An alchemist doing research on a visiting magician suspects he may share her talent, though with less pure motives.
Now that she’s grown accustomed to life with a French-accented, gourmet-cooking, living stone gargoyle named Dorian Robert-Houdin (yes, brought to life by Robert-Houdin, the famous French magician), Zoe Faust is ready for anything. Well, nearly anything, since she’s had the last 330-odd years to prepare, thanks to the Elixir of Life and her longtime practice of alchemy. What Zoe’s not ready for is the strange distance her boyfriend, Max, has kept from her since he returned from visiting his family in China. Zoe’s used to being the partner with secrets, but she’s willing to try to relax with Max on a well-earned night out at a magic show. The visiting performers, billed as Prometheus and Persephone, seem to be regular stage magicians, though Zoe’s neighbor Brixton thinks Prometheus looks familiar. Zoe puts his suspicions out of her head, since she needs to concentrate on learning the secrets of Dorian’s mysterious alchemy text, Non Degenera Alchemia, not listen to the conspiracy theories of a teenage boy. Dorian is counting on Zoe’s dedication to the text. Lately, he hasn’t been able to turn back from his stone state, and he’s worried that one day he’ll become confined within his own body. Both Dorian and Zoe, convinced that the book holds the secrets they need to save Dorian, hope that another alchemist might help Zoe plumb those secrets. When Zoe attends a second showing by the magicians, just to be sure, disaster strikes. Now she knows that there’s something afoot with the out-of-towners, even if it involves murder rather than alchemy.
Though many of the same charming characters return from the series debut (The Accidental Alchemist, 2015), the plot this time is little more than an excuse to trot them out again. Pandian hints that the next installment will focus once more on her main characters, which is what she does best.