Sunday 11 January 2015

Chantress Alchemy by Amy Butler Greenfield

Chantress Alchemy (Chantress, #2)
One more spell, that’s all I meant to sing. One more song-spell, and then I’d go home.
I blew on my icy fingers and faced the wintery sea. I’d been out for hours, honing my magic, and the sun had long since vanished behind sullen clouds. My boots were damp from the froth of the ocean, my cheeks wet with its salty spray. The wind sawed along my very bones. I thought with longing of the snug cottage I shared with Norrie and the soup that would no doubt be simmering on the fire. Something easy to finish on, I promised myself. Something that won’t go wrong.
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published May 6th 2014 by Margaret K McElderry Books
Summary via Good Reads
Lucy is the last Chantress, the only remaining girl who can sing magic into the world. Since she defeated the evil Lord Scargrave, England has changed—and not for the better. With crops failing and the people rebelling, Lucy is called urgently back to King Henry’s court. His Inner Council is convinced that making gold through alchemy will save England. But a critical element to the alchemical process has been stolen. Lucy is tasked with finding it with her magic… or else. And until she succeeds, the castle is on lockdown.
Court too has changed. Scargrave's brutal Chantress-hunter has become King Henry's closest advisor. Lucy’s beloved Nat has fallen out of favour and is shunned by his colleagues; their romance means trouble for both of them. Worst of all, something goes wrong with Lucy’s magic. The palace is a labyrinth, and there’s a monster at its heart — a monster who may have the power to defeat Lucy once and for all.
The sequel to Chantress has an unusual and welcome distinction: it is the middle book of a trilogy with a proper resolution. No annoying huge cliff-hanger here.
The alchemy in the title adds practical and fascinating depth to the drama. It provides a credible link between the Chantress’s magic and the science of the era. There’s a nice balance between history and fantasy here as well. The court intrigues twist through the plot pulling
the reader’s sympathies first one way and then the other. Such a pleasure to have another time period than the Tudors, too.
Similarly, the romantic elements are tenderly done, and soft-hearted readers may want a few tissues to hand. I should point out that Lucy’s character has not become some mawkish swooning creature. Those readers who read the first book will enjoy meeting old friends again – but it’s fine for those who haven’t. There are enough helpful conversations and thoughts to pick up on past events quickly. Indeed I would say this story is more fluid than the first, and perhaps a little easier to follow.
My only gripe is with the cover. I love the glimmering page edges and the foiled damask is attractive.  But I do wish publishers would refrain from full face photographs – especially for historical settings. First the models never look convincing, and secondly, their appearance effectively excludes many readers. It’s hard to identify with such a perfect and defined image. 
Rant over. 
Capable readers who enjoy following a likeable and maturing young lady through a rich and well-drawn world will love this. If they like a web of romance, intrigue and magic to surround her – then so much the better.
It will be fascinating to read what happens next in the last story.

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