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The Alchemist's Door Hardcover – August 3, 2002


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1st edition (August 3, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765301504
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765301505
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,610,167 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The legend of the golem, an increasingly popular piece of Jewish folklore, and an obscure portion of medieval history come to intriguing life in this supernatural thriller from American Book Award-winner Goldstein (The Red Magician; Dark Cities Underground). Ambitious 16th-century (real-life) English alchemist John Dee and his associate, Edward Kelley, summon spirits to learn the nature of the world, but are unprepared when a demon answers their spells instead and threatens Dee's family. Hoping to escape, Dee and his family travel with Kelley to Prague, where they plan to ask the patronage of eccentric King Rudolf. In Prague, Dee meets Rabbi Judah Loew, who seek to learn the identity of Jewish legend's 36 righteous men, whose very existence protects the world from being remade by evil. Unfortunately, influenced by Kelley, Rudolf thinks that if he can find those righteous men and kill them, he will be able to remake the world to his own specifications. After escaping Rudolf's prison, Dee and Loew build a man of clay, a golem, to protect Prague's Jewish quarter from the king's soldiers, only to find once again that summoned powers can be hard to handle safely. In order to defeat evil, both men will first have to weigh their own magical abilities and realize that the power to create is merely the other side of the power to destroy. Although Goldstein's story has a tendency to meander all over the map, diluting her strong message about the cost of power and pride, Dee and Loew's search for truth makes for a telling morality tale.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In the last years of the 16th century, Dr. John Dee, astrologer and alchemist to Elizabeth I, leaves England for the furthest reaches of Europe, in hopes of escaping a conjured demon intent on destroying his life and career. In Prague, Dee meets with the esteemed Rabbi Loew. Despite their differences in religion and social class, the two men embark on a mystical quest for the last righteous man, knowing that if they fail, the world will fall under the sway of darkness. The author of The Red Magician and Dark Cities Underground spins a luminous tale of a meeting that never was but might have been. Meticulous research, pristine storytelling, and Goldstein's genuine affection for her characters make this historical fantasy a priority purchase for most libraries.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
5 star
33%
4 star
0%
3 star
50%
2 star
17%
1 star
0%
See all 6 customer reviews
Many of the descriptions are lacking and almost none of the characters feel rounded.
Moriturus
As the story opens, Dee and his strange associate, Edward Kelley, have accidentally summoned a demon that now dogs Dee's every step.
Amazon Customer
The story line is at its strongest when the reader follows a historical ethics trail.
Harriet Klausner

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Moriturus on August 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover
While trying to weave a believable story the author added a whole bunch of historical figures some of which were completely redundant (Erzsebet). I will not even go to all the little weird historical "info" the author shoved into the story (rather than "woven"), such as Dee's introduction to Coffee and to Tea. I wont dare to ask if the author really believes that a man who worked in Queen Elizabeth's palace for many years was not familiar at all with these drinks...

Both the character of Dee and of Rabbi Loew were described in a very unreliable manner. Does the author truly believe that Rabbi Loew, a genius of his time, spoke only German, Czech and Hebrew? In Goldstein's world the Maharal (as Loew is commonly known) does not speak nor understand Latin and his scholarly knowledge is quite limited even though the historical figure was a renaissance man. Dee on the other hand looses complete contact with his historical figure, as he is portrayed almost as a Harry Potter minus the wand, striding about with incantations for opening doors and breaking windows.

Instead of feeling drawn into an authentic world of the Occult and complicated ceremonial magic one witnesses Dee's Harry-Potter-like incantations, which really ruin any chance of taking the book seriously. Loew too talks about magic as if it is something completely ordinary without any kind of reference to the problems arising in Jewish culture around these issues. Loew's magic is considered Kabbalah, but what about Dee's? How can Loew wander around with his spell casting Harry-Potter friend without any referral to the source of his powers?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on August 17, 2002
Format: Hardcover
In 1582, Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelley communicate with angels that the latter exclusively sees in the ball of crystal. Though John thought he speaks with God or those close to God, a demon intercepts his thirst for knowledge of God's great plan by threatening John's family especially by possessing little Katherine. John accompanied by his family seeks help in Prague where King Rudolf of the Holy Roman Empire has summoned all the mystics for the mad ruler wants to kill one of the thirty six Righteous Men so that the world is remade in His Highness' image.

In Prague, John meets mystic Rabbi Judah Loew. They join forces to create the Golem to keep the "Thirty-Six" safe for if one of these Righteous Men is slain, legend says the world ends. Controlling the Golom is no easy matter either and then there is the question of what to do with the tempting but forbidden fruit of an ALCHEMIST'S DOOR opened between humanity and the other side.

The prime theme of THE ALCHEMIST'S DOOR is a powerful morality tale focusing on the pride of power leading to excesses and abuses. The story line is at its strongest when the reader follows a historical ethics trail. The occasional well-written sidebars provide insight into Elizabethan era Prague, but also abate the puissant primary plot. Still this fantasy novel is a strong book that uses real sixtieth century persona to entertain while warning the audience on the corruption of power that seems so timely.

Harriet Klausner
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Richard Wells on November 18, 2002
Format: Hardcover
"The Alchemist's Door," takes what should be an exciting story and through the lack of detail that brings prose to life end up rather ho-hum. It's a story of alchemy, Kabbala, demon possession, shape-shifters, vampires, and the attributes of a "just man," told as a search-mystery; with locations various - Prague, London, Translyvania - but with little but the story to pull the reader into the magic that is, supposedly, all about. Not only are action and locale left sketchy, but characters are somewhat vague as well. Though we're given broad outlines no one but Magdelana, a horribly abused young woman desirous of knowledge, appealed on an emotional level. I was left with the impression this novel was written a bit too quickly, and the author's decision to sacrifice detail showed either a lack of research, or a lack of interest. I was looking for a good read in the fantasy genre, but got a sketch instead.
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