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The Alchemy of Stone

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  2,305 ratings  ·  341 reviews
Mattie, an intelligent automaton skilled in the use of alchemy, finds herself caught in the middle of a conflict between gargoyles, the Mechanics, and the Alchemists. With the old order quickly giving way to the new, Mattie discovers powerful and dangerous secrets -- secrets that can completely alter the balance of power in the city of Ayona. However, this doesn't sit well ...more
Paperback, 301 pages
Published August 25th 2008 by Wildside Press (first published July 4th 2008)
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Average rating 3.64  · 
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When I re-read The Little Mermaid as an adult something about it bugged me. This something bugs me more and more each time I re-read the story. It's not the pain the mermaid feels when she walks; all of Andersen's characters seem to get tortured, the Ugly Duckling was a male and he got frozen in the ice. No, with the mermaid, it's how the prince treats her. She sleeps at the foot his bed, he rests his head on her breast. It's like she's his personal lap girl with whom he has groping benefits.

I c
Jun 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: if I only had a heart
Recommended to Mariel by: 11:11
Do kids stare at you? Not like they look at other adults (just more adults in a taller treetop world). Unknown quantities. Not them. Not the other thems (meaning adults). Deciding to be afraid or not, or where to place you in budding perspectives. (Could be looks of judgement. My little niece stares only to proclaim that my hair looks bad. After loooong periods. THAT'S what you wanted to say? I'm sure she gets it from her mother. She always hated my hair.) Still deciding who everyone else is. St ...more
Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
A truly beautiful novel. Mattie's journey into 'humanity' will touch all but those with hearts of solid stone (excluding the gargoyles, of course, who adore and protect her). In many ways, Mattie, an automaton, is the most human character in the book; the one that most of us will be able to identify with, care about, and, perhaps, fall in love with. Her innocence and desire to become truly emancipated drive her story as she contends with life's ups and downs, and the machinations of others. Poig ...more
Megan Baxter
Oct 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Power and control, society and structure, alchemy and engineering, machine and gargoyle. This is a world populated by the strange and steampunky, with emancipated (but maybe not really) humanoid robots, and gargoyles slowly turning to stone against their will. It's also a world in flux, where feudalism may be in the midst of being overthrown by industry, and that may be, in turn, challenged by the workers.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy an
Mar 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: steampunk
I'm not sure how to review this. I think for most people this would be a three star book because it isn't EASY, but there is such beauty and strangeness to this, that I had to give it four stars, because I think for some people it will be a five. There is something lovely about it.

It's a very artistic book, the prose is very romantic and lush and plaintive, and it drew me in. It's set in an alt steampunk-ish world I never 100% understood and follows an automaton named Mattie, who lives alone but
Sandy Parsons
Jan 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club
I wanted to like it. I really did. I picked it as my choice for the book club, after all. But after a promising start, I kept feeling like I was reading a sketch of a larger story, with an occasional burst of wonderful imagery, or a hint of a really cool idea. I loved the metaphor of Mattie and her heart, and the key to her heart, which she could never quite possess (and arguably, she sometimes seemed programmed not to want to actually achieve, all her protests notwithstanding). The soul smoker ...more
First of all, this cover is amazing. Secondly, at the top of the cover it says "A Novel of Automated Anarchy & Clockwork Lust".

Tell me the last book you read that was billed as such.

This is a pretty inventive story about an automaton named Mattie. Oh, sure, another automaton story, she says. Snooze. But, no, really, this was a fun read. Mattie is better than most automatons, definitely created to be superior to others, and, unlike other automatons, she is liberated. She is still dependent on her
Anzu The Great Destroyer
I never thought I'd encounter a book like The Alchemy of Stone. It’s something I can’t describe in mere words.

I’m serious. I can’t find words to describe it but here goes my weak and unworthy attempt.

It’s a heart-breaking story, and yet it has many emotional and happy, at times, moments. It shows a character’s determination and strong will when everything falls to pieces. It’s a story of unshared love, pain and misery. It’s a story of hope and a lesson in life. It’s an unusual point of view. It
Kara Babcock
There are so many ways to describe Ekaterina Sedia's The Alchemy of Stone. It's a sombre symphony of motifs, ranging from women's independence and sexuality to the ramifications of rapid industrialization. And deceptively so—despite the intriguing back cover copy and the seductive tagline, "a novel of automated anarchy & clockwork lust," I wasn't quite convinced of The Alchemy of Stone's brilliance until the denouement, when everything suddenly came together in a wonderful, cathartic moment.

In t
Mar 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
What a strange, lovely book. I fully admit that I decided to read this book solely because it features gargoyles. I kind of have a thing for gargoyles. I'm pleased to report that Sedia delivered far more than just a favorite (and sadly underused) fantasy species.

The Alchemy of Stone is set in the fictional city of Ayona, built by the magical efforts of the stone-controlling gargoyles. The Ayona of the novel is in the middle of a power struggle, between forward-thinking, steampunky Mechanics and

This was a very different read from what I expected so at first I thought that it sets up a great storyline/world and then fails somewhat to live to that potential, but the last 3rd or so of the book and especially its poignant ending made me reconsider and appreciate this one as what it truly is - a mainstream character study disguised as science fantasy.

The character happens to be a mechanical girl called Mattie, but her creator a Mechanic with a damaged face and a past that slowly revealed
Jul 20, 2012 rated it liked it
I feel like an odd one out, here. I expected to love this, and people whose opinions I trust really loved it, often giving it five stars. But it never came together for me: I wasn't sure what the main story was meant to be, what I was meant to take away from it. I never really managed to picture Sedia's world or characters, or connect whatever dots I was meant to connect.

Partially, probably, this is because I didn't want to. The relationship between Mattie and her creator is a powerful one, and
Aug 09, 2020 rated it liked it
Recommended to Anna by: Linda
Shelves: fiction, fantasy
Harrow the Ninth was always going to be a hard act to follow. 'The Alchemy of Stone' is a thoughtful steampunk novel, taking a more analytical approach to the subgenre than most. However it didn't grab me in a visceral way. I was interested in the characters and plot without being emotionally invested in them. The protagonist, Mattie, is an automaton who technically has freedom from the man who made her, yet he still has the only key that can wind her clockwork mechanism. She works as an alchemi ...more
Andrew Liptak
Oct 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
This was a surprise in my mail earlier yesterday - I’ve been trying to get a hold of this book, The Alchemy of Stone, for a little while now, and had some problems. This third book by Ekaterina Sedia was one that I was really looking forwards to reading, and it was a fun book to read - While I waited for my computer to restart, I finished the last 150 pages in about an hour.

The story follows Mattie, an intelligent automation in a world that is very steampunkish. Mattie is an alchemist, trying to
May 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
The tone and feel of this book reminds me a lot of China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station or The Scar, both of which take place in a steampunk world of strange creatures, mixing fantasy and science-fiction and excellent character development. Sedia brings those same ingredients to The Alchemy of Stone.

The novel tells the story of Mattie, an intelligent liberated automaton alchemist who works in the city of the gargoyles, both part of human society and disdained by it (the epithet for automatons
Feb 17, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: status-borrowed
Mattie is an emancipated automaton and an alchemist, commissioned by the city's gargoyles to extend their short life spans. Her research draws her into a conflict between gargoyles, Mechanists, and Alchemists, but Mattie's attempts to help are hampered by her lingering ties to her creator. A steampunk fantasy novel, The Alchemy of Stone has a fun magical setting and a wonderful protagonist, but overhasty pacing leaves too much of the book undeveloped. The potential here goes unfulfilled, and it' ...more
Nov 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
I had not run across the euphoniously-named Ekaterina Sedia or her work before, but I'm glad I picked this one up. Her ornate, careful prose is unlike anything else I've read of late, although China Mieville's dark, smoky steampunk cityscapes invite comparison. Sedia's work is her own, though. Her protagonist, a clockwork automaton named Mattie, is a sympathetic device whose portrayal is just as it should be - yes, Mattie is unsure of herself when dealing with human emotions, even the ones she p ...more
Jul 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
A gorgeous and original vision. Mattie is a magnificent character, an emancipated clockwork automaton and alchemist. The city in which she resides was created by living gargoyles. The relationship between Mattie and her creator is a fascinatingly flawed one, and it is a joy to be witness to her ongoing self-discovery. Sedia has a poet's ear for prose. I've seen it called steampunk, and certainly it has some of the trappings: a windup girl, a mechanical omnibus, etc. I've seen it called urban fan ...more
Oct 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing book, a favorite. Managing like Martha wells murderbot series be very human despite being a nonhuman main caracters. Really likes the vivid world and the diffirent political fractions made this feel special. Just wished it was longer but well written caracters and story and stuggle between alchemists and mecanics. I expected this to end as it did. Still amazing and well written and such a languish.
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Feb 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
[9/10] a rare gem: an original fantasy book that relies neither on sparkly vampires or on bloodthirsty / foulmouthed mercenaries. Steampunk meets gothic meets fable meets social revolution. beautiful language, restrained emotional intensity, promising author
Jun 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: steampunk, fantasy
I loved this book up until the last few pages.

The city of Ayona is a haunting place, atmospheric, vivid, and cruel. It's an enchanting bit of world building using lovely language. One begins with the conflict between the progressive but destructive Mechanics and the conservative Alchemists, but slowly realizes that the entire structure is built upon the slavery of children. Grace and horror intermingle. Mattie herself is fascinating and compelling, fully aware but never quite sure if she is thin
Apr 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: e-books, read-2010
This was a tightly written, concise, and thought provoking novel. Yes it is about a windup girl and takes place in a steam punk setting, filled with neat machines and gargoyles too. It however, is much more than that, it is a story on what it means to be human, to care, to hope, and to dream. It is though provoking and emotional, and I enjoyed every word of this novel. The characters are deep and colorful and the plot is taught and well directed. I highly recommend this novel to lovers of all ge ...more
Sedia provides us with fairy tale/fable with touches of steampunk and new weirdness that comes to a troubling end that is very open to interpretation. The dialogue and prose are guileless and provide a platform for her story, characters, and setting. Shades of E.T.A. Hoffmann, Quay Brothers, Angela Carter, and Guy Maddin are found in a story that manages to be charming, creepy and ultimately quite dark. I found the heroine Mattie quite appealing and found the book quite worthy of note; E. Sedia ...more
Feb 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio, fantasy, steampunk, ai
A most enticing book of gloomy atmosphere, with its main protagonist quite endearing. Though wishing this would lay the groundwork toward additional books, I respect the author's decision to keep it {perhaps just a long pause} self contained and cherished.
aPriL does feral sometimes
‘The Alchemy of Stone’ is a delight, if dark steampunk allegories appeals, and it did to me. I highly recommend this novel. There be living gargoyles, sensate robots, debauched aristocrats, soul eaters, alchemists, lizard transport, weird scientists/mechanics, orphan abuse and magic. Religious mythology underpins the plot, but it doesn’t get in the way. Religious echoes notwithstanding, it is an exciting story and well-written. The characters are interesting and realistic.

Mattie is an emancipate
Dec 28, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: atl-pocalypse, kindle
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Robert Beveridge
Ekaterina Sedia, The Alchemy of Stone (Prime, 2008)

I've been hearing wonderful things about The Alchemy of Stone since long before it came out, but it took me a while to track a copy down. And while it got off to something of a slow start, once it grabbed me, it didn't let go until the final page. If you haven't discovered Ekaterina Sedia yet, do so at your earliest opportunity. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Mattie is an emancipated clockwork human, an automaton whom Loharri, her maker, built
Note to self

Dark. No HEA.
Apr 10, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
uh oh.... Alex gave it one star and Ang gave it 5! I like it so far, but we'll see at Book Club!

Meh. I never quite knew who to root for. There were one too many story lines... Automatons gaining independence. Cool. Saving the gargoyles. Ok. Mechanics vs. Alchemists. Sure. Revolution of coal miners... Fine. Pick one cause for me to be invested in and I'll get behind it. But with so many competitions, I ended up being indifferent to all of them.
Fiona Skye
Apr 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, steampunk
The Alchemy of Stone is such a beautifully lyric book. I almost didn't read it--I'm not really fan of Steampunk--but I'm glad I did. The world in which our little automaton Mattie lives is rich and well-imagined, the characters are deep and easy to relate to, and the story hooked me almost instantly. There were a couple of nights when I stayed up until two or three o'clock reading, simply because I could not put the book down!
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