A Conspiracy of Alchemists ~ Liesel Schwarz

  • Title: A Conspiracy of Alchemists
  • Author: Liesel Schwarz
  • Series: The Chronicles of Light and Shadow #1
  • Genre: Fantasy, Steampunk, Sci-Fi
  • Format: eBook
  • Source: NetGalley
  • Reviewed by: Soo
  • Rating: 3 out of 5

Description: 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.

Review: 3.5 Stars

What would it be like to live in a world where it’s normal for science and magic to coincide? What would it be like if the existence of fairies, trolls, bogwarts, warlocks and more are a part of the known world? They’re common place to the point that they’re not considered magical at all. They simply exist and are a part of life. In this world, science is considered a part of the Light and magical elements come from the Shadow. Science has grown by harnessing magic to run carriages, streetlamps, blimps and more. There’s just one catch. With every advancement in science, the balance between Light and Shadow dwindles. As the Light grows stronger, the Shadow diminishes and all magical creatures and things begin to weaken. To die.

Only the Oracle can bring back the balance, but the next in line to become the Oracle has no knowledge about magic, the balance, or what an Oracle is.

Eleanor Chance has grown up in an unconventional household. Her father is a brilliant scientist that putters around making all sorts of amazing apparatuses like the whimsical castle toaster that toasts bread perfectly. The drive for the unknown and adventure is alive in Eleanor, and she felt no regret at snubbing polite society for the wilds of the sky. Elle is a dirigible pilot and captains her own ship. She doesn’t care much for politics or society. As long as she has her dirigible, work to fly from new places to old, her father and home, Elle is content.

Everything falls apart when she takes a job from an old friend, and Marsh comes into her life. In quick secession, Elle finds herself abducted, saved, fleeing Paris, her dirigible grounded, her life taken in hand by Marsh, and her father kidnapped. Can anything else go wrong? You have to read the story to find out!

The technological gizmos and machinery in the book are well crafted and engages my fertile imagination. My personal favorites are the gyrocopter, castle toaster, coffee maker and the death ray! That’s right. There is a death ray in the book! Think Ghostbusters and you’ll be on the right track.

Liesel Schwarz narrates the story in a tone that puts me back in time to an earlier age. She paints a rich world with lively characters. I like the characters because they’re not perfect. Each one has their strengths and weaknesses. While Elle may be strong and independent spirit, she is also naive and easily influenced by her feelings. Marsh is quick witted and strong but he can be blinded by his own steadfast loyalty. The Professor! I would love to see more of him! I want to get to know more about the absentminded scientist that creates everyday gizmos and terrifying weapons.

Here is an adventure story with a dash of romance, lots of action and several overlapping strands that may fool you to look the other way. Don’t you want to try it and experience the story for yourself?

*Spoilers Ahead – Turn Back Now*

Due to the great pacing of the story in general, a few things felt out of sync for me. While I’m all for Elle and Hugh getting married, I feel like there was a step missing between acknowledging the passion and saying yes to marriage. It would be a little more believable with some sort of courtship. I feel the same about the climax. It’s a large leap to believe what happens. Elle’s only had a few days to come to true awareness of what she is and a small fraction of what’s going on. I may have been making a “What the heck?!?!” face during the climax. It was very cool event but I still made a face by how it all happens. Overall, I’m delighted with the book and can’t wait for the next one. Yay for sequels!

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