Gunpowder Alchemy by Jeannie Lin

November 17th, 2014 Kimberly Review 76 Comments

17th Nov
Gunpowder Alchemy by Jeannie Lin
Gunpowder Alchemy
by Jeannie Lin
Series: Gunpowder Chronicles #1
Genres: Historical Fiction, Steampunk
Source: Publisher
Purchase*: Amazon *affiliate
Rating: One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

In 1842, the gunpowder might of China’s Qing Dynasty fell to Britain’s steam engines. Furious, the Emperor ordered the death of his engineers—and killed China’s best chance of fighting back… Since her father’s execution eight years ago, Jin Soling kept her family from falling into poverty. But her meager savings are running out, leaving her with no choice but to sell the last of her father’s possessions—her last memento of him. Only, while attempting to find a buyer, Soling is caught and brought before the Crown Prince. Unlike his father, the Emperor, the Prince knows that the only chance of expelling the English invaders is to once again unite China’s cleverest minds to create fantastic weapons. He also realizes that Soling is the one person who could convince her father’s former allies—many who have turned rebel—to once again work for the Empire. He promises to restore her family name if she’ll help him in his cause. But after the betrayal of her family all those years ago, Soling is unsure if she can trust anyone in the Forbidden City—even if her heart is longing to believe in the engineer with a hidden past who was once meant to be her husband…

I love steampunk and was excited at the idea of exploring China’s Qing Dynasty. In Gunpowder Alchemy, the first in the Gunpowder Chronicles, Jeannie Lin introduces a strong heroine and captivating storyline filled with steampunk goodness, adventure and a slow-building romance.

While Jeannie Lin admits to taking some liberties this historical, alternative fiction captures the atmosphere and customs of the period while weaving in steampunk fantasy. Beautifully descriptive from opium addiction to gunpowder-powered ships I completely slipped into this world.

Eight years ago, the Emperor executed Jin Soling’s father, an engineer when he spoke out for the need to learn and progress like their enemies. His name was stricken from the history books and Jin and her family were banished from Peking. The country soon fell to the enemy.

Jin Soling and her family have suffered; her mother has succumb to the addictive escape offered by opium and the country is occupied. Jin is such a strong character, and I immediately connected with her. She takes great care to protect her brother, mother and a former maid who has become family. She shadowed the local doctor and learned the art of acupuncture. When the economy takes a turn, she is forced to sell the last possession she has hidden of her fathers. She travels to the city and finds herself in trouble when she is captured and sent before the Crown Prince. The tale that unfolds is richly detailed, filled with discovery, danger and encounters with her past.

Gunpowder Alchemy was a brilliant tale that captured my attention from the first pages. Well-paced with twists, turns and an unexpected slow building romance I simply did not want the story to end. Jin is faced with having to decide where her loyalties lie and with whom she can trust. She is a strong, likeable heroine. While she is not sure of the players, she is logical, quick thinking, compassionate and sure of herself. Chang-wei, once betrothed to Jin before her father’s execution is now working for the Crown Prince. The friendship that develops was a wonderful thread, and I loved the slow-build, and banter. The romance is subtle, clean, sweet and moving. Lin allowed this thread to develop while balances the danger, political maneuvers and progress of the overall arc. I am quite curious about the opium trade and discoveries Jin made concerning it. It added a dangerous element to the power struggles and I look forward to learning more. Jeannie Lin weaved in details about the countryside, and the cities from customs to the richly colored clothes. I could smell the food, feel the wind in my hair, and experienced the calm personalities of these private, traditional people.

Battles, to narrow escapes from death Chang-wei and Jin’s adventures gave me one heck of a ride. The ending wrapped up in a good place, with just enough of a hint of things to come. I closed Gunpowder Alchemy with a smile and eager to begin the next adventure in the Gunpowder Chronicles.

About Jeannie Lin

USA TODAY Bestselling author Jeannie Lin grew up fascinated with stories of Western epic fantasy and Eastern martial arts adventures. When her best friend introduced her to romance novels in middle school, the stage was set. Jeannie started writing her first romance while working as a high school science teacher in South Central Los Angeles. After four years of trying to break into publishing with an Asian-set historical, her 2009 Golden Heart Award–winning manuscript, Butterfly Swords, sold to Harlequin Mills & Boon. Her books have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Library Journal with The Dragon and the Pearl listed among Library Journal's Best Romances of 2011.

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About Kimberly
Kimberly is a coffee loving book addict who reads and listens to fictional stories in all genres. Whovian, Ravenclaw, Howler and proud Nonna. She owns and manages Caffeinated PR. The coffee is always on and she is ready to chat. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

76 Responses to “Gunpowder Alchemy by Jeannie Lin”

  1. Olivia

    I am glad to see that you enjoyed this novel! I love China a lot, it’s my favourite country and after being there this summer I would love to read a book set there. I haven’t read many steampunk novels before, but I look forward to trying this one out. Adding it to my TBR!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Oh I am green with wonderful you traveled there. I loved how she weaved in the customs and portrayed the characters.

  2. Jorie's Reads by Starry Night Elf

    I’ve been having some technical difficulties but I’ve nominated your blog for the “One Lovely Blog Award” on Monday. Please visit One Lovely Blog Nomination | Jorie’s Reads by Starry Night Elf! Congrats!

    • Jenny Schwartz

      Hi Kim, I’m doing great. Slowly emerging from the chaos of moving house and renovating *shudder* I missed out on some great books along the way and must catch up! Hope you’re doing well 🙂

  3. Jan

    I’ve read a couple books by Jeannie Lin and liked them. This sounds really good. Thanks for a great review, Kimba!

  4. Cyn

    This sounds awesome! Mix of Asian culture and steampunk?! Count me in! The story sounds awesome and I love slow-burning romances 😉 Thanks for the review, glad to hear you enjoyed it, Kim!

  5. Jess

    I still haven’t read a steam punk book- but I have a few on my list of books to read. This one sounds fascinating. I will branch out soon. 🙂

    • kimbacaffeinate

      I really enjoy steampunk for the alternate world and gadgets..not to mention there is usually a mystery or quest

  6. kim { Book Swoon }

    I’ve been in the steampunk mode lately and saw this on Netgalley, now I’m really excited and curious! The Asian Steampunk aspect sounds pretty awesome. Glad you enjoyed it, Kimba 😀

  7. Joyce Novacek

    This sounds excellent! My only exposure to literature set in China is “The Good Earth” by Pearl S. Buck – funny, because it’s obviously very different, but I actually see some similar themes (opium addictions for one!) I am adding this to the list!


    • kimbacaffeinate

      I loved the Good Earth Joyce, and I think some of the customs mentioned and events will remind of you of it.

  8. Braine Talk Supe

    Hi5! Fist pump! Chest bump! YOu know I loved this one too! In my head I was imagining Zhang Ziyi as Soling. I had a Chinese historical movie phase so this was so vivid in my head.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      YES! I have watched and read a few and thought she did a wonderful job of world building. Oh yes, totaly Zhang Ziyi would make an excellent Soling!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      She was new to me author and apparently steampunk was a new venture for her. I am so glad she did it!

  9. Lark

    Chinese steampunk – what a great idea! I’m glad you liked it, and I’m certainly intrigued!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      This was wonderful Lark from the world to the characters. Such a rich story.

  10. Heidi

    Well what a surprise. the cover didn’t draw me in, but your review did. I haven’t read a good steampunk in a long time and I just requested one this morning. I should have gotten this one.

  11. Mary

    I was definitely wondering about this one when I saw it around (Goodreads, I think). Love the setting and that it’s steampunk (so good when done well. So bad when not!). Sounds like Jin has really had to be strong to survive.

  12. Candace

    Oh wow, this sounds really good! I LOVE steampunk and love that it’s a slow burn romance. Sounds fantastic!

  13. Stephanie

    Oh Kimba! This one sounds awesome! Thank you for sharing. I’m definitely going to have to put this one on my list!

  14. Lily

    I’m not a steampunk girl so I don’t think this one is for me but I love how enthusiastic you are about this one and i’m just so glad it worked for you 🙂

  15. Debbie Haupt

    Great review Kim. I Love Jeannie and all her novels. I haven’t had the chance to read this one though. She is a local author for me and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her.
    What a great premise. I’m definitely getting this one!!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      This was my first by her but it won’t be my last. Glad to know you enjoy her

  16. Sarah

    For some reason, I just haven’t been able to get into steampunk. I’ve read good things about Gunpowder Alchemy, however, and I’m glad you enjoyed it as well. 🙂

  17. Lupdilup

    Unlike Carmel, I do like that cover and it probably would have aroused my curiosity all its own, and I wouldn’t been wrong. Sounds really good Kimba – Danger and political maneuvers always capture my attention. I’m adding this to the list!
    Thanks Kimba 🙂

  18. Katherine

    Oh this sounds fun! I read one steampunk book earlier this year and have been wanting to read more! This sounds like a great one to try!

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Enjoy. I love steampunk the alternate historical worlds always intrigue me.

  19. Nick

    OK this sounds awesome, Kim! I think I would definitely enjoy this. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that is set in historical China, but I can see how entertaining and fascinating that could be. This is going to my TBR list!

  20. Sophia Rose

    Just taking a quick peek to see your general opinion since I’ve got this one for review too. I love Jeannie Lin’s books and its so cool that she’s getting into Steampunk.

    • kimbacaffeinate

      Enjoy Sophia and I try really hard to avoid spoilers but understand since I avoid reviews of books I am also reviewing 🙂

      • Sophia Rose

        Oh no, I don’t think you write spoilers. Sorry not to be clear. I just make it a habit of not reading any reviews on a book I have for review so I can be sure that its only my own impressions that are influencing me. Your reviews are great!

  21. Carmel

    I saw this title come up for review on NetGalley, and decided to pass on it because the cover did absolutely nothing for me, but after reading Braine’s review on Sunday, and now yours, I’m praying that it hasn’t been archived yet!

  22. alreem

    GREAT COVER, i don’t really judge books by the cover .. for obvious reasons but this one look so cool .. okay, the story is a bit dark to me but the sound of action in this book is just what i love 😀

  23. Red Iza

    I read an enthusiastic review about this book only yesterday 😉 Chinese steampunk, that’s enough to pique interest ! Great review 😉

  24. Melliane

    Oh yes I saw another great review about this one and it makes me really curious! I love the setting and the idea. Plus it’s fun to have a good steampunk like that! Great review!