Kova combines a world with epic proportions with a clever plot and nuanced characters in The Alchemists of Loom. There’s dragons, magic, and feisty heroines, and that’s just in the first chapters.
One night, as Ari is on the way home from her latest heist, she stumbles across a dragon. Unable to resist herself, she begins to attack, driven by a fierce need to destroy all that reminds her of the Dragon King’s annihilation of the Five Guilds. But the dragon is not all that it seems, Cvareh has something up his sleeve and offers Arianna something she cannot refuse, something that will finally give her everything she’s ever wanted. In return, she must bring Cvareh to the Alchemist Guild, the most mysterious of all the remaining guilds and the one that Cvareh hopes will tip the scales in his family’s favor and usurp the King. The result is a journey on an epic scale that will make both question their loyalties, and all they’ve ever known about each other’s kind, in a conflict that will ricochet throughout the entire world.
Immediately the world building captured my attention. Too frequently do I read fantasy books with incomplete or non-existent world building and it is one of my biggest pet peeve. Kova does not fall into this trap, in fact she jumps over it with the grace and agility of Ari. The world of Loom is colorful, explosive, and fantastically detailed. There is real attention paid to the clothing, the weapons, and you relish in this Steam Punk/Fantasy setting.
By narrating the story in multiple perspectives: Florence, Cvareh, and Arianna, and another whom I don’t want to spoil, we are treated to the thoughts of all three of these multi-dimensional and wonderful characters. I knew I would love Arianna because independent, intelligent, but scarred, heroines are one of my favorite type. She is clever, talented, and has a history that I know I’ve only glimpsed a fraction of. Florence was another instant hit from the moment she said “Who questions a cookie? … But we will no longer be friends if you waste it”. Be still my heart. Cvareh was a character I warmed up to, it didn’t take long, but he has a complexity that unfurls like a blooming flower.
And all of them only get better with time, like a good wine (as a frequent drinker of wine, I taste no difference, but this seems to be a popular saying). Their flavors benefit from their history, taking on new subtleties and surprises as the plot unfolds. Kova’s plot skills are epic (have I been using that word a lot?). There are constant surprises, shocks, and satisfaction. Action laden, hot in pursuit, and fleeing burning wrecks describes most of the action, but it is non-stop fun. There’s just a smidge of romance, but it must be one of my favorites of all time. Seriously, I need more of it.
At the same time, there are subtle, important discussions of family structures, our right to self-determination, and the necessity of good intercultural communication. The rule of the Dragon King has made the choice of guild impossible and has restructured the entire family organization. Additionally, Ari and Cvraeh are perfect examples for the confusing and challenging situation intercultural communication poses: the necessity of openness, of realizing that your knowledge could be incomplete or downright wrong, and the strength of hope.
The Alchemists of Loom ends with promises of further adventure, new friends, and so much more. Having been on this thrilling and entertaining ride, I am ready for more and so happy I have already pre-ordered the next one. Do yourself a favor, if you enjoy fantasy (and/or steampunk), heroines that both challenge and move you, and a seriously worthwhile plot, this is for you.
ALSO if you’ve already read this, here’s your friendly reminder to pre-order the book. And if you haven’t read it yet, if I were you, I would already order it. You won’t regret it.
Weapon of choice? Gun, Magic, or Dragon Companion?
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