Review: A Conspiracy of Alchemists (The Chronicles of Light and Shadow Series #1) by Liesel Schwarz

A Conspiracry of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz Book Cover

Book Summary


Eleanor “Elle” Chance, that is—a high-flying dirigible pilot with a taste for adventure and the heroine of this edgy new series that transforms elements of urban fantasy, steampunk, and paranormal romance into pure storytelling gold.

It is 1903, and the world is divided between light and shadow. On the side of light is a wondrous science that has transformed everyday life by harnessing magical energies to ingenious new technologies. But each advance of science has come at the expense of shadow—the traditional realm of the supernatural.

Now two ancient powers are preparing to strike back. Blood-sucking immortal Nightwalkers and their spellcasting Alchemist allies have a plan to cover the whole world in shadow. All they require is the sacrifice of a certain young woman whose past conceals a dangerous secret.

But when they come after Elle, they get more than they bargained for. This enterprising young woman, the daughter of a scientific genius, has reserves of bravery and determination that even she scarcely suspects. Now she is about to meet her match in more ways than one: a handsome yet infuriating Warlock named Hugh Marsh, whose agenda is as suspect as his charms are annoyingly irresistible.

Book Details

A Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz
The Chronicles of Light and Shadow Series #1
Young Adult / Steampunk / Paranormal
Published March 5th 2013 by Del Rey
Hardcover, 336 pages   
Source: Library
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Books in the Series


Book Review

A CONSPIRACY OF ALCHEMISTS by Liesel Schwarz is the first book in the Chronicle of Light and Shadow series, and should delight fans of Steampunk and Paranormal Romance. When I saw the amazing cover and the books description, I knew I wanted to try this series!

Set in an alternate Paris in the early nineteenth century, A Conspiracy of Alchemists features plenty of fun Steampunk gadgets as well as some unique steam powered aviation to keep things interesting throughout the story.

When our heroine Elle, the high-flying and high-spirited dirigible pilot (French airships were known as dirigibles), is persuaded to carry some unusual cargo on her plane, her life becomes entwined with the dashing and mysterious Mr. Marsh. Soon they find themselves in a battle with a secret brotherhood of Alchemists using dangerous magic as they try to create supernatural apocalypse.

Eleanor “Elle” Chance is the pilot and owner of an freighter dirigible called The Water Lily. She is full of spunk, and her independence sometimes gets her into trouble. Elle’s character was interesting because it was obvious she felt safer working around machines and liked their predictability-unlike people whom she had a hard time trusting. It was great to see her overcome some of this as her adventure began with Marsh, and I enjoyed reading about the sweet romance between the two.

Hugh Marsh plays the part of the handsome hero with a mysterious background perfectly. His character was interesting because you knew there was more to him than he let on. I enjoyed learning how he was connected to Elle and the Alchemist Society.

For fans of Paranormal, Liesel Schwarz has created a world inhabited by supernatural creatures, including Nightwalkers, Warlocks, Absinthe drinking Fairies, and of course Alchemists.

There are several secondary characters that make the story standout. There is Aleix, a mysterious Nightwalker who also seems to have ties to Elle, Marsh and the Alchemists. Hopefully we get to see more of him in the next book. Then there is Adele, a Dryad, known as La Fée Verte, who is captured and likes to drink Absinthe. I was intrigued by The Baroness Belododia, a small secondary character, who is also a Nightwalker and the niece to the famous Vlad that Elle meets on The Orient Express.

There’s some funny verbal banter between Mr. Marsh and Elle throughout the story, and a slow and sweet build up to a romance.

I’m a big fan of romance and I loved the building relationship in this series opener. With so much adventure and genre elements incorporated into the story, I was worried about if I would enjoy the romance but I needn’t have worried. It is definitely irresistible and swoon-worthy!

In that moment, she knew that this was the one kiss of her life. It was the touch of him she would remember forever. The kiss she would dream of when she was lonely.
It was the kiss she would relive when she was alone. It would transcend the physical, the realms of Shadow and Light.
All other kisses that followed, if there ever were any, would not compare.

Liesel Schwarz  did a great job incorporating Steampunk elements and unique setting locations into the story.

I found myself fascinated by all the great gadgets and enjoyed the explanations of how things worked with the use of “spark reactors” and “steam power”. The locations were fascinating as well, the story starts off in in a small opium den above a Paris cafe, then travel on to Oxford and through on to Constantinople via The Orient Express before it’s all done. It felt like I was traveling across the continent with Elle and Marsh.

In the End

I enjoyed the ending, and can’t wait for Elle and Marsh's next adventure! Zombies! A Conspiracy of Alchemists would be a good choice for those who are new to the Steampunk or Paranormal genre. Styled like a historical fantasy, but with a light touch of elements from both Steampunk and Paranormal, new readers to the genre will not feel overwhelmed. Fans of the genre will have a fun and light read, without the greater level of world building to it.