I try to keep my perspective as a writer to a small section at the bottom of my post for those interested but this time I couldn’t keep from running on about the magnificent story craft… #sorrynotsorry
The Alchemists of Loom
Loom Saga #1
by Elise Kova
Published January 10th 2017
by Keymaster Press
Ari is a talented engineer turned thief, bent on taking any job which defies her Dragon oppressors and she isn’t above selling a dragon for his parts. Cvareh a dragon from the lowest family in Dragon society is determined to see his sister usurp the Dragon King and he’s willing to offer a boon to the one who helps him get to the Alchemists of Loom. On their trail are the Dragon King’s assassins and they won’t be fooled twice. Along for the ride is Ari’s apprentice Florence who has her own reasons to want to overthrow the Dragon’s dark rule…
This is a steampunk world and quite old world with the guilds and being divided by family rather than skill smashed up with guns and gliders quite modern inventions. I loved this aspect of the book… The duel races was well thought out and bridged the magical steampunk nature of the world quite well. All of the details disparate though they appear meshed quite well! And the details…! Little things, like reactions in a mine cart going at break neck speed, were thought about and reflected the different characters. This is done through the entire book from beginning to end!
The idea of dragons being humanoids that supply magical parts is so smart! Magic is held inside specific organs so harvest those and you have that magic. Some harvested parts were transplanted to Fenthri – these are chimera. Other parts are mixed with steel which turns it to gold and makes it so physical items can be used with magic to make explosions, lift gliders, turn wheels and do all the other things the Fenthri have been able to devise. Then mixing the humans or Fenthri’s way with metals and machines with the dragon’s magic and this is the world that we are a part of!
I loved the multiple POVs between Ari, Cva and Flo… we really needed all three POVs. I think two would have left us with an almost antagonistic air between our leads that would have been hard to breach no matter how they’ve changed over the journey. But Flo’s POV gave the reader some breathing space where neither leads were right or wrong. This was an excellent choice by the author!!
There are a few spot of info dumping especially near the beginning. This is a really complex world and to show all these details would allow for the reader not quite getting some of it. So I understood the why behind it… at least they were kept to a minimum.
The White Wraith is not a very likable thief but that is part of her charm. She is very precise and planned while also retaining flexibility. I liked how her love of numbers was incorporated from the beginning as part of what makes her a good thief. The fact she is a duel dagger wielding thief is just gravy on top. She is snarky and I’m really not sure how she manages not to get weary with all of her emoting badassery but she carries it off so well!
Numbers remained consistent. Numbers and facts attempted to bring order from a chaotic world, to make sense of the impossible. They were the foundation for colossal structures and the tiniest of clockwork machines alike. Ari loved numbers, and not just because they saved her life by keeping her alert in her surroundings.
I’ll be upfront I loved the dragon Cvareh way more than Ari, at least at first. He would be a gentleman to Ari’s fierce girl power. I really loved how his relationship with his sister made it possible for him to be the beta to Ari’s alpha. That back history really sold me on this character. His arc was rather subtle to Ari’s more over the top reversal but I liked that about him. He wasn’t perfect but he knew when to say that he messed up.
Florence’s hands shook as her brain replayed chemical after powder, reaction after reaction. She shuffled the deck of everything she’d been taught from Ari, from her Revo tutors, from books. She threw out every ounce of conventional wisdom on explosives and bombs; she needed the most unstable reactions.
Without this little girl Ari would be a monster… She is Ari’s number one fangirl and that is so adorable! I was shocked to learn her age but it was so perfect and really honed in to me that the author was making smart choices with her narrative. I felt her POV was the most essential but just her character was essential as we see sides of Ari that we never would have without her. Flo and kids like Flo are what Ari is fighting for. There are a few twists and turns with her character that blew me and I loved that she is her own character.
So, Petra had been hiding this unpolished gem all along. Cvareh was rough, untrained, and generally timid. Underneath it all was true power. The closer they neared land, the more she realized her grave error in underestimating him. He was the younger brother of Petra’Oji and Houyui To, of course he had strength.
Having this lieutenant’s POV was really quite necessary. While they weren’t my favorite scenes in the book I definitely felt the tension ratchet up when this chick came up. She got to the position she did because she was smart and tough as nails. One of my favorite parts of her POV was when she got her reward before completing her mission. You will know what I am talking about when you read it but that the king gave her that, I can see why she was so loyal to him… he knew the buttons to push to get his people acting in his best interest.
Character Arcs and Plot.
Each character was always dealing with some internal issue each step along the way. This is what makes a character. I fell in love with these 3 because of these mini arcs setup to work with the larger plot points. By the end you too can feel why there has been a change of heart between our leads! We’ve experienced each progress, growth or change and this happened with each character and worked with their POV. Thus each plot event was complex and well thought out to showcase not only the world but also the characters and their relationships. There are a couple twists along the way which were fun, but I wouldn’t say shocking. They were simply the events of a story arising naturally from the characters and world and that is bloody great!
We have an antagonistic hate to love (well not exactly loooovveee but no longer I want to kill you and sell your body for parts hatred) relationship between Ari and Cva. You weren’t sure at first if a romance was even possible between these two. And to be frank of Cva wasn’t a totally reasonable dragon guy then it still probably wouldn’t be possible. This relationship grows soooo much and is soooo good that it really is the cornerstone of the book! No instalove for us and really you can see that it is a slow burn and will need lots more situations of trust to to be able to ship them forever.
“As you ask.” He took her right hand with his left. It was awkward, but it suited them. She went right, he went left: two halves of the same whole.
We have the loving mentor / older and younger sister relationship between Ari and Flo. Ari and Flo you weren’t really certain what the nature of their relationship was at first. As you learned more about these two women the complete picture began to form in the most natural of ways and by the end you were heartbroken at the outcome. There might have been a tad bit of info dumping about the world in the beginning but not so about anything else.
Then we have the understanding relationship of new friends between Cva and Flo. The natural friendship between Flo and Cva was quite lovely. She didn’t mind his questions, they weren’t looked on with mistrust. She really inspired Cva later in the book with her loyalty and a situation with her also really helped Cva and Ari’s relationship!!
This trinity of relationships all grew and intertwined with each individual characters’ arc. There were steps along the way, plot points and situations where trust is needed or actions taken and choices are made that worked on these relationships.
BOTTOM LINE: A Unique Dragon Steampunk Action & Adventure Journey.
As a writer this book blew me away. You can tell from my overly complex and writerly fangirling about all of the author’s stellar story craft choices! #sorrynotsorry I LOVE a series that has been well thought out in every way. Where ALL the characters are treated as real people with their own lives. One of the best decisions she made was to skip time so that we don’t read every single step of the trip, we read the highlights and that made it feel more like an adventure than a slogfest!!
I’m going to start book #2, The Dragons of Nova, this next week sometime!! I’m super excited! Do you like steampunk? Dragons?
Thanks to Chapter-by-Chapter and Keymaster Press for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.