Alchemystic, by Anton Strout

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Publication date – September 25, 2012

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Alexandra Belarus is a struggling artist living in New York City, even though her family is rich in real estate, including a towering Gothic Gramercy Park building built by her great-great-grandfather. But the truth of her bloodline is revealed when she is attacked on the street and saved by an inhumanly powerful winged figure. A figure who knows the Belarus name…

Lexi’s great-great-grandfather was a Spellmason—an artisan who could work magic on stone. But in his day, dark forces conspired against him and his, so he left a spell of protection on his family. Now that Lexi is in danger, the spell has awoken her ancestor’s most trusted and fearsome creation: a gargoyle named Stanis.

Lexi and Stanis are equally surprised to find themselves bound to each other. But as they learn to work together, they realize that only united can they save the city they both love…

Thoughts: Lexi, an artist from an affluent New York family finds herself in a difficult situation after her brother is killed and she finds herself thrust into an unwanted world of real estate when she’d rather be pursuing her art. But then she discovers that her family has a generations-old secret; her great-great-grandfather was a Spellmason, a mage who could work his will on stone, and Lexi has inherited the talent. With her friends Rory and Marshall, and an awakened gargoyle named Stanis, Lexi must master Spellmasonry, track down her brother’s killer, and reveal the secrets behind a long-kept grudge at the heart of it all.

Urban fantasy novels can be really hit-or-miss with me. I often find them too full of romance that I’m uninterested in, which overshadows and buries UF books that I would otherwise enjoy, because I’m too used to expecting to not like them that I don’t even give them a chance. But the Spellmason Chronicles were starting to sound like a pretty good bet for me, as I was hearing about them from sources that also weren’t that big on overlarge romantic subplots, so I decided to give them a chance.

And it was worth it. The idea of magic shaping stone was an interesting one to play with, especially with a character who was trying to figure out her talents through trial and error and decades-old notes from a dead ancestor. Seeing Lexi struggle with mastering her craft, and trying to balance responsibility with enjoyment was very well done, and something that often gets overlooked in stories. You often either have a character whose biggest struggle is to hide what they’re doing from others, but rarely does it happen that you see them in the early stages and trying to keep a mundane life going at the same time. The day-to-day grind gets forgotten, because it’s not as interesting. In theory. I actually found it quite realistic to see Lexi get frustrated by having to do a job she resented, while she’d rather be doing something she found much more worthwhile, even if it was arcane and obscure.

So that aspect of the story was good. So, too, were some of the characters. Stanis especially. He went from a blank slate (no stone pun intended), a family guardian with rules to follow but litter personality, to a person struggling not only to regain his memories, but also struggling with regaining his memories and what they meant for him, as he gradually turns from stone-come-to-life to a man made of stone.

The only character I wasn’t that fond of was Marshall. I found him unpleasantly stereotypical of the socially-inept geek. Despite knowing that neither Rory nor Lexi really was interested in role-playing, fantasy and sci-fi, or any of that stuff, he proceeded to make just about every conversation incorporate some element of genre into it, right down to mentioning how in Lord of the Rings, Sam regretted not bringing rope. I normally like geeky references in my fiction, but this was, at times, just painful to read, since there seemed to be little to Marshall’s character except for geeky references. It was like Rory making mention of dancing in every conversation she had, or Lexi bringing up art every time she commented on something. I wanted to like him more than I did, and I’m hoping that in future installments of the series, he gets a bit more character development and grows beyond what little I saw of him here.

The only other complaint I have about this book is the sheer leaps of logic required for plot advancement. And the leaps were always accurate. No false leads, no mistaken assumptions. Every time, complete accuracy. Which was impressive when you consider that some of the leaps of logic were along the lines of, “This thing we’re looking for is supposed to be in Tartarus, which is part of the Greek underworld where people got punished. If I were to go somewhere in New York City to be punished, it would totally be the subway system!” And of course, that was correct, despite only a few paragraphs later Lexi mentioning that back in her great-great-grandfather’s day, some subway stations were a marvel of architecture and were incredible to behold. It took a lot of tension away from the story and the discovery process, knowing that every time they had a puzzle to solve, it would be solved without error and that the solution wouldn’t always make sense anyway.

But for the most part, the story was crafted well enough that it was still enjoyable to read, despite its flaws. Most of the characters are interesting enough that I want to read more about them, and the story begun in Alchemystic has the potential to go far, and I want to see where the journey is going to take me as I follow along. I’m looking forward to reading the sequels, and I have high hopes for the series to keep entertaining me.

(Received for review from the publisher.)

5 comments on “Alchemystic, by Anton Strout

  1. Pingback: September in Retrospect | Bibliotropic

  2. Pingback: Top 5 Urban Fantasy Novels I Read in 2014 | Bibliotropic

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