A dark wizard has arrived in London, at exactly the time unrest among the non-magical community is coming to a head. London is under the protection of wizard and alchemist Icarus Kane and his loyal friends Cora Mae Jenkins and Archimedes Merriweather, and together they must chase down the threat while dodging the riots and the angry poor along the way. Icarus has no use for science, but there will be no escaping it as the aether, the very heart of magic, is threatened. All of London may perish if the dark wizard gets his way, and Icarus could lose his best friend and his lover in the battle. All the world could be destroyed under the tide of the oncoming storm unless Icarus can face his own power and embrace his inner darkness.
The story captured my attention right at the beginning with Gettysburg. I love when history is mixed in with science fiction, which is much of the point of steampunk I suppose. Plus I worked as an archaeologist on the Antietam battlefield, so I feel a little bit of a connection to Gettysburg as well. Then I ran right into demons and magic and my interest went down (I did not have the book description before reading, as I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review, and I hadn't seen the cover either, which is gorgeous, btw). I'm not sure why I can like mummies and magic, like in The Mummy, but as soon as demons, witches and wizards are introduced, I'm done. However, I can be objective towards them, as many people do like stories with them, so I continued to read for the sake of reviewing.
As I got more into the story, the gratuitous use of magic became more clear. Science exists within the storyline with the idea that there were people of science and magic users in competition with each other. Science vs Magic. It was an interesting plot point where a war between science and magic needed to be prevented, that there had to be a way science and magic could coexist, that there was room for both. I liked that idea.
This is a story of good vs evil, family betrayal, redemption, and love. The characters are delightful. I especially loved Archimedes. In the beginning, I was wondering why he didn't have Cora's heart either and felt he definitely needed a love interest. By the end, I wasn't disappointed.
There was a lot of fun humor mixed in too. This passage made me laugh out loud:
"My father is not just any wizard. He was the Grand High Master for many years. We will be lucky to live through the night."
"See?" I tweaked a curl with my fingers. "You're coming around already. A moment ago we were already dead."
I was having a little trouble with the way Icarus spoke to Cora, thinking it was a flaw with the writing. Then Archimedes said at some point, "You aren't talking to her, you're talking at her," and it clicked. That was the problem and I was relieved to see that it was done deliberately. Archimedes was such a helpful character. Did I mention he has mechanical parts that tick and click around? He does! And I love that aspect of him too.
Of course, the romance. The conflict between Icarus and Cora, both inside and outside, was great. I'm a sucker for tortured souls and Icarus was fighting a very dark past with a perception that he wouldn't be accepted as a lover, nor did he feel he deserved to be loved. I liked seeing how that played out and the revelations of what really happened in his past were excellent! Though, it was a little disturbing that their first kiss was while people were screaming, being burned alive, during a vision from his past.
This passage was wonderfully romantic:
"I never want you to wonder how I feel about you, Cora Jenkins," Icarus said.
"Then never stop telling me."
Has to be my favorite line of the book.
The sleeping beauty ending was pretty cheesy, but the after the end was a nice touch.
The way the story was structured was pretty unique. Cora's point of view was told in first person and Icarus's was in third. I found that I liked that. It changed the pacing without interrupting the flow, if that makes sense. It's hard to explain, but I liked it.
All in all, I liked the story and would give it 3.5 stars. Since you can't give halves, I'll round up to 4.
(The Alchemist's Kiss is available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Alchemists-Kiss-AR-DeClerck-ebook/dp/B010MOJXRE)