Having grown up in an orphanage, Craig Pike appreciates his comfortable life as a student of Cornelius, a famous alchemist. But when Cornelius is kidnapped, Craig leaves comfort behind to search for him. Craig teams up with Audrey Clife, a clever archer, and together they travel across mysterious lands and battle otherworldly creatures. Their journey reveals that Cornelius’s kidnapping is only a small part of an evil alchemist’s elaborate grab for power, and the only people standing in his way are Craig and Audrey…
Source: ARC from Icasm Press via NetGalley
Oh, this book. It could have been so good. Instead it’s flat and a bit dull with more tell than show, and characters who are introduced with a full physical description that is never referred to again. Our intrepid hero, Craig, is pretty dim, fairly useless in a fight, yet somehow manages to succeed wherever he goes. This would mostly be thanks to the Big Clues that seem to follow him around, ready to hit him on the head at the appropriately coincidental time. He also has a habit of getting into fights from which he escapes either utterly unscathed or with a new friend.
Speaking of friends, was have Audrey the fiesty girl who’s good in a fight. But Audrey, really, where did those swords come from?! She’s already an incredible archer, but suddenly she has Legolas-style twin swords too? Don’t even get me started on the fact that she can slaughter a colony of bats without ever running low on arrows.
Oh, there’s also Lily the horse who can swim like a barracuda (I kid you not, that is the actual line), when not head butting wolves or hauling her owner out of a river – while neighing. Clearly they have magical horses in this place. And is it just me or does the term alchemist conjure up visions of potions and, I don’t know, chemical reactions? The magic here is much more wizard-staff-and-spells.
Things also happened suddenly quite a lot, and there’s a bad guy who laughs maniacally and does weird things with stone.
So, riddled with clichés, bad dialogue, flat action, too much tell and nowhere near enough showing. The best thing I can say about it is that it’s short.
The Missing Alchemist is out January 20th.