Thursday, August 17, 2017

Book Notes: "Quintessence," by David Walton

"Quintessence," by David Walton, is, as the back-cover copy says, set in "an alternate Age of Exploration" where "alchemy is a true science."

And that, right there, was just about all it took to sell me on this book. I'm fascinated by the Elizabethan age, and the metaphysical poets, and Shakespeare, and...and, and, and. In that time period, alchemy and science were sometimes pursued by very similar means, and the only difference between the two is that science ended up working and alchemy didn't.

So positing a world where that turned out differently is interesting from the start. And Walton followed it up with a nicely-paced plot and great description.

This is definitely a book where the setting is the strongest part of the story (and there were a couple of nice shout-outs to Lewis' Dawn Treader, if you keep your eyes open for them), but the characters worked, too. I especially liked that he had religious characters whose beliefs felt real, and integral to their personalities. They didn't all agree--you had Protestants, Catholics, and atheists, just for a start--but it felt like the author was determined to give them each their own best arguments, and not just throw up straw men for his heroes to knock back down.

(One possible exception is the Inquisitor character--but, granted, it's hard to make someone from the Spanish Inquisition sympathetic.)

I enjoyed this one. Walton gave me a new world, with fascinating new creatures, and a plot that kept me wondering what was going to happen next. Recommended if you enjoy the time period, or just like well-written speculative fiction.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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