A Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz

kimbacaffeinate Review 49 Comments

5th Mar

A  Conspiracy of Alchemists
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
Purchase* Barnes and Noble/Amazon/Book Depository
Source: Publisher

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 Heartthe 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
Copyright (c) 2011-2013 Caffeinated Book Reviewer

About Liesel Schwarz

Liesel Schwarz

Liesel Schwarz has an MA in creative writing and is currently completing her doctorate in English and creative writing at Brunel University. A life-long fan of 19th Century Gothic literature, she is a hopeless romantic and loves Victorians, steampunk, fairies, fantasy monsters, the Fin de siècle, and the correct way to drink absinthe. She also likes Medieval stuff, pirates, zombies, space operas and all subjects in between. Her debut – the first in a series of Edwardian Steampunk Novels published by Random House/Del Rey is out now. She is also currently busy with her doctorate in English and Creative Writing at Brunel University. She chooses to live in London because she loves weather there.

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About Kimberly
Kimberly is a coffee loving book addict who reads everything fiction in YA, NA, and Adult. She's a self-professed Whovian, Supernatural, and Sherlock Holmes junkie, She enjoys sharing books, tips, recipes and hosting the Sunday Post. The coffee is always on and she is ready to chat...

49 Responses to “A Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz”

  1. karina

    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! :)

  2. Barbara Walker

    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!

  3. Aurian

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

  4. Carmen B.

    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!

  5. Melissa

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

  6. Jenea Whittington

    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.:)

  7. Kristin Clifton

    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 :)

  8. Megan

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

  9. Nick

    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!

  10. Christy (Love of Books)

    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.

  11. Turning the Pages

    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!

  12. Candace's Book Blog

    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!

  13. Lauren

    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 :-)

  14. AlisonCanRead

    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.

  15. Heidi

    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.

  16. Jennifer Bielman

    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.

  17. thegeekyblogger

    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

  18. Christa

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

  19. kindlemom1

    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!

  20. thegeekyblogger

    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 :) :) :)

  21. kimbacaffeinate

    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!

  22. Giselle Cormier

    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! :)