A Conspiracy Of Alchemists (The Chronicles Of Light And Shadow book one) by Liesel Schwarz (book review)

September 25, 2015 | By | Reply More

‘A Conspiracy Of Alchemists’ is not only the first book in ‘The Chronicles Of Light And Shadow’, it is also the debut novel of Liesel Schwarz in 2013. Centuries before the present, the worlds of Light and Shadow were one and the creatures from both sides, Nightwalkers, faeries and humans lived in harmony but the Romans chose science and logic over magic. That tipped the scales of the world and chaos ensued. Later, the balance was restored by dividing the world into Light and Shadow. The magic users chose the Shadow and this division has held until 1903 when ‘A Conspiracy Of Alchemists’ begins.


Our heroine Eleanor ‘Elle’ Chance is not your everyday Victorian lady. Instead, she is a feisty airship pilot who isn’t above some smuggling on the side, a kind of female Steampunk Han Solo. She meets in Paris with an old business associate who has procured a simple job for her: Just transport a package across the channel to London. Sounds easy enough. But before Elle has a chance to realise that the package contains so much more than its cover betrays, she is the victim of a kidnapping attempt. Her associates Patrice and Mr. Marsh manage to save her just in the nick of time but the package remains in the hands of the kidnappers.

Patrice has not really been upfront with Elle as Marsh should have accompanied the package as part of the job. He is later revealed to be a nobleman and a warlock, member of a worldwide council which battles the ancient order of alchemists and tries to protect the balance between Light and Shadow. The alchemists are the daylight guardians of Nightwalkers. As it turns out the package contains something the alchemists desperately need to get the upper hand but are the warlocks to be trusted? Elle’s instincts tell her no. After all, warlocks killed her mother a long time ago or so she believes.

Shortly after our heroes reach London, Elle’s father is kidnapped and a race across Europe begins, first by gyrocopter (an invention of Elle’s mad scientist father) and, later, via the Orient Express until the showdown in Constantinople. Before the novel reaches its conclusion, alliances are forged and broken, friends become enemies, secrets of the past are unveiled and the future of the world hangs in the balance. Throw in a fairy, the occult, mad science and a conspiracy and you have got an explosive mixture. Will good triumph in the end? Read for yourself.

‘A Conspiracy Of Alchemists’ manages to keep up a good pace throughout. There are lots of things happening but the reader never gets lost. The story is well told and easy to read. The world-building is fine, though I would not have chosen the Romans as bearers of the light of science, and the main characters are well-defined and easy to differentiate. One point which did not sit too well with me is Elle. A likable character, she is presented in the beginning as a strong, independent woman. In the end, she becomes a victim of circumstances and destiny. An inappropriate development in my opinion. All in all, this is a very promising debut novel.

The novel reaches a satisfying conclusion but also leaves some plot threads which will probably be woven into the next narration in this series. ‘A Conspiracy Of Alchemists’ is a steamfantasy with lots of romance thrown in. Readers who love paranormal or steampunk romances should give it a try. It is a fun read for the beach or an evening in front of the fireplace.

Sven Scheurer

September 2015

(pub: Del Rey/Ballantine Books, 2013. 338 page hardback. Price: $25.00 (US), $29.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-345-54507-7

pub: Ebury Publishing/Random House, 2013. 384 page small hardback. Price: £16.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-091949-86-0)

check out websites: www.delreybooks.com, www.eburypublishing.co.uk and www.lieselschwarz.com

Category: Books, Steampunk

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