The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova
Would Recommend if you enjoy YA Fantasy!
Published by Keymaster Press
Publication Date : January 10th, 2016
Available as eBook – 380 Pages
Source : NetGalley (thank you!)
Her vengeance. His vision.
Ari lost everything she once loved when the Five Guilds’ resistance fell to the Dragon King. Now, she uses her unparalleled gift for clockwork machinery in tandem with notoriously unscrupulous morals to contribute to a thriving underground organ market. There isn’t a place on Loom that is secure from the engineer turned thief, and her magical talents are sold to the highest bidder as long as the job defies their Dragon oppressors.
Cvareh would do anything to see his sister usurp the Dragon King and sit on the throne. His family’s house has endured the shame of being the lowest rung in the Dragons’ society for far too long. The Alchemist Guild, down on Loom, may just hold the key to putting his kin in power, if Cvareh can get to them before the Dragon King’s assassins.
When Ari stumbles upon a wounded Cvareh, she sees an opportunity to slaughter an enemy and make a profit off his corpse. But the Dragon sees an opportunity to navigate Loom with the best person to get him where he wants to go.
He offers her the one thing Ari can’t refuse: A wish of her greatest desire, if she brings him to the Alchemists of Loom.
This was a strange and original fantasy, think quest style story, that really takes you on a ride. Though it was really fun, I had just a few issues with strange tropes that were being used in even stranger ways. Ari, known as the White Wraith winds up making a deal with a Dragon to transport him to guild known as the Alchemists of Loom who he believes can help him create an item to over throw a tyrannical king. Ari, Cvareh, and her assistant Flor set off to travel across much of what seems like the civilized world to reach this guild. All the while they’re being pursued by this tyrannical king’s ‘elite’ guards.
First off, I loved the people of this world. In general it seems that most humans are all of a gray or darker coloration. I’d love to know the reason for this, but it made for a very unique world in my mind. The Dragons, which are not real dragons in the traditional sense (I’m still not a hundred present clear on this), are all varied in color. The most interesting bit of these two races is the ability of one (the humans/Fens) to take aspects and powers of the Dragons. Meanwhile the Dragons rule the Fens, and enforce them into roles. This made for a promising setup. I wish we could have seen more of the politics of what being a chimera means, that you could do it and many people did is obvious. But there wasn’t a lot about this in the larger scheme of things. I’m hoping more of this will be obvious in the next book.
The characters, that we got PoVs from, were interesting and varied. Ari was angry, foolishly so, and was often reined in by her assistant or her own common sense. Flor, the assistant, was kind and gentle but could pull out the big guns and really blow through people. And Cvareh managed to bring that culture clash attitude I’d expect from a being that never visited the surface of a world his people ruled. However another small issue I had with this trio was the weird dynamic between them. First off Ari and Flor seem to be in a relationship, and it is even explicitly stated within the first chapter or two that Flor shares Ari’s bed. However nearly to the end we have Ari, after being kissed in a weird vampiric sharing of power, states that it’s been ‘so long’ since she’s been kissed. I’m still not sure what that was. Also, the love triangle dynamic that’s starting seems to be the real romance. The Ari and Flor relationship was so glazed over, expressed only in worried hugs and glances that I felt a little cheated. While the secondary romance between Ari and another is much more explicitly stated and described. The consistency of this was a little odd for me.
Besides this the journey was interesting and fast paced. It went all over the map, changing in types of travel and giving us different views of different parts of the world. The pacing of the book leads me to believe it’s not a HUGE world, but there is a lot crammed into it, which helped with the cramped steampunk aesthetic I think Elise Kova was going for. I found the elite guards that were pursuing the trio to be fairly disappointing as nearly all of our antagonists were dispatched with very little lasting harm to the team. I never felt they were in danger from external forces, however they did push at the emotional strings enough that I was more worried there that someone would get punched in the chest and killed.
It’s definitely one that will be a strong swinger in the recent crop of YA fantasy novels. It’s strong on the emotional talk, the arguing and drama between characters. Besides the small issues I had with gaps in world building, the very weird consistency of relationships, and the risk to the characters it’s one I would say a lot of people would enjoy. Seems to fit very well for readers of ACoTaR and lighter and fast paced fantasies. If you’re a fan of those it may be worth a read.
My final note, as seems to be the case lately, is to check out that beautiful cover. I didn’t find any notes on who the cover artist is, but as soon as I find out I’ll be following their work. It’s lovely!