ALCHEMY by Margaret Mahy


Age Range: 14 & up
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A prep-school boy blackmailed for shoplifting, a classmate involved in alchemy, and a vampiric magician collecting other people’s powers are embroiled in a test of wills and powers that threatens their very lives. Quando the Magician, like Carmody Braque in Mahy’s The Changeover (1988), wants to suck the life and power out of his victims to enhance his own power, and Roland Fairfield, age 17, is his pawn. Roland, initially only concerned with saving his relationship with his beautiful girlfriend and protecting his reputation as prefect at Crichton Academy, ends up falling in love with Jess Ferret, fighting evil forces, and learning something about friendship, family, and the value of everyday life. Jess lives by herself in a big, mysterious house frozen in time. An alchemist, but not the turn-lead-into-gold kind, Jess urges Roland to learn the alchemists’ intuitive way of apprehending the everyday world—appreciating the ordinary, overlooked pleasures of colors, sounds, books, flowers, ice cream, and the lovely messiness of family life. Jess and Roland have powers not fully tested, and it is in their alliance that they are able to hold off Quando and, like alchemists, make something new out of their lives. The elements of Mahy’s best young-adult novels are here—the supernatural presence, the young protagonists with untested powers, the tribute to love and everyday family life, and rich language—but too much is explained and the resolution is quick after a carefully developed plot. Still, as a tale with likable protagonists, a ghastly villain, and ghostly special effects, it offers a thrilling ride. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: April 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-689-85053-0
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: McElderry
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2003


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