Today’s book review is an extension of this podcast episode, a review of Liesel Schwarz’s debut novel, A Conspiracy of Alchemists.
I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this book and I’m so glad I did, because this is not the kind of book I would normally pick up. I don’t read a lot of steampunk, and while this had lots of steampunky elements to it, there was also plenty of magic and mystery for me. The story is about a young woman named Elle. She is a pilot, in a time where most ladies were expected to think only of fancy dresses and who they were going to marry. She is hired to transport a package, but is kidnapped. The package is stolen and Elle is swept into a mystery that she never expected.
First, she finds out that her father has also been kidnapped and is being held by the alchemists. Her companion is Mr. Hugh Marsh, who she finds out later is a warlock. On top of all that, she learns that her mother, long dead, is not who she thought that she was. Elle also learns that she has special powers of her own, which makes everyone want to use her for their own ends.
If I had a few small complaints, it would be that Elle gets a little petulant at times, not wanting to accept things that are plainly in front of her. She also spent a little too much time being flirty with Mr. Marsh instead of worrying about her missing father. But the good parts of this book definitely outweigh these few criticisms. It’s a fast paced chase through Europe – Paris, England, Venice, Constantinople, just to name a few – meeting mythical characters such as Oracles and fairies. And let me just say – I want to play gin rummy with a vampire on the Orient Express! It’s good versus evil, but the good guys aren’t always as good as you’d hoped they were, and the bad guys aren’t as easy to spot as you’d like.
This is the first book of a series, the next one coming out in August. I will definitely be looking for it. This was a fun read.