The Alchemy of Stone

The Alchemy of Stone

3.5 16
by Ekaterina Sedia

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Mattie, an intelligent automaton skilled in the use of alchemy, finds herself caught in the middle of a conflict between gargoyles, the Mechanics, and the Alchemists. With the old order quickly giving way to the new, Mattie discovers powerful and dangerous secrets - secrets that can completely alter the balance of power in the city of Ayona. This doesn't sit well with…  See more details below


Mattie, an intelligent automaton skilled in the use of alchemy, finds herself caught in the middle of a conflict between gargoyles, the Mechanics, and the Alchemists. With the old order quickly giving way to the new, Mattie discovers powerful and dangerous secrets - secrets that can completely alter the balance of power in the city of Ayona. This doesn't sit well with Loharri, the Mechanic who created Mattie and still has the key to her heart - literally.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Sedia's evocative third novel, a steampunk fable about the price of industrial development, follows Mattie, an emancipated automaton, as her home city is rent by conflict between alchemists and the mechanics whose clanking, steaming inventions are changing society. Though created by a leader of the mechanics, Mattie chose to join the alchemists, but her creator still holds the key that winds her up. When a terrorist bombing and an assassination touch off all-out war between the two factions, she discovers the ugly secrets and exploitation that keep the city supplied with food and coal. Sedia's exquisitely bleak vision deliberately skewers familiar ideas from know-it-all computers to talking statues desperate for souls, leaving readers to reach their own conclusions about the proper balance of tradition and progress and what it means to be alive. (Aug.)

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Sean Wallace
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5.56(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.79(d)

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Alchemy of Stone 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous 7 months ago
Ekterina Sedia is a first rate storyteller. I only wish she was more prolific.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Intelligent Steampunk and well written. Really made me think.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Entertaining at most. Ekaterina Sedia's "The Alchemy of Stone" was on my ordering list for the past week. I picked it up last Saturday and burned through the pages, finishing up just this Monday morning. I'm not entirely satisfied with the story, but reading it was not exactly a chore either - like reading Cassandra Clare's "The Infernal Devices" series had been(no comment). Mattie, an emancipated sentient automaton, makes for an interesting character that I find slightly more human than most other 'literal' human characters I've followed. It is solely the character of Mattie and the interesting plight of the gargoyles that kept me reading, otherwise the story is anything but original. Of course, where there is a somewhat human device there is also a sexual experimentation with that device. It's precisely these unoriginal erotic fantasies that make Sedia's story out to be somewhat of an eye-roller.  "Robot experiments with love and has some sort of awkward sexual interlude with muscly man." Gotcha. I saw it coming. Although I love politics, the turmoil taking place in the story hardly sizzles. There isn't much tension, no rising and falling, so the ending passes us by with no more fervor than what was present in the genesis. Like Cassandra Clare, Sedia has a bit of a problem when it comes to simile overuse. What's more enchanting than comparing this and that to something else is describing it as it is, which also saves us the "like" word count. But the book wasn't a total failure, and I did enjoy reading it. I'm not sure how being a herbalist and studying botany makes you an Alchemist, but it's completely rational in Sedia's world. Still, I can't excuse the steamy forays that take place between maker and robot, man and machine. There is little here to suggest women struggled for being but women. All thanks to a bunch of say-and-don't-show. I would still recommend the book, though. However, I'm not so sure about exploring any more of Ekaterina Sedia's work.   
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Astralwolf More than 1 year ago
This book works neither as a literary work or as genera fiction. It's a rambling work of far-flung similes and overstretched metaphors for what felt like every other sentence. The run-on sentences were bad enough on their own without the over-description of useless details that did nothing to add to the story. This is the kind of book dumb people write to look smart, and dump people pretend to like to feel smart. The world itself is surface at best: beyond the existence of mechanics, gargoyles, alchemists, ghosts, a tormented spirit man and automatons there isn't really anything deeper. The alchemical system is straight out of classic herb craft/hedge witchcraft, so it isn't even really alchemy. The steam punk contraptions feel commonplace and un-inventive, and don't really go anywhere in relation to the story. The internal political system isn't properly laid out: it does not go much past..."so there's this Duke and these Alchemists and the Mechanics...and they hate each other...for some reason...something about progress...yeah." The story itself is slightly redeemable: it's an interesting mishmash of political unrest, war, women's lib, ethnic profiling, a robot identity crisis, and terrorism, but just sort of dies without a proper conclusion. The story of the Gargoyles was captivating, even if that lacked a certain internal logic. But a key character lacks a basic motive and background, and it feels like everyone is just sort of fighting everyone towards the end. If this is a Locus recommended book, they can keep it!
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Cid More than 1 year ago
I passed this book in B&N one day and was captivated by the cover. I remember picking it up and looking over the back before putting it back and attributing my initial desire to read it right then and there as a passing impulse. A week later I still wanted to read it, but I couldn't remember either title or author so a friend and I spent twenty minutes pulling books off of the shelves to see their covers until I finally found it - not on the top of a row where I first saw it, but on the bottom shelf, where I would never have found it if I was not intentionally looking for it. I have no regrets about the purchase and I'm quietly cheering on the author for pulling off an ending that I love to hate. I don't know that I would call the book steampunk; yes there are elements of advanced technology, but it doesn't really fit to me as steampunk. If you're looking for a steampunk book specifically, a person might be disappointed. The Setting - is a slightly steampunk fantasy city. There is a long-lasting relationship with stone in their culture which is revered because of the gargoyles. The Characters - or more specifically Mattie, is what makes this book come alive. One of the reviews on the book says: A gorgeous meditation on what it means to not be human. - Justine Larbalestier And also what it means to be human. Mattie's plight as both an emancipated, created being and female are striking and powerful. It makes me think about what other discriminated persons feel like. Through the eyes of a non-human Sedia evaluates what it is to be considered not-human. Beyond Mattie, there are other characters. I liked how individualistic they all were. Sometimes characters muddle together in my head until I'm not quite sure who is who and I have to flip around to make sure, but I knew who everyone was. The Plot - to me felt like it took a back-seat to Mattie. Which, I don't necessarily think is a bad thing. At times it made for slow reading - which is probably why I've been carrying it around with me for a few days, leafing through a few chapters at a time. I'm not sure what the intent was when the story was written, but I found Mattie's own struggles far more interesting than the actual plot. Yes, I wanted the gargoyles to be set free. I wanted the Soul-Smoker to have some respite. There were things I wanted the plot to do or things I wanted to cheer on, but I was less interested in them, and more in Mattie.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pandababy More than 1 year ago
Call it science fiction, steam punk, magical realism, fantasy or subversive feminist literature - whatever you call it, call The Alchemy of Stone good reading. The excellent and original quality of the story, the characters, the setting, the dialog would be enough to recommend this novel, but Ekaterina's deft handling of symbolism and fairy tale elements make it memorable, and a highly satisfying experience. This is a keeper.
kbwagers More than 1 year ago
Sedia's books are fascinating. Last year I read The Secret History of Moscow and then stumbled across this book later in the year. I've only just now gotten around to reading it, but it's been quite the literary delight. Unlike most of the UF genre out there - Sedia's books are gentle. Not so much in their subject matter, but in the feel of them. Alchemy is the tale of an intelligent automaton named Mattie, who's caught up in a fight between numerous factions to control her town. On one side is her maker, on the other the mechanic Sebastian she's become fascinated with. Through it all, Mattie searches for a way to free the gargoyles, and we get neat 1st person snippets from them peppered into the tale. The tale culminates in a massive fight, betrayal, and Mattie's struggle to retrieve the one thing in the world that matters to her - the key to her clockwork heart. It's an achingly beautiful book.