In A Conspiracy of Alchemists: Book One in the Chronicles of Light and Shadow, author Liesel Schwartz writes a steampunk fantasy about the adventures of Elle Chance. Elle, a airship pilot, is given a mysterious and dangerous cargo to transport from Paris to London. She encounters the mysterious and seemingly-dangerous Mr. Marsh and a world of supernatural creatures, fairies, and alchemists. These “shadow” dwellers are in contrast to Elle and her family who inhabit the world of the “light” in the novel. Elle is forced to rely on Marsh when she discovers that her father, an important inventor, has been kidnapped.
Schwartz provides an entertaining, engaging introduction to steampunk as a genre. Here, we have an alternative early 20th Century Europe, one in which steam, rather than coal or electricity, seems to be the primary source of power, hence the “steam” in steampunk. But steampunk as a genre is interesting because it allows us to explore the possibility of alternative pasts, which provides a lens for thoughtfully considering our own present.
Schwartz’s novel also explores the relationship between good and evil. Although this is a theme that comes up so frequently in literature, particularly in fantasy and science fiction. However, because it’s such a basic human concern, another look at the theme seems warranted. And certainly Schwartz looks at it in some interesting ways. In the world in which Elle lives, things are not always what they first appear to be, and this is true also of good and evil. Further, Schwartz explores the topic of power and its relationship to good and evil, another theme that warrants thought.
This novel is suitable for young adult readers, although seems to be pitched towards a slightly older audience. While the novel isn’t particularly brilliant, it’s certainly entertaining and provides the reader with more than just escapism.
A special thanks to TLC Book Tours for inviting me to be a host on this tour. Please check out the full tour schedule here.
NOTE: A review copy was provided by the publisher. No monetary and other compensation was received.