Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Conspiracy of Alchemists, by Liesel Schwarz. Ballantine, 2013

This steampunk novel, the first of a trilogy, introduces us to Elle Chance, owner of her own airship and daughter of a renowned inventor. To pay for her ship, she runs it as light freighter. Most companies won’t hire her, though, so she takes what she can get. So when she is offered an under the table job of transporting a small box from Paris to England, she takes it. No sooner does she do this, however, than trouble starts- and doesn’t stop for 400+ pages.

This is a 1903 where airships and horseless carriages are run on steam powered by mysterious (to me) spark reactors -I never figured out if that was magic, or science, or something in between. The world is divided into Light and Shadow, with fairies, vampires, warlocks, fauns, airship pirates and I’m not sure what else. For a long time, Light, the side of science and logic, has ruled, but members of the Shadow side aim to put an end to that soon- and to end a long time pact with some associates. Not only does Elle get embroiled in this fight by having the box, but it seems she has a talent that both sides want, too. Of course, there is the handsome, troubled hero, whom Elle finds attractive but cannot trust or get along with, Hugh Marsh, Lord Greychester.

While Elle seems to get past her troubles when she makes it safely home, that changes when her father is kidnapped and she goes out for blood. As she and Hugh try to rescue her father, the way this world works is unfolded for us and it’s an interesting world, with some interesting characters in it.

Sadly, Elle is sometimes not the most interesting of them. She starts out fine, brave, smart, and capable of making her own way in the world. But meeting Hugh seems to rob her of a part of herself and turn her into a teenager who reacts emotionally when she shouldn’t and refusing to listen to important things about herself and her family. I’m hoping that in the next volume she comes around and faces things as an adult. Everyone is entitled to scared and petulant moments, but when it becomes one’s personality, that gets irritating.

I’m also hoping to see more of some of the characters introduced in this book: Adele the absinth fairy, Baroness Belododia the (good) vampire, and Inut the half-faun boy. They made more of an impact that one would expect for the limited number of pages given to them, which is why I’m hoping they are given more space in Book Two. Which I will be reading. 

The above is an affiliate link. If you click on it and buy the book, Amazon will give me a few pennies. This in no way affects my review. 

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