cover image The Alchemists’ Council

The Alchemists’ Council

Cynthea Masson. ECW (PGW/Legato, U.S. dist.; Jaguar Book Group, Canadian dist.), $14.95 trade paper (448p) ISBN 978-1-77041-271-2

A battle for free will simmers throughout Masson’s evocatively crafted fantasy. Vancouverite Jaden is initiated into the Alchemists’ Council—a group of nearly immortal balancers of universal elements—and thrust into a world of honor and deceit. The carefully crafted web of secrets surrounding the council and the much-feared Rebel contingent begins to unravel when Jaden and her fellow initiate Arjan learn of an erasure—the eradication of a defiant council member from the memory of all lower-level council members. Continuing to support the council becomes a murky proposition as Jaden is approached by the Rebels and learns that she sympathizes with their beliefs. Masson (The Elijah Tree) 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. (May)