Warning: If you haven’t read “The Alchemist’s Touch” by Garrett Robinson, don’t read this if you don’t want to be spoiled!
I’m back with another book review, and this time it’s “The Alchemist’s Touch” by Garrett Robinson! Like with “Nightblade” and other past books I’ve reviewed by Robinson, this is also part of me being part of Team Legacy, a group where you can read their books in advance for free and, in return, write an honest review for them! If you’ve come here from Amazon to read the full review, let it be known that I will be continually post only a section of the full book reviews for Team Legacy on Amazon, as that is the condition for posting reviews for their books. Full reviews will always be on this blog, and due to Amazon guidelines, I can’t post the URL to the full review on the Amazon reviews. Make sure to follow this blog to read the full review!
Now, to summarize what this book is about:
“At the age of six, Ebon Drayden discovered he was an alchemist—a wizard who can transform matter with a simple touch. But his father forbade him to use his magic, and kept him from attending the Academy where he could learn to use it.
Just before his seventeenth birthday, Ebon’s aunt intervenes on his behalf and enrolls him in the Academy. Now at last he has the chance to use the magic he has so desperately yearned to control—yet the learning comes hard, for he has wasted more than half his life squandering his gift.
To make matters worse, the darkness of his family name plagues him. The other students are terrified. Teachers regard him with suspicion. And before long, his family begins to draw him into their schemes that span all the nine kingdoms of Underrealm.
A dark plot is brewing upon the High King’s Seat, and slowly Ebon finds himself being drawn into it. If he is to learn to become an alchemist—indeed, if he is to survive at all—he must cast off his family’s black legacy, and become the wizard he was always meant to be.
The Academy Journals is a new series set in the world of Underrealm, and a companion series to the Nightblade Epic, hailed as one of the best new sword and sorcery series in years. Your journey begins here.”
As noted in the summary, this takes place in the same world as the Nightblade Epic (which is where all my past book reviews for Garrett Robinson’s books have been). Names such as Drayden and Yerrin will be very familiar if you’ve read at least the first few books of the Nightblade series.
What I like about the book is that this first books takes the time to make more sense of the worldbuilding of the entire universe, particularly in how the magic works. Because Ebon is a transmuter, we only get to mainly see how his use of magic affects him personally and how he specifically uses his magic in detail, but we do get to see others cast some spells. I actually sympathized with Ebon’s struggle to master more than just the one basic spell for the first half of the book, given that he entered the Academy incredibly late for his age. Because Ebon has gone so long without magic training due to his father strictly forbidding it, Ebon clearly has a disadvantage in learning, unlike the rest of the students in the school. His lack of skill for his age also leads to getting horrendously bullied for a good number of chapters, and the way he felt about all of this pressure getting to him, on top of pressure from various family members, actually made me sympathize with him a lot.
I also liked Theren and Kalem, and the way their relationship dynamics meshed with Ebon throughout the story. In a way, the three remind me a bit of Ron, Harry and Hermione from Harry Potter—Ebon, Theren and Kalem are the ‘Golden Trio’ of “The Alchemist’s Touch” and it’s actually pretty fun to read overall. However, other characters such as Lilith of the family Yerrin and Cyrus were not as fun to read, mainly because their development was either stagnant or had sudden changes for almost no reason at all in Cyrus’ case. More build-up to Cyrus’ true intentions would especially be helpful in improving his character development.
Another nitpicky thing was how one of the major plot-twists was executed. Let me explain:
Ebon is sixteen at the time of this book, and in the beginning he ends up….going to a prostitute to get away from his troubles of being stuck under his father’s thumb for a bit. Granted, I get that he was from a noble family and I have to remind myself here that this is a fantasy/medieval setting of sorts so he could relatively get away with this, but I just found that strangely jarring as a reader. Ebon has a repeat visit later on to the brothel with the same prostitute he sleeps with in the beginning of the book (her name is Adara) and it turns out later on that Adara is actually sided with Dean Cyrus, who is much shadier than he first appears.
This would have been an interesting plot twist. The only problem is, the way the reveal of Adara as Cyrus’ spy of sorts was written became WAY too predictable early on. I could literally sense that coming chapters away, especially after reading her second scene with Ebon. Having Adara as a love interest for Ebon was also weakly written overall, given how little she appears in this book. Her interactions with Ebon seem to be very much instant-love and instant-lust at the same time, so I’m hoping later books in this series will flesh this out a bit better.
On a more minor note, the use of the word “mayhap” happens way too much in this book. I started noticing this more recently in the past books by Robinson that I reviewed, but this one especially takes the cake on how many “mayhaps” there are per page. There is no one chapter that goes without that word uttered at least three times by various character, I would’ve liked some more variety of language or synonyms of “mayhap” instead.
Overall, 3 out of 5 stars due to the flat antagonists and the poorly-done major plot twist, as well as the overuse of “mayhap.”