Monday, April 28, 2008

Book Review: The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia

Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free, bite-sized book reviews.

I have mixed feelings when it comes to derivative work but I can always appreciate it when an author attempts something entirely different from their previous novel. The Alchemy of Stone is an example of the latter but at the same time bearing the author's distinctive writing style that there's no mistaking who wrote this book. Sedia creates her own unique clockpunk city filtered through the lens of two perspectives, a sentient automaton and the few surviving gargoyles. Her characterization is superb and there's a certain irony in the fact one of Sedia's most human characters, the protagonist, is what other people would consider soul-less. The author's prose is simple yet compelling, not overwhelming but filling in the details as needed. The book's cosmology, while not wholly original, is the synthesis of interesting concepts and good execution. However, as far as setting goes, Sedia fills it with all too human predicaments that could serve as metaphors for modern day concerns that work on multiple levels. Even with all the allegories ignored, The Alchemy of Stone is an enjoyable read that never gets boring thanks to the constant drama and conflict. If you want something different in your fantasy or simply looking for a good read, The Alchemy of Stone is highly recommended.

Rating: 3.5/5.

Rating System:

1 - There are better ways to spend your time.
2 - Ho hum books, usually typical of its genre. Probably only recommendable to die-hard fans.
3 - A cut above the rest, usually with one or more elements that sets it apart from the norm.
4 - Highly recommended and is easily a pioneer of the genre.
5 - A classic or it will be.

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