Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Alchemist by Donna Boyd

Book Details
The Alchemist by Donna Boyd
Paperback, 240 pages
2003, Ballantine Books
ISBN: 034546236X

In a sweeping epic of dazzling magic, soaring suspense, and dark longing, three immortal souls are united by fate and a fearless ambition that will change the course of history–even as it destroys their own way of life. . . .

On an upper floor of a plush, high-security building on Central Park West, an elegant man sits in the office of Dr. Anne Kramer, confessing to the heinous murder that has horrified the modern world. Randolf Sontime is renowned for his personal charm, and Dr. Kramer is fighting to keep from falling victim to it. For the first time in her life, she truly understands the meaning of the word “charisma.” Not knowing that her own destiny is irrevocably tied to his, Anne Kramer listens to the story of Sontime’s life.

“It began with the magic, you see. And so, perforce, must I.” As a boy named Han at the House of Ra, an isolated oasis in the Egyptian desert of a far ancient time, Sontime lived in privilege. There the chosen were trained in the science of alchemy–magic, philosophy, miracles. Only two other initiates were as skilled as he: Akan, quiet and studious, a boy whose thirst for knowledge was matched only by his hunger for truth; and Nefar, beautiful and brilliant, a girl as filled with wonder and unfathomable ambition as Han himself. Together they discovered that in union, theirs was a power unmatched in the physical world.

But even in the House of Ra, there were boundaries to be observed, knowledge that only the masters understood and feared. As the threesome’s thirst for answers–and for each other–deepened, they were tempted by the dark arts that they had sworn to avoid. “Look at three magnificent youths who stand astride your world and scoff at the rules you must obey. . . . Look at us, and call us gods.” Their power was palpable, their desire total–until the fateful moment when their alliance was forever damned, their gifts horribly corrupted.

This story of Ancient Egypt and dark magic could have been more enjoyable if it had been written slightly differently. The Alchemist contains a great concept that was written well, but not in a style I particularity like. The wording is heavy on the description and that seems to prevent the storyline from gathering any steam. This book spans from Ancient Egypt to present day in just 240 pages, so the great ideas presented in the book aren't expanded on much. The book is short, but by no means an easy read.

I've very much enjoyed some of Donna Boyd's other books, but The Alchemist doesn't come close. The book just isn't that memorable. If you're interested in Egyptology, immortal beings or magic, you can find a decent story in The Alchemist, but nothing truly fantastic.



  1. Great review!
    I agree-heavy descriptions mellow the pace of a book for me too!

  2. What a pity! I had this book on my wishlist, but from your review not anymore.

  3. This sounds like an intriguing premise, and I do enjoy vivid description. It's a shame it wasn't woven in more smoothly so as not to slow down the pace. Based on your review, I may give this one a try.