An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors by Curtis Craddock

An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors

A polymath princess and her faithful musketeer must unravel the plot of a thousand-year-old madman in order to save an a foreign kingdom from a disastrous civil war.Caelum is an uninhabitable gas giant like Jupiter. High above it are the Risen Kingdoms, occupying flying continents called cratons. Remnants of a shattered world, these vast disks of soaring stone may be a tho...

Title:An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0765389592
Edition Language:English
Number of Pages:416 pages

An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors Reviews

  • Mogsy (MMOGC)

    4.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

    An Alchemy of Masques and Shadows turned out to an incredible surprise and one of the most engrossing reads I’ve had in a long time. In truth though, I hadn’t known what to make of the novel’s description when it first crossed my path. Its story’s scattered allusions initially prompted me to approach this one with a wariness I usually reserve for unknown quantities, but ultimately this mishmash of genre elements ended up

    4.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

    An Alchemy of Masques and Shadows turned out to an incredible surprise and one of the most engrossing reads I’ve had in a long time. In truth though, I hadn’t known what to make of the novel’s description when it first crossed my path. Its story’s scattered allusions initially prompted me to approach this one with a wariness I usually reserve for unknown quantities, but ultimately this mishmash of genre elements ended up being one of my favorite aspects of the book. There seems to be something for everyone, whether it’s science fiction, fantasy, historicals, steampunk or action and adventure that tickles your fancy.

    The story predominantly follows two characters: Jean-Claude, a stouthearted and valiant musketeer who must nonetheless act the drunken fool in order to protect Princess Isabelle, who hails from a powerful family of sorcerers despite possessing no magical aptitude of her own. Their fates first collided on the day of Isabelle’s birth, when the discovery of her congenitally deformed hand almost led her to be killed on the spot. Only through Jean-Claude’s intervention was her life spared, and from that moment on, the musketeer became something of a surrogate parent for the princess.

    As Isabelle grew up, her real father was cold and cruel towards her, disappointed in her disability and lack of magic. By trying to force her powers to manifest, he ended up destroying the mind of Isabelle’s best friend Marie, who became a “bloodshadow” after his traumatic magical assault on her psyche. Nevertheless, Isabelle found other ways to flourish, finding joy in secretly studying science and mathematics, two fields that are forbidden to women. She has even conducted her own research, publishing works under a male pseudonym. The only one who knows about this is Jean-Claude, who has looked out for Isabelle for years, making sure she is well-protected from those who see her deformity as proof that she is evil, or cursed.

    Jean-Claude’s job is about to get more complicated, however, when one day a half-human-half-clockwork messenger arrives with a missive from the Kingdom of Aragoth, whose Prince Julio has asked for Isabelle’s hand in marriage. Not only are the politics behind the arrangement messy, with a high threat of assassination attempts and other dangers, things in Aragoth are also very different from Jean-Claude and Isabelle’s home of the Isle del Zephyrs in l’Empire Céleste. Instead of using blood-based systems of magic, the sorcerers of Aragoth are Glasswalkers who can pass in and out of mirrors.

    Musketeers, Bloodshadows, clockwork cyborgs, Glasswalkers, airships and floating islands…is there anything this book doesn’t have? And as if that wasn’t enough, in the middle of all this is also a disorienting jumble of court intrigue and deadly politics. At certain points, this avalanche of information almost got to be too confusing, too much to take. And yet, just before my brain could short out like an overloaded circuit, Craddock started bringing it all together. Massive in scope and imagination, the world of The Risen Kingdoms became more immersive and real to me the longer I stayed in it. As evidenced from some of the naming conventions, the author draws a lot of inspiration from European history, but most of everything in this story is completely fresh and new.

    Also, I can’t tell you what a breath of fresh air it is to read a book where the heroine actually SHOWS readers how smart, strong and capable she is through her actions, as opposed to having the text TELL us again and again—which is never as effective as authors might think. A lot of debuts tend to fall into this trap, but I’m glad this book managed to employ “Show, Don’t Tell” by allowing us to develop a connection to Isabelle through experiencing her actions, words, and feelings instead of resorting to unwieldy exposition. To wit, she stood out to me without the narrative having to idealize her character or use any “Chosen One” clichés, not to mention Isabelle being an overall worthy protagonist also allowed me to sympathize with Jean-Claude’s fierce loyalty towards her. She’s someone who earns the respect and admiration of those around her, and this in turn made it easier for me to root for her too.

    Evocative and creatively imagined, An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors is a gorgeously written debut encompassing a splendid mix of speculative genre elements. Lovable characters made this one a joy to read, not to mention my delight at how almost every page would bring something new and awe-inspiring about the world to the table. If you haven’t made reading this a priority yet, you should get on that right away. As a series opener, this book made a huge impression on me, and I can’t wait to see where the story will go next.

  • Niki Hawkes  - The Obsessive Bookseller

    [4.5 stars] An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors was such a cool book! It had interesting character profiles, totally immersive world-building, and an abundance of drop-in details that I found totally original. When I first received the book for review and saw cover quotes from Brandon Sanderson and Lawrence Watt-Evans (two of my all-time favorites), I knew I was in for a good read, I just didn’t know how good. Curtis Craddock did not disappoint!

    Right off the bat I was impressed with the unique set

    [4.5 stars] An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors was such a cool book! It had interesting character profiles, totally immersive world-building, and an abundance of drop-in details that I found totally original. When I first received the book for review and saw cover quotes from Brandon Sanderson and Lawrence Watt-Evans (two of my all-time favorites), I knew I was in for a good read, I just didn’t know how good. Curtis Craddock did not disappoint!

    Right off the bat I was impressed with the unique setting for this story – a gas-giant planet where the only way to travel between floating rock “islands” is through use of airships. The author describes the science of how things stay aloft within the first few chapters as:

    A mouthful, for sure but technical jargon aside, his world-building goes well beyond setting. Craddock also infused multiple blood-inherent magics, a few carefully placed steampunk elements, and an elegant culture borrowing from French influences. I was truly dazzled by the combination of all of these components, and the unique atmosphere they created is easily my favorite aspect of the book. If you pick it up, you’re in for a bombardment of cool ideas. Left and right they’ll hit you, and the discovery process of so many minor aspects of this world is a lot of fun.

    The book also offers an interesting plotline filled with court intrigue, intelligent characters, and an unravelling mystery. I enjoyed every aspect of the characters and thought their relationships and individual developments throughout the book were highly satisfying. Especially Isabelle. Her academic mindset and struggle to acclimate to situations well beyond what she ever thought she’d have to face were especially compelling. Compounding her already great character profile was a second POV from her faithful Musketeer, Jeane-Claude, who was every bit as interesting and savvy as Isabelle. I did wonder a few times if their insights were a tad unbelievable, but for the sake of plot advancement, it didn’t bother me too much. The constant intrigue in the book kept it a page-turner and even surprised me with a few twists. It astounded me how such a slowly paced book could still be totally immersive and exciting. It did take a bit for the book to find it’s stride, but once it did, I couldn’t put it down!

    Overall, and Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors is a delightfully original start to a series that has the potential to be among my favorites if it continues on with the same gusto. If it isn’t already on your radar, it should be. Especially if you love fantasy. And great world building. And Musketeers…

    UPDATE - A winner has been chosen! Congrats

    :)

    Via The Obsessive Bookseller at

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  • Katie Montgomery

    Things Katie Enjoys In A Novel, As Correlated With "An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors":

    _X_ Calculus jokes

    _X_ Period-appropriate prose

    ___ Talking cats

    _X_ Strong, sassy heroines who have no trouble kicking it with the boys

    _X_ Believable, likable characters

    ___ Pandas

    _X__ Swashbuckling

    _X__ Witty repartee, preferably in which a member of the nobility is fearlessly sassed

    _X__ Magical colleges and/or general graduate-level spell nerdery

    ___ Dragons

    _X_ People wearing awesome hats

    _X_ Perfectly executed ge

    Things Katie Enjoys In A Novel, As Correlated With "An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors":

    _X_ Calculus jokes

    _X_ Period-appropriate prose

    ___ Talking cats

    _X_ Strong, sassy heroines who have no trouble kicking it with the boys

    _X_ Believable, likable characters

    ___ Pandas

    _X__ Swashbuckling

    _X__ Witty repartee, preferably in which a member of the nobility is fearlessly sassed

    _X__ Magical colleges and/or general graduate-level spell nerdery

    ___ Dragons

    _X_ People wearing awesome hats

    _X_ Perfectly executed genre mashups

    _X_ Court intrigue that is actually intriguing

    ___ Fairytale flavors that induce minimal eyerolling

    _X__ Spaceships and/or lasers*

    _X__ Princes/princesses who have their shit together

    _X_ Romance that keeps it classy

    _X__ Sword fighting

    _X__ Dimension-jumping

    _X__ Character that could be played by Maggie Smith in the BBC dramatization

    _X_ Satisfying endings

    *technically airships and ancient tech, but y'know what? Imma allow it.

    For the record? I think this is the most checks any book has ever hit in this list before. Aside from that, it is just a solid, wonderful novel. GET ON THIS TRAIN Y'ALL, IT IS A DIRECT TO AWESOMETOWN. Craddock is now on my very short list of autobuy authors. It for sure deserves its Kirkus star.

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