Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Heather's Review of Secrets of the Alchemist by J.L. Burger

Title: Secrets of the Alchemist                       
Author: J.L. Burger
Genre: Middle-Grade Fantasy Adventure
Length: 391 pages
Release Date: April 2014
ISBN-13: 978-0615984827
Imprint: Mythos Press


What are Nora and Tomik to do? They’ve been transported 400 years back in history, and have no clue how to get back home. The members of the Royal Court refuse to let them leave – everyone believes that the children are wizards, come to save their struggling empire.

Well, not quite everyone. The wicked chamberlain wants to toss the children into the castle’s deepest dungeon. The crazed, witch-hunting duke is starting to look at them funny. But worst of all is the emperor’s prized alchemist. He just wants them dead – and has a bag full of sinister tricks to make it happen.

It looks like the only way out of this predicament is to save the empire, after all. But how? Nora will have to come up with some magic of her own, and fast – for his next trick, the scheming alchemist is planning to make the children disappear… forever!

Heather's Review: 

I’ll start by saying that YA is not my usual genre of choice, but I always enjoy reading a new book with an open mind.  I am a bit of a history buff as well as a lover of the “unnatural” or what some call “supernatural.”  I was intrigued to see how the author would combine these aspects into a young adult age frame.

I can’t say that the story pulled me in like I hoped it would but I still felt the need to know how it would end and I wasn’t disappointed.  I would have a liked the characters to have been a bit more developed but then it probably wouldn’t have fell into the young adult category.

I do think that the blend of magic, time travel, and historical settings creates an enchanting world for young and old alike.  It’s the kind of book that could easily encourage the young to look into history further and it can easily give old the sense of youth we all tend to forget.  I found it to do all this without relying on any one aspect.  There is magic, there is history, there is even technology, and of course the characters.  When reading stories that involve the use of magic or the supernatural, they often lean heavily on it but in Secrets of the Alchemist, the author uses it more as a tool that helps to build the story.

If you are a parent or teacher looking for some interesting summer reading to suggest than I highly recommend taking a look at this book.  I also recommend having a go at it yourself, and not just so you can discuss the book with them but because I’m sure you’ll enjoy it nearly as much as they will.


About the Author: 

It was at an early age that J.L. Burger discovered the secret to traveling in time. Since then, he has scoured the universe, searching for the deepest mystical knowledge, sowing discord and trouble along the way. He was most recently sighted in ancient Troy, making tasteless jokes about the hole through which the Greeks exited the rear of the Trojan Horse. His most horrific stunt of all, however, was grossly overcooking s’mores in his microwave last summer. Unfortunately, there are some mysteries that are not meant to be solved…

When not traveling in time and space, he resides in New Jersey with his lovely wife, two mostly-charming daughters, and two mostly-smelly dogs. He spends his summers in Europe, inspecting the most recent advances in medieval torture devices.

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