A Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz
Series: Chronicles of Light and Shadow #1
Source: eARC via Edelweiss
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.
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I was initially drawn to A Conspiracy of Alchemists because of the cover. It really caught my eye because of the gorgeous details and artwork. But then it got buried in my e-reader. As a result, I have been missing out on the wonder that is Schwarz’ amazing world and characters for far too long! But I’m pleased to say that I’ve rectified the situation and I was completely swept away by Elle and her adventures.
There is a lot to praise in A Conspiracy of Alchemists but I’m going to stick to my favourite stuff. First of all, the characters were wonderful. Elle jumps off the page because she’s so vibrant and brave and smart. She doesn’t believe in magic even though it’s accepted by most others, and she has a strong, scientific mind. Hugh’s an excellent foil for her since he’s a Warlock and a noble, where Elle is much more working class as the daughter of a scientist. There are a million miles between them on some levels but on an interpersonal one, Elle and Hugh are a great match. But the budding romance between them isn’t the focus of the novel — instead, readers are taken on a journey as Elle and Hugh try to recover a box and save the world from the Alchemists. There are gyrocopters, fairies, prophesies, and more along the way, so I can promise you that A Conspiracy of Alchemists is a glorious ride!
The idea of a world divided between Light and Shadow was also really interesting. I love books with this kind of duality and Schwarz did a great job with the series mythos. I was really intrigued by how the sides developed and have evolved as science becomes more and more prominent in this turn-of-the-century world. The idea that there is limited magic was really interesting to me and I hope that future novels in the series continue to explore this notion.
As a mystery fan, there was a lot for me to enjoy in A Conspiracy of Alchemists. Every once in a while, I crave a good caper or crime investigation and A Conspiracy of Alchemists was very satisfying on this level. There were unpredictable characters and plot twists and I was desperately invested in Elle and Hugh’s quest.
Now that I’ve finally read the delicious steampunk adventure that is A Conspiracy of Alchemists, I’m anxious to read the next volume, A Clockwork Heart, which comes out in less than a month!