The Alchemists of Loom has lots of action, fun characters and a fun setting, but I also had a lot of issues with the writing. The setting is mostly steampunk, but we also see glimpses of a colorful sky city.
The plot is that a Dragon (seems like a human hybrid type creature, not an actual dragon), Cvareh, needs to meet with the Alchemists of Loom to deliver a message. Arianna, chimera and the White Wraith of Loom, stumbles into his path and agrees to bring him to the alchemists if she receives a boon in return. Backstory: The dragons are foreign invaders who have colonized Loom. Naturally, Arianna hates dragons, and dragons dislike Fenthri (the other race of Loom).
I didn’t notice many errors in the text, but there were definitely some. The book could also have used a developmental editor for continuity and consistency errors. There were things that felt unexplained and unclear.
Additionally, the book does a fine job of showing character qualities. However, the author also tells the reader, far too often, about the characters. For many chapters, it felt like we were rehashing again and again, that Arianna is the best at what she does, she’s invincible, she’s stubborn, and on and on and on. I was just so tired of these redundant, paragraph long entries. And to make matters worse, once one character was done commenting on Arianna, they would then make comments on the other characters. It was extremely frustrating.
The world was intricately detailed. The different races had a multitude of differentiating qualities. The cultures seemed substantially different. Each had their own societal structure. This is not easy to do and I was pretty impressed by the level of detail the author included without feeling like I suffered too many info dumps. I haven’t read much in steam punk, but this novel easily surpasses any other I’ve read in the number of steampunk elements included, trains, airships, clockwork messenger birds… it’s all there and I easily envisioned a London-esque city running entirely on steam and clockwork. This was easily my favorite aspect of the book.
There’s no obvious romantic plot line here, which could be a plus for some readers. The book definitely seems like it will head that way at some point. I was a little confused at the nature of Arianna’s relationship with her student, Florence, which I really didn’t like. It’s mentioned multiple times that the two share a bed, but there’s no other indication of romance between the characters. Now maybe Fenthri sleep like puppies, all in a pile, but it was an odd detail to drop in without further explanation. (If anyone is interested, Arianna appears to be
bisexual pansexual, references to past f/f relationships are made.)
Finally, the ending felt like a big cliff hanger, but not in a chomping-at-the-bit-to-get-the-next-book sort of way. It was more that the book simply felt unfinished. I mean- if we look strictly at the plot, the arc is completed, but is traversing a map really enough to make a book? I’m simply not convinced.
I may or may not continue with the series depending on whether I could get it from the library or pick it up on another sale, but I’ll have to be in the right mood for it. I’m not necessarily eager to return to this book knowing how frustrated I was with the writing in places.
Have you read Alchemists of Loom? What did you think?