Book Review: Alchemy

A world without war? Professor Sawhele Fielding stumbles across an invention that would change the world; something so monumental, it could spell the end of environmental disaster and conflict. With the help of her father, a shadowy figure in the world of international banking, she begins to set into motion the biggest upheaval the planet has seen. But in a changed world, dark forces are threatening the fragile peace. Where modern technology is proving useless, old magic from a bygone era might just save the day. Adrian Oliver, expert in ancient religions is skeptical until faced with incontrovertible proof that ancient evil is abroad once again. How could a Utopian dream of free fuel and peaceful co-existence turn into a nightmare? Iamo, a priest of the Mother Goddess and Riga, a Black Shaman assassin captain, are thrown together – reluctantly at first – to face a threat that nobody could have imagined before “The Changes”. ALCHEMY is the prequel to Shaman’s Drum which features the adventures of Iamo and Riga through their world in the near future, where the established religions of our own days had been banned.

First impression when I finished this one?  “Where’s the next!”  Second thought, “No, what did I just read?”  This is definitely one to go back and re-read for me because there is so much going on in the story line.  I’m pretty certain there’s at least another layer below the face value surface, and I want to go back and dig for it.  Ailsa does a wonderful job in spinning the tale for its own sake, but there is a complexity that reminds me of some of the classics I’ve read that have multiple layers.  It may just be because I enjoyed the tale so much, but I definitely want to find out.

The overall story is neatly summed up in the back cover description, and fully self contained within the covers of the book.  There is a definite ending, yet there are enough threads waving in the wind that if you’re just now finding this book you know there’s a follow up to go with it.  Not a bad thing, and definitely fans my interest to see just where Ailsa is going to take this tale.

The pace is fairly fast, yet provides a few pauses here and there so you can absorb what just happened, though the introductory scene is a bit of a roller coaster of action, inactivity, and mind boggling information to help get you jump started into the wild ride.  There is a bit of an odd break in the flow of the story – a multi-year gap which provides another pausing point to assimilate what has happened up to then.  The three distinct story lines do not point at each other until after this point, so if it seems disjointed, don’t worry – it all ties together neatly once all the players are in motion.  Once the stories collide, things really take off, and become interesting.  Then… well, the book ends.  (Thus the first and second impression.)

The characters are very well developed, each as distinct as an otter from a dog, cat, or raccoon.  Each has their own unique voice, and quirks.  Though one segment seems to be painted as the “bad” side in due to preconceptions, I’m not so certain they really are the enemy.  I think they are just the darker balance to the gentler (and more respected) group that is forced to work with them.  Overall, the characters from all of the different groups are so well balanced, I actually can’t remember a flaw or virtue that really stands out in any of them.  (Which definitely means it’s time for a re-read!)

The world building is superb.  Starting with current, modern day Earth, the future Earth is carefully extrapolated and defined with a solidarity that makes it seem like this is one of many likely futures we could be facing.  Even the mystical aspects of the world are well crafted, and follow their own internal logic and rules.

Overall, this is definitely a book I know I’m going to be reading multiple times over multiple years.  A solid 5 out of 5 stars from me.  Now, if only the to be re-read pile wasn’t so deep!



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