling gold.

In a Golden Age where spark reactors power the airways, and creatures of Light and Shadow walk openly among us, a deadly game of Alchemists and Warlocks has begun.

When an unusual cargo drags airship-pilot Elle Chance into the affairs of the mysterious Mr. Marsh, she must confront her destiny and do everything in her power to stop the Alchemists from unleashing a magical apocalypse.

Del Rey (Ballantine Books) | March 5, 2013 | 352 pages

My Review

3.5 Stars

A Conspiracy of Alchemists, the first book in a new steampunk series, is a fast-paced adventure set in the early 20th century of an alternate world that is divided between Light (scientific progress) and Shadow (the supernatural).  When Elle Chance, a young airship captain, is asked by an associate to transport a precious piece of cargo from France to England without notifying the authorities, she readily agrees to the favour.  But transporting the cargo proves to be more than Elle bargains for, and draws her into the dangerous world of the mysterious Hugh Marsh. When Elle's father, a renowned scientist, is kidnapped, Elle joins forces with Hugh and they immediately set out to free him.  There is more to her father's kidnapping than first appears, however, and as Elle continues her search for him she becomes deeply drawn into a developing conflict between the Light and the Shadow, a conflict in which she seems fated to play a central part.  

One of the things I liked best about this novel is that the heroine, Elle, is characterized as a smart, independent and capable woman, one who isn't afraid to flout societal expectations.  I also enjoyed that much about Hugh remained a mystery in this novel, and liked that Schwarz slowly reveals the many sides to him as the story unfolds and as his relationship with Elle deepens.  I also think Schwarz does a nice job developing the romantic subplot, even though it is obvious at the start of the novel who Elle's love interest is going to be.  I find the idea of a world divided between Shadow and Light  an interesting premise for a steampunk novel.   However, I think the conflict between the two could have been fleshed out a little better and additional background on the key characters driving it would have been beneficial.       

Overall, A Conspiracy of Alchemists is an enjoyable novel, one that should appeal to fans of  steampunk, as well as to readers interested in giving the genre a try but are unsure of where to start.  I look forward to reading the next installment in the series, A Clockwork Heart

Note: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.