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The Alchemists’ Council Paperback – May 1, 2016
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The first in a phenomenal new fantasy trilogy, where the power of words can change the fate of all dimensions
As a new Initiate with the Alchemists’ Council, Jaden is trained to maintain the elemental balance of the world, while fending off interference by the malevolent Rebel Branch. Bees are disappearing from the pages of the ancient manuscripts in Council dimension and from the outside world, threatening its very existence. Jaden navigates alchemy’s complexities, but the more she learns, the more she begins to question Council practices. Erasure ― a procedure designed not only to remove individuals from Council dimension but also from the memories of other alchemists ― troubles Jaden, and she uses her ingenuity to remember one of the erased people. In doing so, she realizes the Rebel Branch might not be the enemy she was taught to fight against.
Jaden is caught between her responsibility to the Council and her growing allegiance to the rebels, as the Council finds itself at the brink of war. She is faced with an ethical dilemma involving the free will of all humanity and must decide whether or not she can save the worlds.
“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.” ― Publishers Weekly
“An intelligently written, character-driven fantasy novel . . . The Alchemists’ Council by Cynthea Masson definitely merits a gold seal of approval.” ― BryceRaffle.com
"Masson’s prose is dense with details and striking imagery, and her characters are compelling." ― Jana Nyman, Fantasy Literature Blog
“I knew that when I reached the end of the book I would be sad . . . sad that I would have to wait for the next installment! . . . Thank you Cynthea Masson for blowing my mind!” ― Lost in the Rain blog
“The Alchemists' Council excels with a beautifully crafted and alluring world.” ― Broken Pencil
About the Author
Cynthea Masson is a professor in the English department at Vancouver Island University. After completing a Ph.D. in English with a focus on medieval mysticism, she undertook a postdoctoral fellowship involving work with medieval alchemical manuscripts at the British Library. In addition to articles on mysticism and alchemy, many of her award-winning academic publications over the past decade have been in the area of television studies. She is the co-editor of the academic book Reading Joss Whedon (Syracuse University Press, 2014); her fiction includes The Elijah Tree (Rebel Satori, 2009). She lives in British Columbia.
- Publisher : ECW Press (May 1, 2016)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 440 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1770412719
- ISBN-13 : 978-1770412712
- Lexile measure : 1030L
- Item Weight : 1.04 pounds
- Dimensions : 5 x 1.08 x 7.75 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #3,968,993 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Jaden is a young adult who, while visiting the Vancouver Art Gallery, is approached and recruited by Cedar, a Scribe of the Alchemists’ Council. Jaden’s introduction to the world of the Alchemists (a different dimension from our own) has some elements of Harry Potter’s introduction to Hogwarts. But Ceder is no Hagrid—she is herself a fascinating, powerful, morally mysterious character whose point of view we often share in the story. The interaction between these characters, their colleagues, and the inhabitants of the third of three worlds in this story becomes more and more intense as the story proceeds. Choices must be made—political, sexual, intellectual, moral—in situations that reflect the complexity of our own. The closer I got to the end, the faster I read.
The characters and story, in other words, are interesting in their own right. The style is effective, and the cultural references—such as the time when one of the Alchemists quotes a line from Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing without identifying it as such—are enjoyable. What will be even more interesting for some readers, however, is that this is a Lacanian fable. Naturally there is not a simple allegorical equivalence, but aspects of the psychologist’s theories are embedded in the story. The elemental being of this story’s prima materia, the Calculus Macula, can be compared to the Real as described by Lacan; with the exertion of will by Aralia and the Crystalline Wars, Lacan’s Symbolic is ushered in. In addition to our own world, there are the dimensions of the Alchemists and of the rebels of the Flaw. 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). The questions of free will raised by those from the rebel world of the Flaw also relate this tale to the story of Eden and the first human’s exertion of will, too.
I won’t attempt a full-fledged analysis here. Suffice it to say that The Alchemists’ Council is not only a fully realized world with compelling characters and interesting plot, but also a philosophically rich ride that invites us to return and think again.
This is far more than the age-old tale of rebellion versus status quo, though. Legends of alchemy focus on the idea of turning lead into gold, of turning something common and relatively worthless into something rare and valuable. Masson’s alchemists, however, seek a higher goal, a form of spiritual enlightenment driven by a calling to protect a complex metaphysical ecosystem across three dimensions. The tale cleverly forces readers to question whether that which these alchemists value is really worth striving for. This is a story that compellingly explores opposing ideologies and hints that it is only through balancing these competing interests—rather than privileging one over another—that true harmony is achieved. To be fair, though, we’ll have to see where Books 2 and 3 of the Alchemists’ Council land on the subject!
Cynthea Masson has performed her own alchemy here, turning mere words into a nuanced, complex exploration of identity and philosophy, wrapped in an enthralling tale of adventure and intrigue.