Sunday, March 10, 2013

Mini Reviews: A Conspiracy of Alchemists & Nightfall

A Conspiracy of Alchemists (The Chronicle of Light and Shadow, #1)Author: Liesel Schwarz
Series: The Chronicle of Light and Shadow, #1
Release date: March 5th 2013
Publisher: Del Rey
Hardcover, 352 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: The Book Depository

A Conspiracy of Alchemists is a surprisingly fun debut, a wonderful blend of steampunk, urban fantasy and paranormal romance. It’s perfect for fans of Meljean Brook’s Iron Seas series. The worldbuilding may be slightly inferior in comparison, but that’s only because Meljean Brook is the untouchable queen of the genre. Leisel Schwartz did not disappoint with her fabulously imaginative world full of alchemists, Nightwalkers, absint fairies and warlocks. The steampunk elements were great (gyrocopters!) and the plot was highly entertaining, if a tiny bit predictable.

The romance, however, fell a bit flat. You know when you watch So You Think You Can Dance and a couple dances with technical precision, but the judges say there’s not enough chemistry between them? That’s exactly how this was: Elle and Marsh made all the right moves, but there wasn’t any spark there. I never felt the rush of expectation when they were left alone, and even though theirs wasn’t an instalove, it still wasn’t believable enough for me.

Elle was a great heroine, one I could easily admire. She refused to be limited by her gender and preferred flying airships to husband-hunting. The secondary characters were fabulously developed and I can’t wait to see more of them in the second installment, The Clockwork Heart. A Conspiracy of Alchemists has a very clean ending and it could easily have been a standalone, but I was very excited when the second book was announced.

I can’t promise you’ll remember all the details a month after you finish this book, but I can promise you’ll have a great time reading it.

Nightfall (Dark Age Dawning, #1)Author: Ellen Connor
Series: Dark Age Dawning, #1
Release date: July 6th 2011
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Paperback, 327 pages
Buy: The Book Depository

Wow, sometimes the cover and the synopsis can be terribly misleading. Nightfall is a romance, yes, a very steamy one at times, but the primary focus isn’t the relationship between the two main characters, it’s the apocalypse underway and the (diverse) group of people brought together by horrible circumstances.

The backstory was just a bit too vague for my liking, but the action and the horrid creatures more than made up for it. Giant, cannibalistic dog-men followed the group’s every movement and the fact that they were humans before they became mindless monsters made them even more horrifying – and interesting… in a morbid sort of way.

However, it needs to be said that the true strength of Nightfall lies in its secondary characters. Obviously (well, it’s obvious to me anyway), this is what Ann Aguirre does best - for those of you who don't know, she co-authored this book with Carrie Lofty. All her characters, no matter how small their role, are fully fleshed out.

Points were lost due to a hero who took broody and difficult to a whole new level. While Nightfall is not primarily romantic suspense, the poor timing still bothered me a great deal. By the time Mason got around to dealing with his feelings for Jenna, I was both exasperated and in a decidedly unforgiving mood.

The second and the third book focus on secondary characters from Nightfall, paranormal romance-style. One of them is my absolute favorite which makes me even more eager to pick them up.


  1. First of all, I love the cover of A Conspiracy of Alchemists! The font is so lovely and the Eiffel tower in the background is a wonderful touch. :) It's great that you enjoyed the book mostly, Maja, although you had some problems with the lack of sparks between the main characters. (On a side note, I love you for using SYTYCD as the example) Nightfall has such steamy cover! I'm very surprised to hear that the romance is not a main focus though. Glad to hear that there will be more books featuring your favorite secondary character! :)

    Fabulous mini reviews, hun! <3

  2. Meljean really is the Queen, isn't she? CONSPIRACY is sitting on my Kindle--I need to read it soon! Her next one is coming out this year, isn't it?

    Those man-dogs were scary as hell, weren't they?!? The cover's definitely misleading but the inside is worth it.

  3. It's a shame about the romance in both these books. Although I'm more often than not complaining about too much romance, lack of chemistry or bad timing can be a major flaw too. Still, I'm thrilled to hear that for the most part, both of these books are fantastic, well-written, and original. I'll probably check out The Iron Seas Series along with Sirantha Jax before I get to these books, but I plan to read them for sure. Sometimes, you just need a good bit of fun. :)

  4. The few reviews I've read for A Conspiracy of Alchemists have been pretty positive. I'm glad you enjoyed it overall, even though the romance was lacking some spark. It sounds more like my sort of thing than Nightfall, I have to admit, but I'm glad you enjoyed that one too. Though I suppose gritty and morbid appeal to me every now and again. ;) Lovely reviews, Maja!

  5. I adore books which are done well because of the secondary characters and I also like it when a book has a great misleading cover. I'm glad you enjoyed Nightfall Maja, but if anything's written by An Aguirre, I have my faith in her books for you every single time! And the last couple of months I've read so many books but can never remember half of them, but The Conspiracy of Alchemists does sound like a lot of fun! Great reviews hun! :)

  6. I have been seeing The Conspiracy around a lot lately and it seems to have mixed reviews. this is the first I have seen Nightfall though and I think it sounds like something I would really enjoy!

  7. A Conspiracy of Alchemists sounds really interesting - glad to know the steampunk elements were great! I sort of assumed Nightfall would be all about steamy hot sensual scenes, so I'm happy to see that there is so much more to the story than romance. Thanks for introducing me to these two books :)

  8. I've been seeing a lot of A Conspiracy of Alchemists. I don't read too many steampunk books, but I've thought about giving this a chance. It sucks that you didn't enjoy the romance all that much, but hopefully you'll like it better in the next book. And Nightfall sounds like an awesome read. I love books like that :) Awesome review!

    Janina @ Synchronized Reading

  9. Yes, the romance in the Alchemists was definitely weak it went from I really don't like him to I love him lets get married and we didn't get to see the sequence and that bugged me. I liked the steampunk and all the other stuff, though. Cannablistic dog creatures that sounds interesting, but overly brooding hero, not so much!

  10. These sound like two good books. Nightfall definitely sounds the best and I'm adding that one to my wishlist to read as soon as I can get my hands on it. I love it when the romance takes a little bit of a back-step to the storyline and secondary characters are always my favourite bits when they are done so well.

    Oooh creatures and monsters. Lots of fun! haha. Lovely review, Maja! :)

  11. While A Conspiracy of Alchemists does seem a little forgettable, I must say, it does seem like a fun read. I totally LOVE that reference to So You Think You Can Dance, because that point is totally valid! I can totally understand what you're saying about the romance now. However, I hope that won't bother me too much while reading this one, because I'm most definitely intrigued by this book. Nightfall seems pretty good, although the dark and broody male love interest is kind of turning me off.

    Fantastic reviews, Maja! <3

  12. When the romance falls flat, it's often enough to turn me off a book, but I love your analysis of it, like a couple dancing :) But a Conspiracy of Alchemists sounds like it has a lot going for it.

    I really like the sound of Nightfall and it's good to hear that the secondary characters are well fleshed out too.

    Two great reviews Maja :)

  13. Having read A Conspiracy of Alchemists, I definitely agree about the lack of chemistry between Elle and Marsh. It really felt a bit...stiff, for lack of a better word.

  14. I haven't heard of A Conspiracy of Alchemists but I love steampunk so I'll see if I can check it out from the library. I'm probably going to pass on Nightfall though. Anything that involves cannibalism makes me squeamish and I tend to not fall in love with broody heroes.

  15. A Conspiracy of Alchemists sounds good, if maybe not as good as it could've been. I think there are probably other steampunks, like Meljean Brooks' books, that could use my reading time over this one, but at least it sounds entertaining! Love the So You Think You Can Dance reference.

    I didn't know Nightfall was co-authored by Ann Aguirre! I actually prefer books that don't focus on the romance, so that sounds good to me!

  16. Oh boy, you compared A Conspiracy of Alchemists to the Iron Seas books, which is hugely tempting, but what made the Iron Seas books so great was the fantastic heat and chemistry of the characters. What would an Iron Seas book be like without that romance? Would it be half as enjoyable?

    I definitely agree with you on this though: "The worldbuilding may be slightly inferior in comparison, but that’s only because Meljean Brook is the untouchable queen of the genre."

  17. I'll start with - I haven't read any Meljean Brook's book. Should I run and hide? Honestly I haven't heard of them up until now. But I'll check them out! :D I'm glad you liked this one, even thought I totally understand when you say that no one can be like the queen :D For the second review - This is the firs time I see this book. Even though I'm not a big fan of the cover I like how it sounds. Great reviews Maja :)

  18. I love your comparison to SYTYCD! It's so true, sometimes the romance feels too forced and then it's just not fun to read about, but the rest of the book sounds like a good read and something different for me to read

  19. Ooh love the sound of Nightfall! Hopefully the overly broody guy won't bother me too much, because I love Ann Aguirre, and the rest sounds like the makings of a riveting series.

    And I was so excited to read A Conspiracy of Alchemists because I've read so many reviews that praise the steampunk + pnr worldbuilding. Your review has me convinced I should definitely still read it, in spite of the lackluster romance. I think I'm still going to have fun with it, even if it's not terribly memorable. I also apparently need to check out the Iron Seas series, too. So many TBR goodies, here—thanks Maja! And amazing reviews, as usual :-)

  20. Bummer on the steam punk. I was hoping it'd be a wonderful blend. And I have Nightfall here and soooo need to get to it. :) Thank you!

  21. I am glad you enjoyed Conspiracy, I found it refreshing and yes totally agree about the romance. I am anxious for book two. Nightfall reminds me of the Night Keepers series, each book focuses on a couple, and we learn more about the pending doom as the characters work to stop it..adding to my list.


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