This one by Jess at Amazon.ca ends with my favourite review line so far!
Various excerpts from reviews for The Alchemists’ Council (2016) . . .
Masson . . . has a lyrical writing style that echoes some of the English romantics’ focus on beauty and nature. She excels at propelling the story forward with complex characters, and readers will be intrigued by Jaden’s internal struggle between what she is bound to do and what she feels is right. Some will not have the patience for the especially dense first chapters that introduce the layered mythology; others will be consumed by the council and its members and be entirely satisfied by this smart, well-constructed story with many links to contemporary environmental and political concerns.
… The Alchemists’ Council is a highly original novel with an intriguing premise. The book is engaging, and the political machinations between members of the Alchemists’ Council bring nuance to the characters, leaving the reader guessing about motivations and alliances.
… The first in a planned trilogy, Cynthea Masson’s The Alchemist Council, excels with a beautifully crafted and alluring world…. Masson’s lyrical style lends itself well to paint the vivid and enchanting world in which the alchemists reside…. Characters, especially Elder Scribe Cedar, are complex, flawed, and genuinely believe that their motives are for the greater good. The nuance of the characters provides the back bone of the plot that will immerse readers in a world where there are no easy answers.
… Alchemy being “a new to me thing”, everything was alien and I didn’t know the rules. For example, here in my reality red and green make yellow. CHECK. However in the world that Cynthea Masson created, you are going to get something completely different and most likely unexpected. Things work completely different there… and often they blew my mind. Thank you Cynthea Masson for blowing my mind. More than once.
… The Alchemists’ Council has clearly been plotted and written on a very solid foundation. I suspect there are maps and guidebooks (lists of customs, history, hierarchies, legal code) Cynthea could open and unfold for me, showing me where this particular portal or that is situated, both in our world and that of the alchemists. The same kind of underpinning, in other words, that one sees in appendices of Tolkien’s books, senses in Rowling’s Potterland, intuits in C.S. Lewis or Madeleine L’Engle.
… I like fast-paced stories with airship battles, daring feats, and suspenseful chase scenes. This book was not that. Instead, Cynthea Masson drew me in to her world through imaginative, utterly unique, and highly detailed world-building, and believable flawed characters. Indeed, while Council Dimension is immaculate, beautiful, and pristine, the characters that inhabit it are deceptive (Cedar, Sadira, Kalina), self-centered (Laurel), and even cruel (Obeche), which is exactly how I like my characters…. It’s an intelligently written, character-driven fantasy novel. The Alchemists’ Council is Harry Potter for adults.
… The author creates a rich depth which made me feel connected to multiple characters. Drama, love, and intrigue are woven into political struggles which have been taking place throughout centuries. How things turn out could have disastrous effects for the rest of us normal people in the world!
… I enjoyed seeing the same conflicts from multiple points of view, particularly because Masson plays with the reader’s expectations, and makes it plain that even a tyrant can have altruistic motivations. There are no Good Guys or Bad Guys in The Alchemists’ Council; there are a lot of questions about who can be trusted and why, and not many easy answers.
Christina Paige With this book, Masson joins the ranks of mythopoeic writers. Her style is modern, even spare compared to Tolkien or Elizabeth Moon, but like them she has envisioned a world rich in magics and marvels. The Alchemists’ Council is the first in a trilogy that continues with The Flaw in the Stone; it ends on a cliff’s edge, but the actions are complete and you are gasping at the precipice, not in free fall or clinging to a tree root as you reach for a strawberry. Written for adults, it also qualifies as YA in that friendships between young people are the heart of the story.
Alex Simons I really enjoyed this book. Masson’s writing style is new/fresh and unlike anything I’ve read before. The world she has imagined is fascinating and refreshingly new. A completely new direction and not your run of the mill fantasy novel. The story is well paced and the characters well developed. A little hard to follow at the very beginning but from page 25 on, I couldn’t put it down.
Morgan Biggs Wow, just finished it, really liked it. Towards the end, the politics got a little confusing, ie trying to follow which parts of which faction’s ideology the different characters supported, but other than that, great book. It moved quickly and the world building was excellent. The motivations for the characters all made sense and aligned with their actions. I was very impressed. Could barely put it down. Would definitely recommend to fantasy lovers.
Rhonda Wilcox [T]his is a Lacanian fable. Naturally there is not a simple allegorical equivalence, but aspects of the psychologist’s theories are embedded in the story…. As in Lacan, language is central; the scrolls of the Alchemists (the Symbolic) control our world (“In the beginning was the Word”), to the degree, for example, that disappearance of images of bees in the scrolls correlates to disappearance of bees in this world (and the bees, like the owls, are not what they seem).
Stile Teckel I would call it a sort of Fantasy verse in which Alchemy takes the place of more traditional magic. Giving it a unique and enjoyable spin from the more magical fare.
A Satisfied Customer The Alchemists’ Council is a smart, well-developed example of novelistic world building…. Masson does a masterful job of developing her characters and world without sacrificing plot and pace. This story draws the reader in, continually opening up into ever-deeper levels of meaning that the reader discovers along with the characters. Pair this novel with Tom Harpur’s MERCURIUS for an interesting summer of reading!!
Programmer Cat This is a good, meaty novel that deserves a wide audience…. It’s reminiscent of Umberto Eco’s THE NAME OF THE ROSE, but without the long passages of Latin.
JASON I was so impressed with the author’s mix of existing alchemical lore and her own creations to craft the world of Council Dimension, and she portrayed everything so convincingly that I was shocked not to find a Wikipedia page for “Novillian Scribe” or “Azoth Magen.”
TIANA The alchemist council was a wonderfully written complex story that leaves me wondering…. There was so much depth and curiosity in it. It is also the only diverse fantasy I have ever read.
ALEXA What to say? The Alchemists’ Council is unlike any book I’ve ever read. It’s strange and complicated and incredibly odd, but lovely.
CHELSEA The Alchemists’ Council is a superbly-crafted universe with rich characters, well-developed themes and crisp storytelling. This is a story about magic, science, loyalty, sensuality, philosophy, logic, reason, ethics, morals….I could go on and on. This story is well-written, intriguing, and incredibly detailed, with a level of imagination I’ve rarely seen elsewhere in fantasy lit.
SANDY Cynthea Masson has created a wonderful fantasy world. The book is intelligent, well written and the story raises some interesting ethical arguments about free will.
DALE What Masson has done here is extraordinary. She has created a fully-realized world (technically, three dimensions, but who’s to quibble?) and then peopled it with characters who have hidden motives, ambitions, and agendas – wheels within wheels, so to speak.
ANNETTE I did find the first couple of chapters to be somewhat slow going (for me), but am so glad I hung in there. The story quickly turned into a can’t-put-it-down reading frenzy and more than redeemed itself of my initial perception.
TRACY This was a treat – poetic and rich, without being heavy handed. The language and imagery are colourful, compelling and unique. The story is dense and full of magic – it follows Jaden, an initiate into an other-worldly council of alchemists, a place full of secrets and hidden allegiances.
DAWN An intelligent and intriguing fantasy/mystery. The ideas in this book haunted me; my mind kept returning to them when I wasn’t reading, turning them over and looking at them from different angles, and wondering where the author would take them. And the writing is simply exquisite!
TAMY This is a captivating story where questions of free will and destiny play out against the backdrop of a fully-imagined, lyrically-described fantasy world. We follow Jaden, new initiate to the Alchemists’ Council, as she learns about political intrigue and contemplates rebellion against the ostensibly good works of the established order.
BRENDA The complexities of the Alchemists’ Council are challenging at first, but as you move through the novel, the reasons for that complexity become clear. Jaden is an appealing protagonist. The scene in Quindao really hooked me, and the twists and turns made for a fascinating ending. I really did not see all of them coming.
NANCY Wow! It’s been a while since I read such a good book. I cant wait for the next book to come out. I loved this book which came to me as a surprise because it was a bit slow paced in the beginning. I am glad I stuck with it because the story was new and different.
LAURA The Alchemists’ Council is a complicated and colourful read. The worlds Masson paints are magnificently constructed and easy to follow. The character roster is deep, but everyone has a quirk that keeps them distinct from the rest. Jaden, the protagonist, learns more and more about the Council that challenges her sense of morality.
ANITA I loved this story! It was so skilfully written, the words just melted into my imagination. As a few other reviewers have commented, I also found the writing to be dense but that was part of the delight of the book. Masson created a rich and sumptuous world, one that naturally transmuted into a visual world my mind’s eye. I can’t wait for the sequels!
THOMAS This is a definite page-turner that blends mystery and fantasy. the first 20 pages were a bit hard to get into but after that- full speed ahead. It leaves it open for a sequel, as the cover suggests it’s the first in a trilogy, but if she never wrote another it is still good enough to stand on it’s own.