In a land torn between magic and alchemy, Sepha is an exceptional alchemist, able to bend the rules in ways no one else can. But when a slip of the tongue lands her in prison with a mountain of straw, even she has to admit that she can’t transmute straw into gold.
With the threat of a death sentence hanging over her, she’s forced to make a deal with a conniving magician. Sepha escapes with her life – but at a cost: she has one year to alchemically create a body for the magician, or else her firstborn child will be his.
As Sepha’s deadline approaches, she uncovers a deadly secret. How can she save her country when the body she owes the magician will be used to destroy it?
I am going to give it three stars. It was bad, but not so bad, and it took me one month to get my hands on a copy of this book. If I give it two stars, I will have to seriously reconsider my poor life choices and I don’t wish to do that.
This novel tells you the story of a very powerful alchemist, Sepha, who lives with an abusive father in a small town, and she is forced to demonstrate her power to the Magistrate. The demonstration goes wrong, of course, and Sepha is incarcerated. She defies the Magistrate promising to transmute any material. She is asked to turn straw into gold, which is an impossible task to achieve, even for the most powerful alchemist. Failing to do so, Sepha will be executed, so her father, and the town will lose their only alchemist and chance of economic survival. When she is very close to facing the deadline from the Magistrate, she accepts a deal with a mysterious magician. The magician will turn the straw to gold for her and in exchange, Sepha will have to give up her firstborn child.
All of this happens in less than 20 pages. You have a super-fast start, an even faster ending and in the middle it’s all a hit and miss. I guess the writer was trying to pack everything into one book and certain parts were left less explored or developed. The book is all about alchemy, which, to fully understand what the characters are talking about, you need to be an expert reader of fantasy books. However, this magic/alchemy system still has very intriguing aspects and the world. It brings new magical beasts, like the homunculus and cleptapod. The main character didn’t strike me as someone with definite personality traits. However, I appreciated that for once we had the main character struggling with dyslexia. I also quite enjoyed the idea of the Magistrate, instead of the usual fantasy monarchy. I found fascinating the idea that whenever a person becomes the Magistrate of this world they would have to give up their identities.
The biggest problem is the lack of details in explaining not only how the alchemy supposedly works in this world, but also the dynamics between certain characters. I still wonder why Henric didn’t like Ruhen at their first meeting. Also, the writer completely lost me during action scenes, and mostly towards the end, I started despairing because there were so few pages left and so much unsolved. This is the main issue I had with this book. I picked it up because it was a retelling of Rumplestiltskin and you don’t see this figure a lot. The main focus of the story is the alchemy and politics of this world. More importantly and disappointingly, it does not have an end.
It’s clear that the writer is planning the second part of this story, so a lot of the plot has been left open. I picked it up because I was super excited to read this story, I thought it had intriguing premises, but now I am left dry. This story is filled with promising plot turns, characters and so on. However, the rushed and inconclusive ending, the continuous dragging of the love relationship between the main two characters was a massive let down. Considering that this book is not easy to find in the UK, I am afraid I will not be able to continue this story and I don’t feel like doing so.