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Quintessence (Quintessence #1)

3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  413 ratings  ·  103 reviews
Imagine an Age of Exploration full of alchemy, human dissection, sea monsters, betrayal, torture, religious controversy, and magic. In Europe, the magic is thin, but at the edge of the world, where the stars reach down close to the Earth, wonders abound. This drives the bravest explorers to the alluring Western Ocean. Christopher Sinclair is an alchemist who cares only abo ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published March 19th 2013 by Tor Books
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,704)
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Dan Schwent
In a world where the Earth is flat and alchemy works, Alchemist Chistopher Sinclair and physician Stephen Parris leave their uncertain futures in England and flee to Horizon, a colony on the edge of the world. But even as they unravel the island's many wonders, can they truly escape the religious upheavals in England?

The Quintessance is part alternate history and part what I'm now calling alternate science. It takes place during the Age of Exploration, only in this world, the Earth is flat and t
Bob Milne
It's been a long time since a novel frustrated me as much as Quintessence. Here is a book built around a great concept, with some really interesting philosophical questions attached. It's a story that's just packed with potential, but one where I found the execution to be lacking. Make no mistake, David Walton clearly knows how to tell a story, just as he clearly knows how to construct an argument, but it felt as if he spent too much time trying to decide which would be his focus.

Let's talk stru
Quintessence is an oddly engaging novel which kept me turning the pages despite being in a way standard action-sff with ultimate cliched villains (inquisition Spaniard who burns heretics at breakfast, lunch and dinner and English treacherous helper who licks the Spaniard boots and informs left and right for advancement), compressed-time action (main character spends his life seeking stuff, only to find it in a jiff so to speak...), hair-rising dangers which you know the heroes will overcome etc ...more
Christopher Sinclair is an alchemist who cares about only one thing: discovering the quintessence, the mystical fifth element that may be able to transmute base metals into gold and even bring the dead back to life. Stephen Parris, a physic in the court of England’s sickly Edward VI, strives in his own controversial way to extend life by practicing the forbidden art of human dissection to further his medical knowledge. Neither man is willing to accept the strictures imposed on their research by ...more
I'll be honest, the amazing cover was pretty much why I picked this book up to begin with. The premise was the next to intrigue me and I was (mostly) not disappointed. Walton does an amazing job of world-building, creating a flat Earth and adjusting historical events accordingly. Copernicus proves the Earth is flat, not the center of a solar system. Columbus' voyage ends in disaster and the ships never return from the ends of the Earth. In the midst of this setting, science is struggling to deve ...more
3 Stars

This is a high seas adventure that is filled with more ups and downs then from just the sea. Quintessence is a novel that seems to want to be for the young adult crowd, but a heavy dose of violence and a heavy load of deep subject conversations. The book is an easy read but suffers greatly from inconsistencies.

I enjoyed the traveling over the sea. There were cool creatures and adventures. The whole plot point behind the quintessence was phenomenal. I really felt the characters were the we
Matt Ranlett
Excellent read with great pacing throughout most of the book. I loved how the beginning starts out with the world we know, tiny details slowly twisting that understanding into a new shape. By the end of the book everything is open for questions as to what is and isn't reality. This was an excellent alternative history vision of the Reformation and Age of Exploration.
I especially appreciated the layering of religion and philosophy - what is the true nature of the world and what is the role of th
Milo (Bane of Kings)
The original review can be found here:

“A thrilling but flawed ride through an alternate Age of Exploration.” ~The Founding Fields

I’ll admit it, the cover was the main reason why I requested a review copy of this novel off NetGalley. It just looks awesome doesn’t it? This was a book screaming must-buy, complete with ships and sea monsters, I thought I would be in for a really enjoyable novel, even if I hadn’t read anything by David Walton before. The plo
Quintessence has so much going on in it that it could easily have turned into a hot mess. Thankfully, it did not. Set in the 16th century, a time of budding science, alchemy, enlightenment, superstition, as well as political and religious upheaval, Quintessence manages to blend these elements with it's own alchemy into pure gold. The two main characters, Parris, (a physician and scientist), and Sinclair, (a wiley magician and alchemist), form an unlikely team of opposites on a quest to discover ...more
Ian Hu
The beginning of David Walton's Quintessence is stirring enough: a ship full of dying men whose hull carries magical treasures sails into London and starts an adventure for Stephen Parris, the King's Physician.

The plot never lets the reader down for a second afterwards, whisking us from the rigid society of Protestant London, onto a ship sailing across unknown water, then on an island that is perched at the edge of the world. All of this is done in a fantasy-like adventure style, with new creatu
This was a fun adventure story that reminded me a lot of Haggard's King Solomon's Mines or Doyle's The Lost World. Set at the end of Edward VI's short reign, the story starts off a bit slow as the characters begin exploring the magical properties of both the bodies and the items of a doomed expedition to a magical island, while also juggling the politics of the period. It easily pulled me in with all the detail work, and it didn't take long before the characters were off on their expedition.

Jessica Strider
Pros: great world-building, entertaining

Cons: surprisingly swift resolution to numerous problems

The Western Star returns to England from the edge of the world purportedly carrying treasures untold, but the hold is full of barrels of dirt, rocks, and seawater, and the crew has mysteriously died. Stephen Parris, physic to the ailing King Edward VI, attempts to increase his knowledge of the human body by dissecting corpses, an act that would mean his execution if discovered. The most recent body h
Quintessence is an excellent example of the power of speculative fiction to explore human nature and history. Walton takes a specific point in history—the Age of Exploration and religious strife in England—and introduces fantastical elements to it to cast illumination in a particular direction. The England of Walton’s world looks a lot like the England of the mid-1500s. But there is a very, very different New World.

Quintessence opens with a crew of men returned from the New World. They’ve brough
A ship limps back into port -- London, sixteenth century. It's been to the edge of the world! It's seen fabulous Aristotelian foreign climes! It's found gold and spices and... wait a minute, these chests are full of sand and rocks. Also the sailors are all dying. Their bodies are full of sand and rocks too.

I feel like the author was primarily interested in his alchemical physics; the quintessence, how it works, how it interacts with everything. The rest of the plot was added so that he could kee
First, the horribly truncated summary: An alchemist and a mortician place their trust in a beetle and take a boat full of Protestants to the end of the world.

For once, I’m not being glib!

This book was provided to me via Netgalley in return for an honest review. I would like to thank Tor/Forge for giving me this opportunity and taking me seriously.

Now, as a fan of fantasy, Tor is a recognizable staple in our household. I hold them in very high acclaim and reverence. With that in mind, I am fully
Mike Shultz
Quintessence pulls you in immediately. I loved the mystery of the prologue, with a group of sailors returning to England with treasure chests full of sand and rocks. This sense of wonder is the central draw of the book as it takes us to Horizon, an island at the edge of a literally flat world where magic abounds. This is not your typical fantasy magic that just inexplicably exists; it follows its own elaborate and consistent rules, with which the characters experiment and discover as the story p ...more
Sean Randall
To start with, it bothered me that the voice of this work wasn't what I expected. Walton hadn't captured the tone I relished in Arthur PhillipsAngelica, in Rick Yancey'sThe Monstrumologist , indeed in Alan K. Baker's The Martian Ambassador or the Holmes of Horowitz The House of Silk.

And yet... And yet. I keep coming back to Eifelheim, a seminal work which gave me perspective of the unnatural in such breathtakingly appropriate language. And I'm reminded that Walton has captured, brilliantly, a fo
Lucy Saint-smith
Quintessence is an historical fantasy set at the end of Edward VI's reign (mid-sixteenth century). The world is like ours, but it has been proven to be flat. The book opens with an English Admiral returning to London with a ship full of rocks and sand and a crew who are all dead within a few days. An alchemist, seeking to uncover the mysteries of life, wants to take the Admiral's ship and return to the mysterious island that he claims to have found at the edge of the world. The King's doctor and ...more
This story richly imagines a fantastical country at the edge of the world with its own rules and laws to be discovered and used. During the Age of Exploration when King Edward VI and his Protestant reformation is being threatened by a return of Catholicism and Inquisitions, a physician interested in gaining knowledge by observation and testing along with an alchemist searching for immortality escape the political upheaval in England to sail to the ends of the world in an attempt to verify the fa ...more
In Quintessence, award-winning author David Walton blends science fiction and fantasy in a manner that would make Jules Verne proud. When I saw the book cover for Quintessence, it looked like just the kind of adventure I was in the mood for and, when I read the concept from Tor Publishing, I was sold. Are you in the mood for alternate history on a flat Earth with mysterious occurrences, alchemy, strange creatures and courageous explorers? Read the rest of my review at ...more
Courtney Cantrell
In Quintessence, David Walton presents a fascinating, well-developed, alternate-history 16th-century. England is exploring, expanding its power, and testing its boundaries -- the most formidable of which is the edge of the world, where the oceans spill over into the endless universe. Oh, and there are invisible manticores.

It's a pretty enjoyable set-up altogether, with the kind of adventure fans of epic fantasy will appreciate. The "magic" system is ingenious, based on ancient myths, superstitio
Travis Mueller
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
LAPL Reads
What if Magellan was wrong and the world is FLAT? What if the earth really is a flat disc covered by a dome that houses the moon, stars and the sun? And those celestial objects are made of something known as “quintessence.” Quintessence is an alchemist’s dream! It allows for any of a number of transmutations to occur, and may even hold the power to bring the dead back to life. But it is also highly theoretical. Would the possible risks outweigh the potential rewards in pursuing the use of such a ...more
This book frustrated me because it was so unique and had the potential to be incredible but just fell kind of flat. The philosophical questions were well done and I loved the science vs. God debate. I feel like what made this a unique fantasy is that neither God nor science were completely cut out but rather seemed to work in tandom. The idea for Horizon and the uses of quintessence were very good as well, it put a new spin on the old fountain of youth story.
The book was lacking though, there w
Lelia Rose Foreman
The book reviewer at Christianity Today recommended this book. I'm so glad I saw that and then bought the book.What a Ride! This alternate history/alternate physics!/adventure has everything: good writing, delightful dialogue, explorations of science and religion. There are hatreds, there are loves. There are puzzles galore. There are really fun animals.
The book opens with the sentence: By the time Lord Chelsey's ship reached the mouth of the Thames, only thirteen men were still alive. You want
Henry Lazarus
avid Walton sets his vision of a flat Earth during the period between Henry VIII and Elizabeth. Stephen Parris is physician to the sickly boy, Edward VI. Christopher Sinclain is an alchemist hunting for the Quintessence (hard from Tor) of being that would allow the dead to be given life. When a ship returns from an expedition to the edge of the Earth, its crew slowly turned to sand and carrying magical creatures that can walk through walls. Edward’s death, Stephens outing as a dissectioner, enab ...more
Daniel Clark

David Walton was correct in his introduction that I picked up this book because of the awesome cover art. But what was found inside the book led to 5 star review.

I just how Walton used the time period for every advantage to tell a great story. The 1500s was a great time of discovery and reform. The story uses both of these elements and adds a bbriliant sense of mystery and fantasy.

My favorite part of the story is the depth of the characters. Each character experiences death in some w
Stephen Neal

I can't give half-stars so I picked 3. Overall the book was decent. I read through it really quickly once I got time to sit down and do so and I did enjoy it, but the way I tend to determine my likability of a book is whether or not I would re-read it. Unfortunately I'm afraid my answer for this book is a 'no'.

The concept of the book is fantastic. Quintessence is an alternative history based on the idea that the Earth is actually flat, and the timeframe is the reign of Queen Mary (early-mid
A brilliant fantasy! I suppose it would technically be classified as an alternate history. The author captures the essence of the religion and politics of the 1550s England with a light hand. I feel like I would do better on a history test after having listened to this book. The audio version is spectacular, by the way. The 'magic system' if you will, is thought out remarkably well and the characters struggle to understand both the mechanics and the philosophical implications of Quintessence. Th ...more
Maria Kiguthi
I read this book since it was selected as one of the Salt Lake County Readers Choice Nominees. I always try to read all the nominations just to expose myself to new authors and new books that I wouldn't typically read.

The story was captivating as they journeyed across the ocean to the edge of the world. The way the author described events and wrote the prose is what kept my attention. A great story line and great writing made this an excellent book.
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David is a science fiction and fantasy author, which gives him the freedom to explore far beyond the limits of real life and the everyday. His books explores themes that skirt the edges of science and religion, such as human origins, the nature of truth, the certainty of death, and the nature of the soul. He does all his writing at home, where he lives with his wife and seven children. It’s a live ...more
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