A Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz

A Conspiracy of Alchemists: Book One in The Chronicles of Light and Shadow
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“In a Golden Age where spark reactors power the airways, and creatures of Light and Shadow walk openly among us, a deadly game of Alchemists and Warlocks has begun.

When an unusual cargo drags airship-pilot Elle Chance into the affairs of the mysterious Mr. Marsh, she must confront her destiny and do everything in her power to stop the Alchemists from unleashing a magical apocalypse.”

This is one of those books that I felt had a lot of unrealized potential.  It seemed like, in general, the author didn’t really commit to making the story firmly fall into steampunk, fantasy, or romance.  Of course, mixing genres can often be achieved with great results, but you can’t be iffy about it.  There are the dirigibles and goggles of a steampunk milieu, the magic use of a fantasy novel, and the requisite attraction-at-first-sight relationship between the main characters.  The elements don’t really mesh, though.  There’s not enough steampunk to do more than be a blip on the radar, sporadic magic, and the main characters seem ill suited to each other.

I think that the characters were what made me feel indifferent about this book.  I didn’t like Elle all that much—she seemed like she was being stubborn just for the sake of being stubborn a lot of the time.  Her arguments against things often boiled down to “Because I don’t want to” without anything more to them.  Marsh was played as being mysterious to the point of being one-dimensional, and because of this, his reasons for doing things boiled down to “Because I said so” and that’s it.  It makes him and Elle really incompatible, as they seem more likely to butt heads than strike sparks.  The secondary characters were likewise a little flat for me.  None of them stood out as memorable.

With a setting and characters that don’t really work well together, it’s hardly surprising that the plot is unremarkable as well.  It’s a typical good versus evil scenario, which is fine as it goes, but there’s not a lot to distinguish it from the wide array of other stories attempting to do the same thing.  I think this is partially due to the fluctuating nature of the genres being pulled into play, as there are just too many things that could be going on at any given time.  Still, as I said earlier, there are the seeds of some really interesting stuff in the plot, and I wish the author had been able to pull them together.

While I certainly didn’t see a lot in this book to dislike, I also didn’t see much that had me jumping up and down with excitement either.  A Conspiracy of Alchemists just didn’t have the cohesiveness to succeed for me.  I may still try the sequel though, as there are enough hints of cool things to make me wonder what happens next.

This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on June 18, 2013.

Series: The Chronicles of Light and Shadow
ISBN: 9780345545077
Publisher: Del Rey
Page Count: 352
Publication Date: March 5, 2013
Acquired: Provided by the publisher as an e-ARC through NetGalley
Author Website
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