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Alchemy of Fire

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  124 ratings  ·  10 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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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
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
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.
Outstanding historical fiction. I am enjoying reading all of Gillian Bradshaw's novels, one after another. A delightful treat!
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jane Pritchard
Jane Pritchard marked it as to-read
Sep 25, 2015
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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
More about Gillian Bradshaw...
Hawk of May The Beacon at Alexandria The Sand-Reckoner Island of Ghosts Kingdom of Summer

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