The Alchemy of Stone

Ekaterina Sedia
The Alchemy of Stone Cover

Easy read, but not a hit with me


::Small spoiler included below::

This was an easy listen that I'm finding tough to review because I am torn between liking it and not liking it. I wanted more out of it than what was there and the tantalizing pieces of "good" that were there were frustrating.

Steampunk is a natural fit for themes of nature vs. creation and the nature of personhood. For the former, this book pits "alchemists" against "mechanics", but the alchemists aren't all that natural and the magic made such little sense to me that I couldn't enjoy it. This may be my own conceptions about what alchemy should and should not be, but is almost certainly partly because the whole book would have been fine without any of the alchemy.

...speaking of "fine without any of the alchemy", this brings me to my main point: what I wanted from the book upon finishing it, was for everything about the gargoyles (and especially from their perspective) to be excised from the book and instead for the story to focus on the themes and stories around consent/autonomy/power-dynamics. Maybe the gargoyles could be reworked into the story from there, but the most powerful parts of the book are where Mattie (the main character and an automiton) is confronting the nature of her existence and her relationship with her creator. Give me more of that! Instead of a two brief and heartbreaking betrayals by her creator I wanted the author to pull on that relationship until it broke and then to stick with it while we pick up the pieces.

Overall, it's a good enough entry into the steampunk subgenre, but not one I would say is a must-read for fantasy as a whole.

Note on the narrator of the audiobook: The narrator was good during the Mattie sections, but there should have been a different narrator for the gargoyle sections. I don't think a different narrator would have changed my opinion on those sections as a whole, but it would have made me cringe less.