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July 17, 2021

The Alchemy Thief by R. A. Denny ~ a Review

by MK French

A young woman in 2019 finds a relic engraved with a symbol in Martha’s Vineyard as terrorists in Morocco steal a seventeenth-century book imprinted with the same symbol. They’re all transported back to 1657; Ayoub becomes a Barbary Coast pirate, and Peri meets the alchemist John Winthrop, Jr, who plans to lure scientific minds to the New World. They all have plans for the future and the drive to succeed.

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The Alchemy Thief
July 2021; Indie; ebook (474 pages); historical fiction

The novel starts out slowly in 2019, following Peri discovering the hairpin in Martha’s Vineyard as well as Ayoub stealing the book and finding the needle within it. While it isn’t explicitly stated that the items are one and the same, it’s not likely to be a very common item across time. Peri is drawn into selecting classes at Harvard she wants to take, as well as joining re-enactment groups, and Ayoub is rescued by pirates and learns how to be one himself. It’s not until about a quarter way through that it picks up a bit of speed. There is still a lot of daily life and cultural notes regarding the time periods, so those interested in that will enjoy that section.

The story is still slow when Peri meets the alchemist and Ayoub is planning to meet with a spiritual healer ten years after his arrival. Peri explains away any of her modernisms by saying she was originally from London and playing along as a modest Puritan. As with any book about time travel, events proceed in the past to match what is known about the future, and it’s not always what Peri thinks it will be. I was definitely more interested in her story thread more, but I think it’s also because there are so many other characters to deal with on her end of things. Ayoub is mostly training to be a corsair, so there isn’t as much going into his story thread in the first half of the novel. The visits with the spiritual healer were fascinating, as well as his ascension to a ship of his own.

It took quite a long time for the different threads of the story to connect, so it was a bit frustrating for me while reading it. I kept waiting for more to happen, and for the ties between the characters to be clearer. The Alchemy Thief is the start of a series of novels, so the slow speed is likely a product of setting up the different worlds. There’s almost too much detail, then it stops abruptly to be picked up in the sequel. It’s definitely a fascinating concept that will hopefully pick up as the series progresses.

Buy The Alchemy Thief at Amazon
(the ebook is a free read for Kindle Unlimited subscribers)

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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