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Alchemy of Fire

3.65  ·  Rating Details ·  137 Ratings  ·  12 Reviews
Constantinople, 672 ad. Ex-concubine Anna is attempting to raise her daughter well, but as an Arab invasion threatens and Kallinikos an alchemist working on a secret weapon to use in the seige comes into their lives, a secret about her daughter is forced into the open. Anna must accept huge upheaval, and recognize her feelings for Kallinikos . . .
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published July 1st 2004 by Severn House Publishers
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Stuart McCunn
Dec 13, 2016 Stuart McCunn rated it it was ok
The 7th century Arab siege of Constantinople is a great setting for a novel and the invention of Greek fire is an amazing achievement in its own right. However, the book fails utterly to capture any sense of this wonder/horror. In fact, it seems largely uninterested in the fire aspect and instead focuses on the perfume-manufacturing love interest of Callimachus, the fire's inventor. There's nothing wrong with this and nothing says that a book about the fire has to be about the fire's creator, bu ...more
Feb 17, 2009 Liz rated it liked it
Anna has made it a point in her life to remain fiercely independent in a world where a woman is expected to marry. Formerly the concubine of the brother of the Emperor, who died in disgrace, she has devoted herself to raising their now twelve-year-old daughter, Theodosia, and to running the successful perfume shop she owns. When a grubby stranger named Kallinikos arrives at her shop, wanting to buy used perfume-making equipment, she treats him as she treats all other men -- as a potential threat ...more
Aug 05, 2016 Margaret rated it it was ok
Gillian Bradshaw is one of my favorite historical fiction writers, so I look forward eagerly to new books from her. Sadly, Alchemy of Fire was a disappointment (and I say that with great reluctance). Set in Constantinople in the 7th century CE, it tells the story of Anna, a perfume maker whose daughter is the product of Anna's union with the now-dead brother to an emperor, and of Kallinikos, a Syrian who has fled to Constantinople to escape the Arab invasion and is now working on a secret weapon ...more
Oct 11, 2010 Sharonewoods rated it liked it
I really like Gillian Bradshaw, but I think I've read too many of her books. I found this novel completely predictable. The characters -- beautiful independent business woman and nerdy scientist love interest -- were identical to those that have appeared in her other historical novels. The plot didn't have any twists or surprises, and the setting of Constantinople didn't really shine through as vividly as some of Bradshaw's other venues. So, a nice read, but not quite as enjoyable as I was hopin ...more
Dec 29, 2014 Cheryl rated it really liked it
Alchemy of Fire by Gillian Bradshaw is a well researched historical drama about Anna, a single mother, and her teenaged daughter living in seventh-century Constantinople just before an invasion threatens the city and their lives. Anna is in a unique position as a woman shop-owner; she is a perfumer, distilling her own essences from local flowers and herbs. Interesting story with meticulous details describing life in Constantinople at that time.
Aug 29, 2008 Yune rated it it was ok
I was warned about this book.

Bradshaw never manages to bring this together; the perfume-maker is never convincing about her work; the alchemist charmless; the illegitimate daughter of an emperor's brother, a brat. It's as though she's become so accustomed to creating appealing characters in historical settings that she tried a shortcut and never laid the groundwork of her other works.
Kristyn Jensen
Jun 05, 2011 Kristyn Jensen rated it really liked it
This was a very cute story. I felt like it was a little short and the events could have gone by a little faster and maybe over a longer period of time. I feel like there were loose ends. Like her worries and concerns for her daughter's future. I gave it 4 stars mainly cause it was a really nice little story.
Jun 07, 2016 Megan rated it really liked it
The story starts slow, but it was more interesting once I saw where it was going. I didn't quite care enough about the main character or her daughter, but the supporting cast was good, particularly the enthusiastic eunuch. Some of the plot line follows The Sand Reckoner (which did it better), but this was still an enjoyable book.
Feb 03, 2009 RiverShore rated it did not like it
so far, i'm not into this book.usually, there is a real depth to her characters that seems to be missing in this book. i'm disappointed because i've really enjoyed the last 3 bradshaw books that i've read. maybe it will get better....i'm on page 100.
Mar 18, 2009 Joshlyn rated it liked it
Not bad. I like Gillian Bradshaw so I can be forgiving of boring parts of the book. Her books always have an interesting, strong female character and are good historical fiction.
May 16, 2014 Beth rated it really liked it
Outstanding historical fiction. I am enjoying reading all of Gillian Bradshaw's novels, one after another. A delightful treat!
Feb 22, 2009 Karen rated it really liked it
This is a light-weight but fun historical fiction set in Constantinople from 672-674. It had good pacing and I liked the main character, but it was a little bit lacking in depth.
Aevylmar rated it it was amazing
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Born in Arlington, Virgina, Gillian Bradshaw grew up in Washington, Santiago, Chile and Michigan. She is a Classics graduate from Newnham College, Cambridge, and published her first novel, Hawk of May, just before her final term. A highly acclaimed historical novelist, Gillian Bradshaw has won the Hopwood Award for Fiction, among other prizes. She lives in Cambridge with her husband and their four ...more
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