The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova (Loom Saga #1)
Genre: Fantasy, Steampunk, YA
Publisher: Keymaster Press on January 10, 2017
My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.
Her vengeance. His vision.
Ari lost everything she once loved when the Five Guilds’ resistance fell to the Dragon King. View Spoiler »Now, she uses her unparalleled gift for clockwork machinery in tandem with notoriously unscrupulous morals to contribute to a thriving underground organ market. There isn’t a place on Loom that is secure from the engineer turned thief, and her magical talents are sold to the highest bidder as long as the job defies their Dragon oppressors.
Cvareh would do anything to see his sister usurp the Dragon King and sit on the throne. His family’s house has endured the shame of being the lowest rung in the Dragons’ society for far too long. The Alchemist Guild, down on Loom, may just hold the key to putting his kin in power, if Cvareh can get to them before the Dragon King’s assassins.
When Ari stumbles upon a wounded Cvareh, she sees an opportunity to slaughter an enemy and make a profit off his corpse. But the Dragon sees an opportunity to navigate Loom with the best person to get him where he wants to go.
He offers her the one thing Ari can’t refuse: A wish of her greatest desire, if she brings him to the Alchemists of Loom. « Hide Spoiler
With a wholly original take on dragons, compelling characters, and a plot that moves at a breakneck pace, THE ALCHEMISTS OF LOOM is sure to be a big hit this year. I finally understand where all the Elise Kova love stems from!
The Fenthri, a trades-minded people who toil to create new inventions, are trapped by their lack of magic on the world of Loom and unable to reach the upper realm of Nova. For above the deadly God’s Line the dragons rule from Nova, keeping the Fenthri under their talons and quelling all attempts at rebellion. But with unrest building among the lower echelons of Nova, will the tyrannical Dragon King be caught unawares by the growing Fenthri resistance on Loom?
Cultures collide when Cvareh, an overlooked and low-ranked dragon crashes through the God’s Line and straight into the White Wraith, Loom’s most notorious criminal. Arianna, known as Ari to her student (and only friend) Florence, has dedicated her life to acting as the White Wraith and bringing down the dragons. But Ari’s motives are her own, and for reasons only she knows, she accepts Cvareh’s offer of a magical boon in exchange for ferrying him to the Alchemist’s Guild in the most remote part of Loom. Cvareh has his own secrets though, and as the trio is pursued across Loom by the ruthless King’s Riders it becomes clear that his trip to Loom is anything but an accident.
Elise Kova’s has a unique take on dragons, depicting them as semi-humanoid creatures with rainbow colouring, slitted eyes, and talons. She packs a ton of detail about the social structure of both Loom and Nova into the story, which was one of my favourite aspects of THE ALCHEMISTS OF LOOM. I was particularly struck by the guild structure of Loom: mandated by the Dragon King, Fenthri are assigned to guilds based on birth rather than ability…and those who lack skill in their assigned guild’s pursuits are executed as a method of population control. Ari remembers a time when the Fenthri studied all the guild’s arts and became Masters based on their inclination rather then the decree of a foreign despot. She will do anything to bring back those days, including compromising all her ideals by helping – and maybe even befriending – a dragon.
The characters in THE ALCHEMISTS OF LOOM are flawed yet lovable, particularly Ari. This is a woman who’s seen horrible war and suffering at the hands of the dragons, but her blind hatred and bigotry of their own species often gets in her way. While this is hardly a flattering quality, it made perfect sense given her own shadowy past and I appreciated the realism even when it made her behave like an ass. Plus homegirl is canonically queer (most likely bi, holla!) and none of the Fenthri have a problem with it, which made my heart happy. Florence was another personal favourite, as her goodness and willingness to trust made her a precious example of good people in a story about secrets, violence, and betrayal. She’s too pure for the Loom/Nova universe, y’all!
Given the intensity of the initial world building, I wouldn’t recommend this to newcomers to fantasy. But overall, THE ALCHEMISTS OF LOOM is an impressive fantasy opener that’s sure to please YA fantasy fans.