In short, if you liked Arachnodactyl, you’ll like The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia. It is the kind of dark, moody science fiction tinged with a bit of fantasy that I both love to read and write.
The story revolves around Mattie, a sentient automaton and skilled alchemist who becomes embroiled in a clash between two political factions that threatens to tear apart the city she lives in. As Mattie’s world order is upset and forever changed, however, Mattie’s innerworld is set into turmoil as she grapples with the emotional limits of her construction, and struggles for independence from the man who created her.
As with many of my favorite books, the real story is not what happens on the surface, but what transpires inside the characters. In The Alchemy of Stone, Sedia delivers a book full of depth and subtext by creating a haunting set of characters, almost none of whom are as they appear to be on the surface. One of the joys of this book becomes trying to figure out how all of the different characters and competing motives are connected as Mattie’s world unravels around her. Despite her being an automaton, I found her easy to empathize with. Her desires and fears are all too human, and Sedia does a fine job of using Mattie’s artificial nature to reframe the things that make us human, such as loyalty, jealousy, love, and lust. Furthermore, Sedia does so with writing that is rich, thoughtful, and has a subtlety to it that I don’t often find in contemporary fiction. She has managed to pack a little of everything in this book, including romance, political intrigue, and mystery. All of it comes together and works surprisingly well in this imaginative and original book.
I’d rate this book with 4.4 stars. It was a solid, intriguing read. The story on the surface moved things along, but it was the depth and the complexity of the characters that made this book memorable. Though The Alchemy of Stone is not part of a series, once I finished it, I immediately put another of Sedia’s books onto my Goodreads list.
The Whole Latte Books blog is hosting a Halloween-themed challenge for the month of October called BiteOber. The idea is to read up books on the To Be Read list that feature vampires, werewolves, and other monsters. I’ll be participating by putting my own steampunk twist on things, and to that end, I’ve assembled a reading list of monstrous steampunk.
- The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder
- Hounded by Kevin Hearne
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
- God Save the Queen by Kate Locke
- Wolves of the Northern Rift by John Messenger
- Heart of Iron by Bec McMaster
If you’d like to join the challenge, or you’d like to see who else is participating, you can read the full details here. Also, as I’m always looking for something good to read, I’d appreciate it if you let me know on Twitter what you are enjoying by using the #BiteOber hashtag.
Steampunk Readathon Recap
Last week, in solidarity with a number of other readers and book bloggers, I read a little extra steampunk in honor of the Steampunk Readathon hosted by Whole Latte Books. I wasn’t able to put away volumes of work unlike some, but I did make a dent in Perdido Street Station by China Miéville. It wasn’t hard to do. After a rough start in which I had to acclimate to the unusual qualities of this book, I find I am mesmerized by it, and I’m eager to finish it and tell you about what an amazing book this is.
The intensity and overall bizarreness of Perdido Street Station doesn’t make for great bedtime reading, however, and so for that role, I picked up The Earl of Brass by Kara Jorgensen. It’s a pleasant book, easy to read, and I imagine I’ll be finishing it and reporting back before long.
In the meantime, if you are looking for something to read, and you happen to like action, I’d recommend you follow this link and check out Whole Latte Books’s review of Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, a book she thoroughly enjoyed and recommends with enthusiasm, and which I’ve added to my own To Be Read list.
September 10th through September 16th
The book review blog, Whole Latte Books is hosting a steampunk readathon. It’s a casual affair meant to encourage the reading of steampunk fiction. As one might imagine, I can certainly get behind that. So visit the site to see the full list of rules (books must be started no sooner than September 10th, re-reads count, as well as graphic novels and audiobooks) and spread the word.
As for myself, I will be starting Perdido Street Station by China Miéville, which is the selection of the month from the Automaton’s Steampunk Book Club. If you are looking for suggestions of things to read, you can find suggestions at Whole Latte Books, where you can also find links to other blogs participating in the readathon.
Of course, I would certainly recommend Arachnodactyl, which is also available in Kindle Unlimited. If you’ve read it already, or would appreciate something a little more on the fantasy side, then I’d recommend The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher.
Regardless of what you read, I hope you participate, spread the word, and enjoy your books.