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Life, Law & Libros

A Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz (2 stars)

Despite the romantic setup in the synopsis and the paranormal elements, I had medium-high hopes for  A Conspiracy of Alchemists. Had I not been in the particular weird reading mood I was in, I probably would have quick after Chapter 1. But I finished it, so review time! :)

A Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz
Series: The Chronicles of Light and Shadow #1
Genres: Adult, Urban Fantasy, Steampunk, Paranormal Romance
Published on March 5, 2013
Published by Del Rey
Final Rating: 2 stars


Eleanor “Elle” Chance, that is—a high-flying dirigible pilot with a taste for adventure and the heroine of this edgy new series that transforms elements of urban fantasy, steampunk, and paranormal romance into pure storytelling gold.

It is 1903, and the world is divided between light and shadow. On the side of light is a wondrous science that has transformed everyday life by harnessing magical energies to ingenious new technologies. But each advance of science has come at the expense of shadow—the traditional realm of the supernatural.

Now two ancient powers are preparing to strike back. Blood-sucking immortal Nightwalkers and their spellcasting Alchemist allies have a plan to cover the whole world in shadow. All they require is the sacrifice of a certain young woman whose past conceals a dangerous secret.

But when they come after Elle, they get more than they bargained for. This enterprising young woman, the daughter of a scientific genius, has reserves of bravery and determination that even she scarcely suspects. Now she is about to meet her match in more ways than one: a handsome yet infuriating Warlock named Hugh Marsh, whose agenda is as suspect as his charms are annoyingly irresistible.

What I liked:
  • I must have liked something since I read through the whole book- and pretty quickly, too- but I'm struggling to think of something I liked. Um, that it was a quick read?

What I didn't like:
  • The synopsis makes it sound like Elle is some kick-butt heroine who will shoot and fly her way out of anything Han Solo-style. She does pilot, she does shoot, but she spends most of the book as a (slightly lovesick) damsel in distress.
  • The romance. Animosity at the beginning? Fine. Elle recognizing that she is at least physically attracted to Marsh? Fine, unrequited. Lazy picnics in the sun while your father is kidnapped and maybe being tortured? *unhappy raised eyebrow* Suddenly reading from Marsh's perspective and finding out how in love with her he is, too? *facepalm* No. Finding out he's yet another old (~200 years), magical individual whose heart has been stolen by an impulsive little girl à la Twilight? NO.
  • I understood quickly enough that "Light and Shadow" referred to the world of humans/scientists/non-magical beings and the world of paranormal/magical beings, but term felt out of place. It didn't even come across as slang. Like the author wanted a cool name and/or series title, but its use in conversation felt awkward.
  • The action scenes felt skimmed over. Maybe it was the narration style, but the action felt half-baked- over too quickly and low on description.
  • The plot. Yes, there is a main plot line, but it feels like we're moseying about, not really getting anywhere, in several spots. Which probably won't bother you if you're invested in every little touch and secret look of longing. :)

Final Thoughts:
If you like romance and aren't particularly concerned with plot, you may like this. Otherwise, I don't think the magical, mystical, steampunk elements are worth trudging through the rest of the book. Elle's special-ness meter skyrockets as the story progresses (while her usefulness plummets), and the pacing is too slow too often. There are plenty of better paranormal romances and urban fantasies out there.


  1. Yep. This was one of the first books I was able to read an ARC of; and the first to show me that along with the good it means digging through sub-standard offerings at times.

    I don't even remember the details of the book, only being disappointed.

    1. I saw an ARC for book 3 in this series before reading this one and almost requested it. Needless to say, I'm glad I didn't.

  2. The title font is enough to put me off this book. The cover art is doing great. . . .up to that point.

    1. The title font choice is a little strange. The font for the author's name matches a little better. :)