A Golden Fury

St. Martin’s/Wednesday Bks. Oct. 2020. 352p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250220400.
Gr 7 Up–As the novel opens in Normandy, France, Theosebia Hope is her mother’s apprentice in the science of alchemy. The two of them have been incredibly thorough and ambitious with their studies. They have learned many languages so that they may draw from the findings of Europe as well as the Islamic world. It appears that during the wee hours, Thea’s mother pressed on by herself, perhaps finding success, but not without a price. Legend has it that the final step in the process—the smelting of the philosopher’s stone—is really a crucible for alchemists; that the stone will choose its master; and that the unworthy will be destroyed—driven mad. It also appears that Thea’s mother did not make the cut, and she is completely unhinged, attempting to kill Thea. With this backdrop, Thea sets out to meet her father (an alchemist at Oxford) who doesn’t know she exists. Soon after her arrival in England, it is evident that her father’s interest in her is only academic, as he too scrambles to create his own philosopher’s stone. The attention to detail in the story is excellent. Period costumes and locations are well imagined. Likewise, the pacing is good as the excitement clips along. There are perhaps too many characters at play, and occasionally readers may have difficulty recalling which Prussian they are encountering, as torturous tough guys who speak German abound. That said, Thea herself is a confident lead with a strong voice.
VERDICT A solid fantasy to flesh out the world of alchemy that most readers know only from “Harry Potter.”

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