A Conspiracy of Alchemists — Review

Liesel Schwarz’s debut novel, A Conspiracy of Alchemists, blends the aesthetics of Steampunk historical fantasy with a dash of urban fantasy for a unique world with just enough grittiness for verisimilitude. This young adult novel is available for preorder, and comes out on March 5th.

Eleanor (Elle) Chance isn’t the typical young lady of her time. Instead of preparing to marry and run her own household, she runs a freight company with her helium filled transport zeppelin.  Her business brings her into contact with people who realize who she is, the oracle — the only individual who can balance the world of Light and the world of Shadows — something Elle doesn’t even know herself.

She’s quickly swept into danger and intrigue when her father, a genius scientist, is abducted and she is targeted for a sacrifice that would break down the veil between light and shadow, transforming the world into a place of powerful darkness.

Her quest is complicated by her growing feelings for a dashing warlock who agrees to help her, but who may have plans of his own that Elle wouldn’t appreciate.

The book is well researched, but not weighed down with extraneous details from the era in which it is set. Though the themes it deals with are somewhat cliche (women’s rights in the Victorian era, science vs. magic. vs. religion), Schwarz does a good job avoiding beating her reader over the head with it, something I appreciate.

I think the book’s greatest weakness is the dialogue, which, for the most part, is quite appropriate to the period and sounds very genuine, but occasionally pops out of the more formal sounding discourse, or comes out with a word that just doesn’t fit, like referring to the kidnappers as “blighters” — a term that lacked the usual formality of the speaker and didn’t convey the seriousness of the situation.

Other than that, I’d say this is a very strong debut novel, and I hope to get the chance to read and review the next book in the series, which is coming out in August.

I give it three out of five owls.three owls dark

~ by lamichaud on February 27, 2013.

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