Series: The Chronicles of Light and Shadow #1
Genre: Steampunk Fantasy
Size: 375 pages
Availability: Hardcover, Paperback, Ebook, Audiobook
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.
This book took me by surprise. I had of course heard of it before but not much, so when Del Rey got in touch about sending over a review copy for the Carnival, I actually read the blurb and decided that this sounded right up my alley. And then I started reading it. I’m just going to list a few things off for you that might pique your interest: a female zeppelin pilot, Paris, absinthe faeries, Alchemy, Warlocks, vampires, Greek mythology, Venice, the Orient Express, Constantinople.. okay I’ll stop. But hopefully I’ve highlighted just how much is involved in A Conspiracy of Alchemists. You may now be thinking, “But Hannah, that sounds way too busy!” It isn’t, you see, it is all part of Liesel’s steampunkian fantasy world and it all fits together nice and snug. Every time something is introduced, it is in relation to something else, for example, the Alchemists rely on the Nightwalkers (vampires) for their power but they want something to makes themselves more self-reliant. Every aspect of this story flows so wonderfully.
Before I go on, I have to bring up the villains of A Conspiracy of Alchemists, and for this novel ‘villain’ is the perfect word! They come across as the stereotypical, twirly moustache, ‘mwahaha’ villains of old cartoons. They even have Henchmen! I loved how obvious they were, for the most part at least.. On the other side of the coin we have the good guys. Elle, our protagonist, is a female airship pilot in a time when women are laughed at for wanting Suffrage. She wants to be an individual when it was deemed unladylike and while her father’s maid, Mrs Hinges (how cool is that for a steampunk character name?!) tries to raise Elle to be a proper young lady, Elle is too much of a free spirit to fully comply. I really like that about her. Other characters of note are Patrice and Mr. Marsh. Patrice is a fun character who introduces Elle to Mr. Marsh in Paris. There’s a lot of sexual tension between them, even though they initially don’t get along. Eventually, however, it develops and feels right for the story rather than feeling as though it was just written in for the sake of a romance, which I sometimes feel with mix-genre novels.
Travel plays a big part in A Conspiracy of Alchemists, as you might expect from a story about an airship pilot. The story begins in Paris, and then moves on to London and Oxford, then to Venice, on to the Orient Express, and into Constantinople. The constantly changing environments keep the story on the move, and as a big lover of different cultures and geographies, the way travel was handled kept me interested throughout.
So why should you read A Conspiracy of Alchemists? Read it because it is a steampunkian fantasy novel with many facets, a lovely romance, mysteries to be solved, and an epic end battle. While I worried about Elle’s strong female character being dampened by certain occurrences in the story, she remained herself throughout and I’m really excited to see how she deals with the aftermath of book one in the next two books in this trilogy. I recommend it for fans of Gail Carriger.
The Chronicles of Light and Shadow:
1. A Conspiracy of Alchemists
2. A Clockwork Heart
3. Sky Pirates