An alchemist and his teenage apprentice hide precious stones from their scientific academy rivals in this debut YA fantasy.
In the land of Terra Copia lies the town of Abylant. There, first-class alchemist Sir H.U. Duffy runs an apothecary called A Pot He Carries. For the last two years he’s overseen the education of 12-year-old Mendel MacKeenie, a boy frequently abused by his father. When Mendel reaches 13, he’ll be eligible to attend the Living Arts Academy, where Duffy once taught. One morning, Don Horus Clapstone, from the Academy of Advanced Disciplines, visits the apothecary, searching for the dangerous and valuable Putrid’s Heart—a rare stone capable of summoning great evil. Duffy sends Capstone and his agents on a wild goose chase; later, the alchemist removes two Putrid’s Hearts from a hidden location, along with the journal of Sir Charles Mostly, the alchemist who mistakenly unleashed evil during the Old Regime. Duffy plans to place the Putrid’s Hearts where Clapstone can’t find them. He depends on Mendel, his carnivorous horse Gooder, a wily gusselsnuff pup named Esther, and others to complete a perilous journey across Terra Copia. Mendel, while venturing through Truegone Valley battling vicious pixies and more, begins seeing silver equations dance in his vision. Could they relate to the Alchemist’s Theorem, a universal equation that would result in an understanding of all living things? Chiavetta employs a gale-force imagination in conjuring her alchemical realm, central to which is Mendel’s battle against self-doubt. Throughout the narrative, “the thought” repeatedly creeps up his leg, telling him things like “his existence made other people unhappy.” While this element grounds the tale, the author creates endlessly whimsical potions—one includes “soggy butterfig” and “powdered pixie’s blood”—and creatures, like the shape-shifting “cappamorph” caterpillar. The presentation of gay characters Sir Brandiheart and Master Peatree is charming. While immersed in this crowd-pleasing adventure, young readers should marvel at Chiavetta’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland vibe, and adults should appreciate the sweeping mythos.
An optimistic, colorful novel that delivers
pixies, potions, and fanciful creatures.