I’ve loved Donna Boyd’s werewolf books and am disappointed this is not the next in the Devoncroix series, which I was thoroughly enjoying. While The Alchemist is a change of pace for her, Boyd’s writing is compelling and what she’s created here is as as interesting as the werewolf world she crafted for those earlier books.
The book begins with Randolf Sontime telling psychologist Anne Kramer that he is responsible for a high-profile murder. Anne, of course, thinks that Sontime is bonkers. However, she listens, spellbound (literally) as he tells her about his past, beginning with ancient Egypt and the House of Ra. The House of Ra was a training ground for alchemists. Alchemy is more than magic, it’s science. In addition to Sontime, then known as Han, there were two other students who showed as much of an aptitude as he did, a girl, Nefar, and a boy, Akan. The three realized that together their power was unlimited. After a tragedy of their making at Ra, they lived on their own and aspired to make people’s lives better through their magic. Another tragedy split the trio for good. The rest of the story carries these immortals through time until the present when their fates bring them back together.
The Alchemist is a short book but no less powerful for its brevity. Boyd carries on the style she employs in the Devoncroix books here as well. The story is dark, it incorporates beings who are more than human, and it’s not always a comfortable tale. Her characters engage the reader while at the same time making us wonder why exactly we’re rooting for them. Boyd creates a fantastical world of power for these three immortals, and while there is some violence, there is not as much as in the werewolf novels.
Like any good triangle, the characters of Han, Akan and Nefar are complementary. Nefar is the ambitious one with great plans. She’s beautiful and the boys both love her. Akan is the studious one who is always learning and trying to improve his art. Han has more in common with Nefar although his ambition is not as great and far-reaching as hers. He becomes the one who acquires wisdom and perspective regarding his power and craft through the years. He acts as a foil to the other two. The story of their past is told in first person through his eyes.
While this book is fascinating in a way and kept me reading, I can’t say that I entirely liked it. There are a few disturbing parts, among them the revelation of why Han, Nefar and Akan are so tied together and where their power comes from. Another section of the book was both disturbing and interesting, to say the least, and involves Dr. Kramer and how she fits into the story. And, while there are events critical to the story all the way through, the middle drags somewhat as it describes Han’s wanderings through time. Things pick up, though, when the story catches up with the here and now. I was particularly intrigued by the modern careers pursued by Han/Sontime and another member of the trio.
There are some loose ends to the book, leaving me to suspect that there will be a sequel. Fans of Boyd’s previous fiction works will no doubt want to read it. The Alchemist is a story that lingers after the last page is turned whether or not you’re completely won over.