The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia

the alchemy of stone cover

Mattie, an intelligent automaton skilled in the use of alchemy, finds herself caught in the middle of a conflict between gargoyles, the Mechanics, and the Alchemists. With the old order quickly giving way to the new, Mattie discovers powerful and dangerous secrets — secrets that can completely alter the balance of power in the city of Ayona.

However, this doesn’t sit well with Loharri, the Mechanic who created Mattie and still has the key to her heart — literally!

A steampunk novel of romance, political intrigue, and alchemy, The Alchemy of Stone represents a new and intriguing direction by the author of the critically-acclaimed The Secret History of Moscow.

My Review of The Alchemy of Stone

The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“She could never quite bring herself to hate him – she teetered on the brink often, never crossing over. She had learned resentment and annoyance while being with him, and cold gloating joy; but there was also contentment and sympathy, and pity and gratitude.”

“This city watches you always,” he murmured. He pulled Mattie closer, his arms wrapping about her waist and his face buried in her skirts. Mattie thought then that it was rather sad that he sought comfort by embracing a machine-the construct that was not built to give it. But she tried, and the trying threatened to rend her heart in half.

The Alchemy of Stone is a beautifully written and haunting tale about a wind-up woman who just wants to be in control of her own life.

Mattie is an automaton created by a mechanic called Loharri. He just wanted a companion to care for him and ease his loneliness but instead, he found that he had created an intelligent, self-aware and independent woman. When Mattie becomes an alchemist Loharri reluctantly allows her to leave to live her own life but he refuses to relinquish control of the key to Mattie’s heart – a literal key the automaton needs to wind herself to life.

In the world around Mattie and Loharri, the Mechanics and the Alchemists are at loggerheads with each other as they compete for control of the city. The mechanics are bringing progress, steam-powered machines and analytical computers, upsetting the balance of power between them and the alchemists and pressing the poor and the farmers into working the mines. Stone gargoyles watch over the city as the tensions escalate into bombings and rebellion.

Through all this Mattie is just trying to keep safe her little part of the world and most importantly get her key from Loharri so she can be free from being dependant on him.

“What do you want?”

“My key” Mattie answered. “All I ever wanted was my key and he has it. You can’t steal it, it is bound to him. But he can give it to you, and he won’t give it to me.”

Iolanda touched Mattie’s hand. “You poor thing,” she whispered. “I had no idea.”

“Do you understand then?”

Iolanda nodded. “Show me a woman who wouldn’t.”

The author has created a beautifully imagined gothic tinged steampunk world. The alchemist’s potions and the mechanic’s creations bring a wonderful mix of old vs new and all the tensions that come along with it. The gargoyles sit watching all the events and their commentary provides an extra layer of understanding for the readers.

I would have liked a bit more depth in the gargoyles and in exploring Mattie’s relationships with the friends that she attempts to make. I feel like these were skimmed over a bit, the story of the gargoyles especially. But what it does explore is the issue of Mattie’s independence – what it means to be a woman in control of her own life and this I think is done very well.

It’s an engaging and deeply moving read and I loved the steampunk world with the gargoyles and the mechanic’s creations and the alchemist’s potions. I already want to re-read it just to experience the beautiful writing again!

The Alchemy of Stone
Ekaterina Sedia
Steampunk
November 10th 2009
Paperback
344

Tanglefoot (The Clockwork Century #1.2) by Cherie Priest

Stonewall Jackson survived Chancellorsville. England broke the Union’s naval blockade, and formally recognized the Confederate States of America. Atlanta never burned.

It is 1880. The American Civil War has raged for nearly two decades, driving technology in strange and terrible directions. Combat dirigibles skulk across the sky and armoured vehicles crawl along the land. Military scientists twist the laws of man and nature and barter their souls for weapons powered by light, fire, and steam.

But life struggles forward for soldiers and ordinary citizens. The fractured nation is dotted with stricken towns and epic scenes of devastation–some manmade, and some more mysterious. In the western territories, cities are swallowed by gas and walled away to rot while the frontiers are strip-mined for resources. On the borders between North and South, spies scour and scheme, and smugglers build economies more stable than their governments.

This is the Clockwork Century.

It is dark here, and different.

My Review of Tanglefoot

Free to read online, Tanglefoot is a short steampunk story set in The Clockwork Century universe. It’s standalone so you don’t need to have read the first book in the series before you read this.

Edwin is a young boy living in hiding in a sanitarium, in the basement lab of an elderly inventor. As the inventor slowly slides into dementia, Edwin becomes more and more lonely, eventually building himself a robot friend that he names Ted.

But robot Ted isn’t as friendly as Edwin hoped it would be.

I love Cherie Priest’s books, and this atmospheric and creepy short story is a good starting point for the Clockwork Century series.

You can read Tanglefoot online for free.

Tanglefoot
The Clockwork Century
Cherie Priest
Steampunk
34

Zombies at Tiffany’s by Sam Stone

zombies at tiffanys cover

Zombies at Tiffany’s Blurb

Kat Lightfoot thought that getting a job at the famed Tiffany’s store in New York would be the end to her problems. She has money, new friends, and there’s even an inventor working there who develops new weapons from clockwork, and who cuts diamonds with a strange powered light. This is 1862, after all, and such things are the wonder of the age.

But then events take a turn for the worse: men and women wander the streets talking of ‘the darkness’; bodies vanish from morgues across town; and random, bloody attacks on innocent people take place in broad daylight.

Soon Kat and her friends are fighting for their lives against a horde of infected people, with only their wits and ingenuity to help them.

A steampunked story of diamonds, chutzpah, death and horror from the blood-drenched pen of Sam Stone.

My Review of Zombies at Tiffany’s

Zombies at Tiffany'sZombies at Tiffany’s by Sam Stone
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Zombies, steampunk and diamonds? I knew when I saw this book at the Sci-Fi weekender that I had to read it!

It’s set at the time of the American civil war where a zombie outbreak starts spreading in New York. Kat Lightfoot, a young woman who has just started working at Tiffany’s, takes refuge from the zombie hordes at work with a mismatched group of her colleagues and customers.

I like that Sam Stone has not followed the usual zombie rules, and has created something different and unexpected here.

The heroine is intelligent and interesting, and I cared about what happened to her.

The mix of steampunk and horror works well and results in a short, exhilarating read that I enjoyed every moment of.

Zombies at Tiffany's
Sam Stone
Steampunk
Telos
2012
Paperback
185