Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Release Day Review: A Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz

A Conspiracy of Alchemists
by Liesel Schwarz
Series: The Chronicles of Light and Shadow #1
Publisher: Random House
Publication date: March 5, 2013
Genre: Steampunk/Paranormal
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ARC provided in exchange for unbiased review
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LEAVE IT TO CHANCE. Eleanor “Elle” Chance, that is—a high-flying dirigible pilot with a taste for adventure and the heroine of this edgy new series that transforms elements of urban fantasy, steampunk, and paranormal romance into pure storytelling gold. 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.
I get a little nervous when someone says a book offers a blend of genres as nine times out of ten one of those genres suffer and usually it’s the one I bought the book for. So it was with trepidation that I began reading A Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz. My fears were quickly put to rest as I slipped into this delightful steampunk fantasy wrapped in paranormal and historical elements. I found I could not put this action packed tale down and quickly consumed it.

The tale takes place in 1903 where science and magic are split. On one side is the shadow or the realm of supernatural and on the other is light where science creates new technologies and wonderful gadgets. This balance has been kept in check but as man creates more technology the power of the shadow realm begins to fade and a plot is devised to take over the world from the light once and for all. With the help of Nightwalkers and spell-casting alchemists they plan to perform a ritual using a special woman as the conduit to harness the power. Aren’t you already drooling..I was. We meet our protagonist Ella, the daughter of a scientist, an ace mechanic and a pilot. She is hired to transport a package from Paris to London and the tale that unfolds is action packed and magical with a hint of romance as Ella finds herself at the center of a war. Determined to fight back she teams with Hugh Marsh, a Warlock who both captivates and annoys her. I found myself complete spellbound as we traveled across Europe by air and the Oriental Express.

Eleanor “Elle” Chance is absolutely delightful and refreshing. She is certainly not, molded after the women of 1900’s and in fact her Aunt’s attempt to have a season for her was an absolute disaster. She lives with her inventor father and after the death of her mother he dotes on her. He has tried to get her to conform, but as most daughters are capable of she slowly chips away at his resolve and gets her way. This includes attending the flying academy, wearing pants and traveling the world. She is a better shot then most men and has a specially made corset that she wears on the outside of her clothes, complete with gun harness. She loves logic and as she discovers more about herself and her mother she struggles to accept things. I loved this vulnerable side of her. She is brilliant and kick-ass and oh so much more. Meaning she needs a man who is her equal in all things and who can handle a strong-minded, fearless woman and that my friend is the deliciously handsome warlock, Hughes Marsh. As a member of the Order he has obligations and duties but soon finds his priorities have changes. Elle captivates him on many levels and he struggles with who she is to the order and who she is to him as a man. We meet characters from both the light and the shadow and they added to the tale. 

The world building in this urban fantasy was refreshingly delightful. I am a huge fan of steampunk and so appreciated the author’s inclusion of these elements from gadgets to setting.  She then mixes in magic, myth, and the supernatural to create a battle of shadow and light. I loved where Elle’s role will be in all of this and look forward to seeing her grow and mature. The romance was sweet, but clearly played second to the epic plot with its twists and turns. We get a beautiful history of the how and why of the shadow and the light setting us up for the rest of the series. This was a strong tale and would work as a standalone as well. I absolutely loved the journey the characters went on from England to Constantinople and did not want it to end.  Was I surprised by the overall plot and turn of events; no but the delivery and genre elements made this original and I look forward to continuing this series.

Not all authors can blend genres and create a successful, believable work, I think Schwarz succeeded and fans of urban fantasy, steampunk and the supernatural should add A Conspiracy of Alchemists to their reading list. A Clockwork Heart the next book in the Chronicles of Light and Shadow has a  release date of August of 2013. I look forward to devouring it.

Four cups of Vienna coffee out of five
Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer Kimba The Caffeinated Book Reviewer Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer

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50 Comments:

At July 17, 2013 at 9:59 PM , Anonymous karina said...

You are leaving me hope, Kimba! I'm reading it at the moment and struggling to pick up pace. Hopefully I'll enjoy it just as much as you did! :)

 
At July 17, 2013 at 10:07 PM , Anonymous Barbara Walker said...

Aaargh! This is the 3rd great review of a book I was leaning toward buying that came out today that now I have to have. Ever since The Iron Duke, I've been searching for some interesting steampunk that breaks the mold and is fun with an interesting heroine. Cripes though, another series! At least the next book is out in a fairly short amount of time, which is surprising for a big pub. Smashing review as always, sweetie!

 
At July 17, 2013 at 10:12 PM , Anonymous Aurian said...

The only steampunk I really love is written by Gail Carriger so far. But this sounds intriguing. Thanks for the review!

 
At July 17, 2013 at 10:28 PM , Anonymous Carmen B. said...

Awesome review, I'm so glad you liked this one because from the description, I also thought it could go either way! I'm relieved that the characters are fleshed out and that the mix of genres worked so well for you ^^
The steampunk elements and all the travelling sound great! I love that time period...
I hope I can squeeze this book in somewhere soon!

 
At July 17, 2013 at 10:29 PM , Anonymous Melissa said...

Sounds like a great blend. :) ANd one I might need to look into getting one day here. :) Thank you.

 
At July 17, 2013 at 10:34 PM , Anonymous Jenea Whittington said...

Wasn't Elle amazing. I am happy that you enjoy this one too. We don't have a long wait for the next one either.:)

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:48 PM , Anonymous Kristin Clifton said...

I wondered about this one! I totally missed that you reviewed it. Glad I caught your weekly wrap up to see that you liked it. I'm adding it to my TBR so I get to it eventually :)

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:48 PM , Anonymous kimbacaffeinate said...

That is why I loved the Post, so you get all the blog news

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:48 PM , Anonymous kimbacaffeinate said...

I missed your comment, sorry cupcake and I hope you ended up liking it.

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:48 PM , Anonymous Megan@The Book Babe said...

Ooh, Plot!! I love plot, LOL! And the romance in this one sounds absolutely fantastic...I always really really liked steampunk! (:

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:51 PM , Anonymous kimbacaffeinate said...

I love the time period too, and we do travel so it was fun!

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:51 PM , Anonymous kimbacaffeinate said...

Right! I have been so disappointed with a few cross genres of late and was pleased

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:51 PM , Anonymous Nick said...

I agree about mixing genres. It doesn't always work. I'm glad to hear that this one worked well, Kim. I've had my eyes on this book for some time now because it sounds pretty darn interesting and unique.
World-building is a must in my paranormal books so I'm glad to hear that this was awesome.
I'm definitely going to add this to my to-read list.
Fab review as always, Kim!

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:51 PM , Anonymous kimbacaffeinate said...

I found it to be all very interesting, and am anxious to discover more!

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:51 PM , Anonymous Books for Kids said...

This sounds like something I would love!

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:51 PM , Anonymous kimbacaffeinate said...

Yay...i hope you do!

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:51 PM , Anonymous Christy (Love of Books) said...

This book is only just now being released today? For some reason it seems like it's been out for awhile. Huh. Well I'm glad you like it so much! It does sound like a good one.

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:51 PM , Anonymous kimbacaffeinate said...

It was first released overseas, now it is in US <3

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:51 PM , Anonymous kimbacaffeinate said...

hope you enjoy it if ya find the time :)

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:51 PM , Anonymous Turning the Pages said...

So glad you enjoyed this one. I got an arc of it that I haven't gotten to yet but it's about time that more South African authors should break into the North American market. Great review!

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:51 PM , Anonymous kimbacaffeinate said...

I love how we are seeing more and more of it.

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:51 PM , Anonymous Candace's Book Blog said...

This book just came on my radar tonight and it sounds AMAZING! I love the genres mentioned, especially steampunk. I'm glad that it all worked well. One thing I have to mention is, that font and color for the title really doesn't match, does it? Am I the only one that is turned off by that? I love the rest of the cover though, it's amazing!

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:51 PM , Anonymous kimbacaffeinate said...

welcome :)

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:51 PM , Anonymous kimbacaffeinate said...

yeah, it is a little weird

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:51 PM , Anonymous Lauren said...

Um, yes, I am totally drooling! :-) I've read a couple positive reviews of this so far, but yours really makes me want to buy this. I am so into steampunk, fantasy and paranormal, so I'm thrilled this blends these genres with success. Also it sounds like I'd really love Elle—she sounds so kickass! Amazing review :-)

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:51 PM , Anonymous kimbacaffeinate said...

thanks Lauren, I really enjoy it!

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:51 PM , Anonymous kimbacaffeinate said...

ya might as well buy it, Heidi's review comes out tomorrow and she loved it too...hahaha!

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:53 PM , Anonymous AlisonCanRead said...

I'm surprised I haven't heard of this, especially since it's from Random House. Would you say it's young adult or new adult? Elle sounds like a delightful character. Strong and spunky. I'll have to check this one out.

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:53 PM , Anonymous kimbacaffeinate said...

Alison it is adult, but is clean (at least so far) and could easily been read by teens.

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:53 PM , Anonymous Heidi said...

I am reviewing this tomorrow and I really enjoyed it as well. I think it is a great intro to a new steampunk series. I liked the steampunk gadgets and gizmos as well.

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:53 PM , Anonymous kimbacaffeinate said...

Yes, delighted to hear you liked and cannot wait to hear your thoughts on Elle <3

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:53 PM , Anonymous kimbacaffeinate said...

I am a fan of steampunk too..the geek in me loves all the gadgets!

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:53 PM , Anonymous kimbacaffeinate said...

Agreed and i am so glad it releases soon!

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:53 PM , Anonymous kimbacaffeinate said...

*nods head*

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:53 PM , Anonymous Jennifer Bielman said...

I get so nervous with Steampunk. I haven't found many steampunk books I have liked but this one does sound pretty good. The blend of genres intrigues me. I don't know if I have read a book like that before. Great review.

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:53 PM , Anonymous kimbacaffeinate said...

they tend to be historical and maybe that is why.

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:53 PM , Anonymous thegeekyblogger said...

It is totally funny but I go to a Cons here in Dallas that Steampunk is a huge part of but I just haven't warmed up to in my books. *sigh* Though I should be glad because lord knows I don't need more on my bookshelves LOL

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:53 PM , Anonymous kimbacaffeinate said...

hahaha..i hear you!

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:53 PM , Anonymous Christa said...

I think this sounds like a really unique book and I'm on a real steampunk kick lately. Glad to hear you enjoyed it!

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:53 PM , Anonymous kimbacaffeinate said...

This was cool and I love Steampunk.

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:53 PM , Anonymous kimbacaffeinate said...

I love steampunk, and the whole fantasy vibe

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:53 PM , Anonymous kimbacaffeinate said...

I really like all the gadgets and things..i am a geek!

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:53 PM , Anonymous Blodeuedd said...

Sounds good :) I do think this is a book for me :D

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:53 PM , Anonymous kimbacaffeinate said...

Sweet, I hope you pick it up!

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:53 PM , Anonymous kimbacaffeinate said...

cannot wait to hear your thoughts!

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:53 PM , Anonymous kindlemom1 said...

I know what you mean about the blending of genres lately, it seems that has been happening a lot more lately (at least it seems like it) and I agree, they are usually either great or a complete train wreck.
I am so glad this one worked. It sounds like a great read. I love historical, paranormal and actually enjoy a good steampunk every now and then so I think this is something that I would really like.
Great review!

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:53 PM , Anonymous kimbacaffeinate said...

thank you, i really liked Eleanor :)

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:53 PM , Anonymous thegeekyblogger said...

I am glad this one worked for you. I had problems with it but that is just me with steampunk in general. I really think you are more on target with what everyone else will think of it :) :) :)

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:53 PM , Anonymous kimbacaffeinate said...

This was cool, but I am not sure you would like the historical aspect of it. The steampunk is solid but it is heavy on fantasy and paranormal. Oh yes, Eleanor is a totally tomboy!

 
At July 17, 2013 at 11:53 PM , Anonymous Giselle Cormier said...

I've also hesitated on this one due to the blend of genres and also that Steampunk itself can be a hit or miss for me. Plus this is the first review I see on it so I didn't know if it was any good, but I'm glad it worked out! Eleanor sounds like a great character I don't usually like the super girly old fashioned type so she sounds like my kind of gal! I might have to give it a try after all! :)

 

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