lisa's Reviews > The Alchemy of Stone

The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia
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's review
Apr 26, 10

really liked it
bookshelves: read-in-2010
Read from April 20 to 24, 2010

i almost didn’t read this book, wavering in my interest based on the synopsis. now that i’ve read it though, i can see that this is a book about so many things and it would be impossible to do it any justice in a few words. my ultimate faith in the person who recommended it (Calico Reaction) prevailed and i am definitely glad i gave in and read it.

the political face-off between the Alchemists and the Mechanics is at a breaking point and the underground political movement is threatening all out war. the gargoyles, as builders and protectors of the city, are dwindling in their numbers and have turned to the Alchemist Mattie, to help them find a cure for their eventual turn to immovable stone. at the core of the story is Mattie, who is an intelligent automaton, the highly sophisticated product of the mechanic Loharri. in her quest to assist the gargoyles, Mattie is drawn to the most varied and surprisingly tangible cast of characters, including the lonely, yet resigned Soul Smoker Ilmarekh and the sexy rebel Sebastian.

honestly, though, the plot lines are secondary to the characters and the writing here. Mattie, with her human-like abilities to feel pleasure and pain, and her programmatic increased sensory capacity, make her a very descriptive and emotionally driven narrator, one that is very easy to be sympathetic towards. her unique position of being an Alchemist and the creation of a Mechanic gives the reader an insider’s view to both political factions and equates to a highly readable and rather fascinating book. this is a dark and twisting story that is both thoughtful and engaging, with a great amount of depth to it.

by using Mattie and Loharri’s unique parent/child relationship, Sedia seamlessly weaves in the themes of identity, freedom, and obligation, in addition to the overlaying political and societal themes of prejudice and survival. despite the fact that Mattie was emancipated, Loharri holds power over her, not only because he is her creator and is necessary for her maintenance, but also because he refuses to hand over the key to her ticktock-ing heart. it reminded me very much of a twisted, steampunk Pinocchio mixed with a Wizard of Oz quest for a heart story. and oddly enough, it really worked.

Numb, Mattie obeyed. It was just like before, and no matter what had happened to her since, no matter how powerful or emancipated, she still did as she was told – because she could not do otherwise, because he was the one that made her. Just like the gargoyles obeyed the stone – or was it the other way around? she could not remember – she obeyed Loharri.

this is one of those rare books that could probably be enjoyed by a vast range of readers – sci fi to literature, paranormal romance to science lovers,The Alchemy of Stone manages to have a little bit of it all.

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Reading Progress

04/20/2010 page 3
04/23/2010 page 82
27.24% "i think Mattie would hate me for saying this, but i want an automaton."
04/24/2010 page 204
67.77% "i'm so glad i put my initial hesitation aside to read this."

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