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Reviewed by A.D. Cole

Paris, 1903. Great, monstrous dirigibles dot the sky. The women’s suffrage movement is in full force. Fairies glow green in bottles of absinthe. And the world, unbeknownst to most of its inhabitants, is on the verge of cataclysm. Not even dirigible pilot Eleanor Chance, with her proclivity toward Reason and her outspoken dissent of all things magic, can ignore the signs occurring both around and within her.

When Elle finds out that her latest cargo is actually a person, she is unhappy to say the least. She has no desire to get involved with any sort of illegal activity, especially when that activity involves forces from the Shadow realm. But having already accepted payment, she finds herself flying the dashing warlock, Lord Greychester, back to England. In spite of his irresistible charms, Elle refuses to trust him. It quickly becomes clear that the man intends to use her for his own, possibly nefarious, ends. Upon arriving in England, Elle finds out that her father, a professor specializing in electromancy, has been kidnapped. And her new warlock friend seems to know something about it. Furthermore, she begins to suspect that she was chosen to transport her cargo for reasons other than her excellent piloting skills. But how deep does her involvement go? And how can she be so thoroughly entrenched in a conspiracy of magic without her knowledge?

A Conspiracy of Alchemists is a riveting steampunk adventure and appears to be the first in a series. I felt like it got off to a slightly rocky start. The whole, “I’m a woman and I can do anything a man can do” attitude of the main character was slightly grating. But that eventually quit bothering me. It was also a little unclear to me just exactly how magic is viewed by your average citizen, in this world. Elle, for example, espoused strong disbelief for the power of magic. At the same time, she seemed perfectly accepting of the little absinthe fairy floating around and didn’t blink at Lord Greychester’s confession that he is a warlock. So that troubled me at the beginning.

The author also opened up so many questions and so much plot that I had little faith in her ability to bring everything together. But read with confidence! The ending culminated powerfully and tied up all plot strands quite neatly. Certain twists were a little less surprising than they should have been. I would have liked a bit more information up front. It was eighty pages in before I felt I had a good handle on the world and the plot. But there was good forward momentum throughout. About halfway through, the action kicks up a few notches. And I found the ending very satisfying.

All-in-all a very entertaining read and quite an ambitious first novel. This was my first foray into steampunk. If you’re an urban fantasy fan considering this particular sub-genre, I recommend this book. I felt like I was swept into a world that was a mix of Moulin Rouge and Dracula. The combination of magic and science blended into such a rich historical setting was a whole lot of fun. I’ll wait with baited breath for the sequel.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

A.D. Cole is a homeschooling mother and aspiring romance novelist. She lives in the Ozark foothills and spends her free time reading, writing, baking and pondering life’s little mysteries.

Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by Del Rey. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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