The Alchemist’s Revenge
14 September 2014 Leave a comment
Author: Peter Cakebread
Summary: In a 17th century that didn’t quite happen, a nation is torn apart by civil war.
When an embittered mercenary agrees to escort a grieving widow to visit her husband’s grave, little does he realise the dangers they will face. This is the story of their struggle through a country divided. As they journey through tainted lands, ravaged by alchemical magic and giant clockwork war machines, they are reunited with old friends and stalked by sinister foes. The reluctant heroes band together in this tale of loss and despair, of redemption and friendship, and ultimately, of retribution and revenge!
Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5
Review: There was a lot about this book that i really enjoyed. Magic, alchemy, clockwork contraptions, adventure, well-rounded characters. And in that regard, it was a wonderful read.
The setting is a country divided, with one side favouring the crown with its magic, while the other is behind parliament and its clockwork machines. The protagonist, William, is on no-one’s side but his own, and i really got behind that. He’d seen war before and has since decided he wants no part in it; let them fight it out without him. I liked him.
The alchemist of the title, Belinda, on the whole, i didn’t like. She is a rather self-righteous and self-important. She looks down on everyone, even those she stops to help or who decide to help her. I would not have gone to the lengths William did for her.
Along their journey we meet Ralph, William’s brother, who was perhaps my favourite character. He was so light-hearted and cheerful, but was obviously also loyal and had strong emotions. Helga i loved as a character. A strong woman, manipulative enough to get her own way. If i met a person like her in reality, i would hate them.
Where the books falls down for me is plot. For the first half, it lacks one. William agrees to accompany Belinda to the place her husband died during battle, and they go. Despite being sure something else must be going on, that something else needed to happen, nothing does until the characters find out what happened to Belinda’s husband and, as the title suggests, she seeks revenge. While i enjoyed reading, with so little plot until halfway through the book, there was nothing to drive my reading.
The plot also starts to drag towards the end. When one of their party is suddenly in danger, and the need to act quickly is clearly identified, the story then drags on for pages and chapters about a piece of machinery that will aid their rescue attempt. Now, the machinery was interesting, but in terms of the story, only drew things out and had me feeling impatient.
While i loved a lot of what this book contained, i couldn’t help thinking to myself how what i was reading could be improved. It’s a lovely world, with some great characters, and it has the potential to be so much more than it is.
I read it more from the point of view of an editor–because i really think this book needs one.