Review: A Conspiracy of Alchemists (Liesel Schwarz)

The opening line to this book is a superb hook: "This was the place where people came to give their souls to fairies." I settled back, confident that I was in for a good read.

Ms Schwarz paints elegant, delicate scenes, and I loved her technology. One of the problems with steampunk is getting rid of the coal in a way that is a) believable and b) someone hasn't already used it. Ms Schwarz managed both, and wove in clever elements of magic. In terms of world-building, I was ensnared.

Sadly, I gave up around page 200, because I simply couldn't engage with the male or female lead characters. I found both a curious combination of too intense and yet not credible, and ended up not being able to deal with the female lead's moral outrage at yet another scene where she was being predictably manipulated by the male lead. They put me in mind of cartoon characters I once saw by french animator Sylvain Chomet.

The book had great potential. Others, perhaps who like larger than life characters, or who dont have a four foot hight 'to read' pile, may love it.

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