Today, I am pleased to introduce you all to author Liesel Schwarz. Her debut novel, A Conspiracy of Alchemists, just released. It is a fun, historical, steampunk adventure with a bit of paranormal and lots of action. I really enjoyed this one! I invited Liesel here today to share with you all her thoughts on steampunk. First, here is Liesel's bio:
Liesel Schwarz is a lifelong fan of nineteenth-century Gothic literature who loves Victorians, steampunk, fairies, fantasy monsters the fin de siècle, and knowing the best way to drink absinthe. She also likes medieval things, pirates, zombies and all subjects in between. She lives in London in the United Kingdom and is definitely a cat person.
Here is Liesel on writing Steampunk:
Steampunk and the Art of Making Stuff Up
I have always been a bit of a history nut. There is something immensely magical about investigating places where those who came before us walked and lived. And so living in the United Kingdom is such a treat. Every day, I tread the ancient walkways that people have treaded since before the Romans came. And if I look out of the window of the office I work in when I am not writing, I can see the place where one of Jack the Ripper’s victims was found. Only a single slab of stone that marked the doorway remains of the house, and hundreds of people walk straight over it every day, but I know it’s there.
And so, writing steampunk was a logical step for me. I spent quite a lot of time in various libraries sifting through old documents for ideas. The Victorians had such marvellous inventions, that very often I have to abandon all hope of using them, because there is no way readers would believe that I did not make it up.
Take the electric corset for instance: Invented in the 1880’s the idea was that you “zapped” yourself to optimum healthy by the use of electric current.
There are also of course the myriad of flying machines which people experimented with before the Wright Brothers made their historic flight in December 1903. Here is an example.
And that doesn’t even begin to cover the strange investigations into the human psyche, the paranormal and the downright strange.
Suffice to say, I had tremendous fun writing my first novel, A Conspiracy of Alchemists. And the best part was that I could remain true to many historical facts.
The steam car Marsh drives is a model which actually existed.
I based the character of the simit seller in Istanbul on a photograph of a Turkish man dating back to 1903.
The town of Croydon (now a suburb of South London) really did have an aerodrome for dirigibles.
The cappuccino machine was invented in the early 1900’s
…and it was possible to take the train from Paris to Istanbul in 1903.
I hope readers will enjoy all this paraphernalia as much as I did.
Thank you for inviting me onto your blog.
Liesel Schwarz xx
(photo credits: Art by Law)
Fascinating stuff, Liesel! Thank you so much for taking the time to share with us today. Be sure to check out Liesel's debut novel: A Conspiracy of Alchemists. It is available now.
Here is my review:
A Conspiracy of Alchemists(Chronicles of Light and Shadow #1) by Liesel Schwarz
LEAVE IT TO CHANCE. Eleanor “Elle” Chance, that is—the intrepid heroine of this edgy new series that transforms elements of urban fantasy, historical adventure, and paranormal romance into pure storytelling gold.
In a Golden Age where spark reactors power the airways, and creatures of Light and Shadow walk openly among us, a deadly game of Alchemists and Warlocks has begun.When an unusual cargo drags airship-pilot Elle Chance into the affairs of the mysterious Mr. Marsh, she must confront her destiny and do everything in her power to stop the Alchemists from unleashing a magical apocalypse.
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published: March 5th 2013 by Del Rey
Three and a half stars: A smart blend of steampunk, historical and paranormal.
Elle is anxious to board her airship and be on her way. Her friend Patrice corners her in the tea shop and asks her to transport a small box for him. He is tight lipped about the contents of the box. Her payment is a lovely diamond bracelet that Elle snaps on her wrist, only to find that the clasp won't undo. A small absinthe fairy, immediately flies into the bracelet and takes up residence inside the diamonds. Elle figures she will deal with the problem after her flight. Unfortunately, as soon as Elle leaves the shop, she is assaulted in her carriage, and the mysterious box is stolen. Elle is immediately drawn into a dark and dangerous conflict between the Alchemists and the Warlocks. She learns that the delicate balance between the Light and the Shadow is precariously close to becoming unbalanced and she just might hold the key to stopping it. Can Elle prevent the Alchemists from unleashing darkness on the world?
What I Liked:
- I always enjoy a book that manages to pull off a successful melding of genres, and so I was pleased to find that A Conspiracy of Alchemists was able to do just that. It is a smart blend of historical fiction, with great steampunk and a lot of paranormal. There was plenty to like about this book. If you are a fan of books that marry your favorite genres, give this one a try.
- I was enthralled with the complexity and creativity of Ms. Schwarz's ideas. This book presents the two sides: The Light and The Shadow, but it is not your typical good and evil as you would expect. Instead The Light refers to science, wisdom and technology, while the counterpart, The Shadow, refers to the realm that involves magic and all things paranormal. The two sides are becoming unbalanced as man's quest for knowledge and the pursuit of technology is causing the Shadow realm to lose power. Thus, the Alchemists and Nightwalkers (vampires) are seeking to counter the balance in their favor. What follows is an entertaining and intriguing, action packed adventure full of plenty of paranormal and all the gadgets and gizmos that you love in steampunk. I was pleased that this one had many of those creative inventions that I so adore in steampunk. I especially liked the gyrocopter, a small steam powered air ship that resembles a dragonfly. This book definitely delivers with the steampunk!
- I admired Elle the protagonist. She is certainly flawed as she is a bit head strong, and quick to make snap judgements, often before assessing all the evidence, but on the other hand, she is intelligent, resourceful and daring. She is a young lady caught in the era during the women's suffrage movement. Elle refuses to wear her skirts, and be a proper lady, who marries and has a family, instead she earns her pilot's license and flies airships. It is always fun to encounter a female who goes against the norm of her day, and Elle does just that. There are certainly a few times when she is a bit irritating, especially when she refuses to listen to Marsh, but that is what makes her realistic, because she makes mistakes.
- There are plenty of paranormal entities in this one from fairies, nightwalkers, oracles, witches and warlocks and more. I enjoyed some of the new spins on these familiar entities. The vampires are especially a bit different, and that was a relief for me since I am burned out on vampires. The Alchemists and the Warlocks were very interesting, and something you don't encounter often. One of my favorite characters was the little absinthe fairy, and I enjoyed her view point, even though I was a bit confused at first as to whose view point I was reading.
And The Not So Much:
- I struggled a bit with the romance in this one. Elle and Marsh start out antagonistic towards each other, and then there is this sudden shift and they both immediately develop feelings for each other. It wasn't exactly insta-love per say, but it progressed very quickly from the pair being at odds to something more and all the detail was glossed over. I was especially surprised at the ending, where the relationship took another big jump. I just didn't feel the passion or see the attraction because it just happened and the reader doesn't get to relish all the buildup. The two are thrown into an uneasy alliance and Elle doesn't particularly like or trust Marsh, and then one day she wakes up with feelings for him. I wanted more chemistry and sizzle and it just wasn't there.
- The absinthe fairy was one of my favorite additions to the story, but there is so little detail on her character. For instance, I have briefly heard of absinthe fairies before, but I don't have a clear understanding of their abilities and what the absinthe does for them. The fairy's powers are not disclosed and I never understood why she needed absinthe. She would go into the bottle, did she drink it, immerse in it or what? There are brief snippets throughout the book from the fairy's point of view, but then during the last part of the book she disappears and is a non factor. I was expecting more from her, especially since the story incorporated her view point.
- I felt that the whole conspiracy of the alchemists plot was a bit undeveloped. The villains played a small role, and we didn't really get to see what made them tick, or have a full understanding behind their motives. The villains were not memorable or scary, and I thought they fell a little flat, though I did appreciate the twist with one of the bad guys when it was revealed he was an enemy.
A Conspiracy of Alchemists was an enjoyable read. It features a headstrong heroine who refuses to be saddled by the ideas of society for a young woman. Elle takes chances and pilots air ships and is everything a well brought up young lady should not be. There is plenty of steampunk gadgets and gizmos and an interesting plot. The romance is a bit underdeveloped but it is a good beginning. If you enjoy steampunk, paranormal and historical books, give this one a try, it is definitely different.
"It was the way the world worked: Everyone owed somebody something in the end and it helped if those you owed were friends."
"I'd rather eat my own foot than marry a man like you."
"You are dreaming that you are awake and you are awake while you are dreaming. It's complicate."
"She melted into him like flame-softened wax, until they were both no more than an abstract of lips and faces, skin and hands. Bodies touching, intertwined, they drifted weightlessly through the shimmering aether."
"In that moment, she knew that this was the one kiss of her life. It was the touch of him she would remember forever. THe kiss she would dream of when she was lonely. It was the kiss she would relive when she was alone."
"There was little point in mindless bravery though, for sometimes victories were won by small increments. As the mighty pine rises up form one tiny seed, so our escape plan would grow."
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.