A modern tale of ancient intrigue from a USA Today bestselling author
When Zoe Faust--herbalist, alchemist, and recent transplant to Portland, Oregon--begins unpacking her bags, she can't help but notice she's picked up a stow away: a living, breathing, three-and-half-foot gargoyle. Dorian Robert-Houdin is no simple automaton, nor is he a homunculus; in fact, he needs Zoe's help to decipher a centuries-old text that explains exactly what he is. Zoe, who's trying to put her alchemical life behind her, isn't so sure she can help. But after a murder victim is discovered on her front porch, Zoe realized she's tangled up in ancient intrigue that can't be ignored.
Includes recipes!Paperback, 360 pagesExpected publication: January 8th 2015 by Midnight Ink
Three and a half stars: An interesting story featuring alchemy and a gargoyle in Portland, Oregon.
Zoe is quietly unpacking her belongings in the middle of a rain storm, but this is Portland, Oregon is winter, and it rains a lot. Zoe is moving into a run down home in the Hawthorne District that needs lots of renovations. For Zoe, an alchemist, Portland seems like the perfect place to settle down and lead a quiet life for a few years. Unfortunately, her hopes are dashed when she opens one of her crates and discovers a live gargoyle inside. Dorian, the gargoyle, is in desperate need of help. If Zoe can't help him unravel his antique alchemy book, he may die. The next day, Zoe discovers a dead man in her yard, and she knows he was poisoned. So much for living under the radar. Can Zoe catch a killer and help a gargoyle?
What I Liked:
- I was excited to read this book as it featured alchemy and a gargoyle set in my home town. Overall, I thought this was a good, Urban Fantasy read, and I enjoyed learning more about alchemy. I thought Dorian, the gargoyle, was a terrific addition to the book. How often do you get to read about live gargoyles who can cook? I totally need Dorian to come cook for me. This book reads like a UF cozy mystery.
- I enjoyed the setting. I thought Ms. Pandian did a good job of portraying parts of Portland. Instead of focusing on the whole city, the story is instead set in one of the small neighborhoods in downtown Portland, which gave it a small town feel. I liked the tea shop, even though it really doesn't exist, too bad. I also appreciated that the many flavors of Portland were captured. I liked that Ms. Pandian brought forth the people and the important parts of Portland. She even included the mysterious Shanghai Tunnels that run below the city.
- Alchemy is not a topic I am well educated upon. I know the basics like everyone else, but little more. Even though it did take some time to wade through all of the information thrown at the reader on alchemy, I appreciated learning something new about the discipline
- I liked that this story incorporated two mysteries. Zoe is trying to unravel the how and why Dorian came to life by deciphering old alchemy books in order to prevent him from turning back into stone. She is also drawn into a murder investigation when a man is murdered in her front yard. I liked following both story lines.
- Dorian, the gargoyle, was the highlight of the book for me. I loved the quirky gargoyle and I especially liked that he was a terrific cook. I want more Dorian!
- Even though there were times the food descriptions and such felt a bit overbearing, I liked reading about the delicious concoctions that Dorian cooked up, and learning more about herbs and their uses. I am not a vegan, but I was tempted to try some of the dishes after reading about them. There are even a couple of tasty recipes at the end to try.
- The end is fast and a bit chaotic, but I appreciated that the main story lines, for the most part, drew to a close, and that I wasn't left with a cliffhanger and a bunch of nagging questions.
And The Not So Much:
- Unfortunately, where this book falters a bit is on the over explanations and too much detail. I am a detail reader, but even I struggled a tiny bit with the lengthy discussions on alchemy and vegan eating. This becomes a book where it is more tell than show at times, and it makes the pace drag. It does require a bit of patience. I also was frustrated that it mentioned over and over how Zoe doesn't practice alchemy anymore, but you don't learn the how or why until near the end. At that point, it was anti climatic and I the whole reason as to why she stopped was weak.
- I enjoyed some aspects of the veganism, but it felt a bit pushy too. There were times when Dorian, who was doing all the cooking, requested Zoe bring him certain ingredients that weren't vegan and she refused because they went against her beliefs. I get that she is a vegan, but since Dorian was doing her a big favor, she could at least bend and get him something he wanted.
- A weak romance is introduced at the end. Throughout the book, Zoe is attracted to one of the detectives, but there isn't any movement, and then at the end, the romance just pops up without development. I could have done without it.
- I didn't get why Zoe purchased the run down house. She said it was a cover for her alchemy, but if she wanted to be incognito, why purchase a house that needed a lot of repair, money and had a reputation? That part of the story didn't work for me. Furthermore, there is all this talk of secrecy and special equipment and such, but I didn't really see what the big deal was, she had some antique books, but nothing that would raise suspicion.
- The ending moves too fast compared to the rest of the book. The book goes into rapid gear, and everything regarding the murder, the vintage alchemy book and Dorian is all resolved to quickly and neatly for my taste, especially the way Zoe recovered the book. The rest of the book moves slowly in comparison, and I thought that more time should have been spent on the conclusion rather than wasting it on lengthy discussions earlier in the book.
The Accidental Alchemist was a promising introduction to a new UF series set in Portland, Oregon. Even though the pacing was a bit slow and the book suffered, at times, from too much telling, I liked the originality of the story and that it featured alchemy and a gargoyle. I will definitely be continuing the series.
"People have changed how they express themselves, but the human condition doesn't change, and neither does how we relate to it. Instead of making new stories unnecessary, each successful storyteller puts their own twist on a familiar tale and finds a way to connect with the readers of their time. Especially successful writers reach across time, ending up as classics."
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I wasn't compensated for this review.